Sustainable Meetings: The Next Step
There are two ways in which Face-to-Face meetings can become more sustainable.
The first is making significant headway, for instance thanks to the work done by the Events Industry Council and its Centre for Sustainability and Impact (https://eventscouncil.org/Sustainability/CSE). This first strategy focuses on reducing the environmental footprint of meetings and on creating a positive social impact, usually thanks to a charitable activity.
That is excellent. But it is not enough!
We need to make the next step and start focusing on the second way that will make F2F meetings sustainable: What happens DURING the meetings must happen in such a way that it stands the test of a generally recognised framework for sustainability. Of course, the only
such framework is the United Nation’s set of seventeen Sustainable Development Goals.
In other words, we must start to conceive meetings in such a way that they contribute directly to sustainable development. Instead of merely trying to reduce their negative impact. That requires – again – two fundamental changes. Two paradigm shifts, if you will. Firstly, we must see meetings as drivers of change. EACH meeting. It means that meeting organisers need to learn to be specific about the change they wish their meeting to produce. And make sure that they measure its outcomes so that they can report back on how successful it has been.
The second shift is that – inevitably – meeting programmes must become much better at producing those desired changes. Just putting speakers in front of a passive audience is not good enough. Meeting programmes need to capitalise on the strengths of F2F meetings: networking, alignment, motivation, idea creation and innovation. For that, their programmes will need to be designed by professional meeting designers. With all due respect for the people in other professions (businessmen, engineers, doctors, etc, etc.) their job is not to come up with impactful meetings. Their job is to manage companies, build houses or bridges, or cure patients. And unless they are uncommonly talented, they don’t design their own houses, corporate brochures or websites. So why design their own meeting programmes?
The path is clear and straight: sustainable F2F meetings require programmes that have much bigger, measurable impact than today. To create such programmes you need a good meeting designer and a good production company.