Beyond Borders: Getting people to overseas meetings means serious carbon emissions. What can planners do in other areas of meeting management to “go green”?
Peter Hauser: Look at meeting content. You can be green — without compromising quality or breaking the bank — by using a combination of high-tech, low-tech, and no-tech strategies. As a producer specializing in events held outside the United States, I have historically used a variety of techniques that would be called “green” today. We didn't think of them primarily in environmental terms; we were thinking about efficiency and economy. But as it turns out, the result is the same.
BB: What are some of those tricks of the trade?
Hauser: Change the prep work from physical to digital. Use digital video, teleconferencing, and online communications in the concept, preparation, and review stages of production. Use local resources. Most materials and services needed for meeting production can be found at your meeting location. If you don't know the local resources, consult a producer who does.
BB: Paperless meetings are a great goal. But what about the attendees who just can't live without their pocket agendas?
Hauser: Put your agenda on digital displays throughout the venue. For international meetings, that also gives you an easy way to show the agenda in multiple languages. And unlike printed agendas, these can be updated on the fly. Most hotels can display up-to-the-minute event information on in-room TVs. We have found that fears about attendee resistance often are not justified. At a recent meeting in Athens, Greece, almost no attendees wanted the paper agendas we'd brought as backup. The client agrees: Next year, no paper.
BB: Can companies reduce the size of the production team that travels with them without sacrificing quality?
Hauser: You can use the skills and expertise of staff and support vendors who are not on site, even under the tightest deadlines. For a recent meeting in Berlin, our client wanted the presentation absolutely current, meaning we would have to make changes right up to show time. In the past, that would have required a team of writers, artists, and programmers in the hall (whom we would have to feed, house, and transport). But with high-speed Internet connections, we worked around the clock by taking advantage of time differences. We had most of the work done by coordinators at our home office in the United States, with overnight support from an audiovisual vendor in Hong Kong. We used a Virtual Private Network (VPN), so security was never an issue.
BB: Are there green initiatives happening in the world of staging technology?
Hauser: Manufacturers are competing aggressively with one another on the green front, each trying to outdo the other in energy savings. For example, the cost of energy-saving LED lights is coming down rapidly. An experienced producer can help you assess the full cost-benefit impact of these emerging technologies and specify equipment that meets your quality needs without consuming more energy (and money) than necessary.
Peter Hauser, president of boutique production firm VisionPilots in Accord, N.Y., produces large-format business meetings and events for corporate clients. Find more information at www.VisionPilots.com.