A Meeting Strategy for Your Environmentally Conscious Attendees

Here’s a reality many associations face: More meeting attendees want to lower their carbon footprint by flying less, and some companies are reducing how often their employees can fly. It may be time for associations to consider a different conference strategy.

Coldplay’s latest album drops today. And while bands typically go on tour to promote their newest releases, frontman Chris Martin recently told BBC News that’s not in the cards for the band at the moment.

“We’re not touring this album,” he said. “We’re taking time over the next year or two to work out how our tour can not only be sustainable [but] how can it be actively beneficial.”

Instead of spending months on the road, Coldplay will celebrate the release of Everyday Life by performing a pair of shows Friday in Amman, Jordan. Those performances will be broadcast for free on YouTube. Then, on November 25, Coldplay will play an environmental benefit concert at London’s National History Museum.

“The hardest thing is the flying side of things. But, for example, our dream is to have a show with no single-use plastic, to have it largely solar powered,” Martin told BBC. “We’ve done a lot of big tours at this point. How do we turn it around so it’s not so much taking as giving?”

Coldplay’s announcement came just as EventMB released its latest report, “10 Event Trends for 2020” (registration required). And one of the trends highlighted is an increase in virtual meetings due to “flight shaming.”

“As the meetings industry embraces a stronger commitment to sustainability …, unnecessary flying will be a key target of green company policies in 2020,” wrote EventMB Editor Julius Solaris. “Unnecessary travel … will be cut in favor of online delivery methods.”

What does it mean for associations if attendees want to lower their carbon footprint by flying less, or if companies reduce how often their employees can fly?

For one, they will have to diversify their conference offerings. That may include creating regional events or even bringing education to members by hosting roadshows across the country. And, of course, associations can add a virtual component to a meeting for those who can’t be there.

Associations can also start examining ways to reduce the environmental impact of travel to their conferences—something my colleague Tim Ebner explored in the latest issue of Associations Now.

For example, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology analyzed its attendee travel data to make better decisions about where its meetings take place. Doing this should not only lower the environmental impact of future SPSP events but also reduce travel costs for many attendees.

I can’t imagine many associations canceling their annual conference in favor of  regional or virtual events only, but as attendees demand more environmentally friendly travel options, organizations would be smart to make sustainability a bigger priority, if they aren’t already.

What steps have you taken to reduce the need for your attendees to fly to your events? Tell us about it in the comments.

(ChrisSteer/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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