The Convention Industry Council'sReport records best practices for environmentally friendly meetings, several of which relate to going paperless. Meeting organizers, the report says, should, at a minimum, “reduce paper usage as much as possible by using the Web and e-mail to promote the event, offering electronic registration, and providing the event itinerary and proceedings online (including speaker notes and handouts).” Under its “strongly recommended” best practices, CIC says planners should ask their hotels to provide Banquet Event Orders and rooming lists electronically, in addition to providing electronic check-in/check-out services for attendees.
Besides saving trees, a paperless meeting can be more efficient and less expensive than a traditional, paper-laden event. Calculate the printing and shipping costs of everything that goes into your marketing materials and bulky meeting binders, and you've got a small budget for e-marketing and Web site development that can be very effective.
Everything in One Place
One of the keys to a paperless meeting is getting registered attendees used to visiting your meeting Web site, where they can view and download advance and post-event materials. Before the meeting, use your site to post a preliminary participant list, detailed destination and transportation information, and the slides and handouts submitted by presenters in advance. Materials provided by speakers after the deadline or on-site can be posted after the program. Warn attendees that copies will not be provided on-site.
Compared with paper-based evaluations, online surveys can generate higher response rates, produce quicker results, and shorten processing time. A number of survey providers allow users to design and distribute online surveys at a reasonable cost, with results available in real time. The premium versions of sites such as Zoomerang.com, surveymonkey.com, and freeonlinesurveys.com allow you to customize the look and feel of your survey and send reminders to nonresponders.
The virtues of online meeting registration are well-known. Tracking who is invited, who is coming, when they arrive and depart, where they are staying, and who they are bringing can be a misery without a good paperless system. When registration payments are part of the equation, the benefits of online registration increase. The challenge is cost, but when you calculate the return on investment, don't forget to factor in the labor cost of processing each transaction manually, printing, and postage, as well as the savings generated by fewer on-site registrations and reduced data-entry errors.