The environmental benefits of virtual events
With so much talk about transitioning from in-person events to virtual or hybrid gatherings in recent months, the one aspect of the conversation that seems to go unnoticed is the environment.
While the world has put so much on hold due to the pandemic, concerns about climate change have not abated.
As more and more organizations implement virtual and hybrid events, they could benefit from reducing their carbon footprint.
Getting to the show is an important part of the energy attendees use for an in-person event.
However, organizations looking at their carbon footprint should also consider energy use during the event itself, which extends to every piece of waste people put in the trash.
Plus, in-person gatherings can be expensive business both for those attending and for those who organize the events.
We are at a unique moment in time as we may find our “return to normal” hampered by new variants of Covid-19. number of remote workers, and event planning is becoming even more difficult to manage.
The considerations do not end there. The hiring challenges that so many organizations face also mean that their budgets and time are often allocated to hiring, not events or sending employees to events.
The silver lining is that hybrid events can bring the event to people who otherwise wouldn’t consider attending.
Given the proliferation of technologies at our disposal, there is no reason why events should not be more accessible to all and thus become more sustainable.
Plus, hosting a virtual or hybrid event doesn’t require sacrificing the goals of the event.
Attendees who join somewhere else can get as much out of the event as attendees in person – and maybe more.
Growing an event, and adding virtual components to in-person gatherings, is a powerful way to expand a local event and target more people to make it a potentially global business.
As a senior vice president of marketing for a company that offers a virtual events platform, I believe he’s also likely to remain a staple of the meetings landscape long after the pandemic is over. And that’s for good reason.
How much energy can a virtual event save?
We have become increasingly dependent on technology, and not just events. If we’re honest about it, it would probably be impossible to completely eliminate energy use.
Business and commerce will continue, so we need to find ways to reduce the amount of energy we need to use. Not all events need to be organized in person to be effective.
According to the University of Michigan , virtual conferences can generate considerably lower emissions than in-person gatherings.
In its recent research, the university included a case study from the AirMiners virtual conference in May 2020.
If you are trying to be sustainable, be sincere.
Organizations shouldn’t say they’re going to eliminate in-person events to be more sustainable and then act unsustainably in other areas of their operations.
In other words, an organization should not say that it is switching to virtual events for the sake of sustainability if this is not 100% true.
Organizations that make misleading claims risk greenwashing or misleading claims about the sustainability of their products or businesses.
Additionally, organizations should consider the venue itself when hosting an in-person event as part of this plan.
Is it committed to sustainable development, does it recycle and what types of energy efficiency measures has it taken, such as the use of LED bulbs and motion-sensing lamps ?
How do the site’s efforts complement or build on the organization’s green initiatives?
Additionally, some cities have their own sustainability initiatives in place, and companies should research if there are any benefits to hosting zero waste events like the ones in Austin, TX .
If these benefits are not available today, they could be in the not-so-distant future.
Sustainability plans must be holistic to be effective, and events must be part of those plans.
But they’re likely to be more effective if paired with other, larger initiatives that permeate all aspects of an organization, from telecommuting to reducing paper and using renewable energy sources.
Smart organizations can use their sustainability platforms as a competitive advantage.
The benefit of rethinking events is that it allows businesses to re-evaluate why they are hosting an event.
Rather than having an event for fun, if we think more about the planning, message, and what attendees should get out of it, it can become a lot more powerful.
In addition to the potential environmental benefits, virtual gatherings could allow groups to meet more frequently.
Regardless of the value of the event, many organizations would struggle to convince attendees to attend the gatherings several times a year.
But hosting multiple virtual gatherings allows attendees and hosts to reduce the time they spend traveling and could also allow organizers to better tailor content to each event, which could lead to more powerful events.
Technology has provided companies with an incredible opportunity to rethink their business approaches.
They can use it to achieve their sustainability goals without sacrificing their business goals.
Very often, doing the right thing has positive benefits for businesses, and sustainability is the perfect example.