On Wednesday 28th October, the Hire Space Virtual Team kicked off Part 1 of EventLAB 2020 Online. This year marked the first time this event was held virtually and focused on Sustainability, Workplace Culture & Leadership. We welcomed some incredible speakers from across the industry to share their expert knowledge and advice across a range of discussions.
The first session of the morning was 'Creative Problem Solving For More Sustainable Events'. Discussing this was Paula Miquelis, Co-Founder & Creative Director, Green Is The New Black, Abena Poku-Awuah, Managing Director, Legacy and Jason Charles, Event & Broadcast Manager, Rightmove. Neil Thompson, Founder & Managing Director, Delegate Wranglers, moderated the session.
You can watch the video below, or read on for our key takeaways of the session.
Common barriers to sustainability
The panel agreed that, first and foremost, cost can be perceived to be a huge blocker to organising events in a sustainable way with clients finding it harder to pitch ideas and solutions to fit within their limited budgets. Although this is not always the case - yes, some sustainable options can be more expensive, but that can be balanced by using resources more efficiently. So the added costs can be offset through more sustainable practices. More sustainable items can work out cheaper in the long term, as you invest in good quality and reusable items. It’s essential to take the time to research sustainable products and solutions and plan for the long term.
Additionally, it can be overwhelming to know what to do and where to start, especially as there is a perception that sustainable events aren’t as high quality or high-end. Paula dubs this the ‘PR backlash’ and recommends taking baby steps to avoid making the mistake of trying to change everything at once and not necessarily succeeding. It’s important to understand that no organisation is perfect and that it’s better to start with a few key elements and build on that over time.
The pivot to virtual/hybrid
It’s undeniably difficult to recreate immersive experiences to the same level as in-person events, so Jason believes we should stop trying replicate and find a new approach! The small, personal touches at in-person events are simply not possible anymore, so it has certainly forced us to think and evolve the way we do things. Although, there are some nice, intuitive platforms, such as Hopin, that allow deeper personal interactions away from the main virtual marketplace which can help restore that need for human connection at events.
From the venue perspective, Abena notes that venues have had to be really reactive to the situation and focus their priorities on making their venues safe for when in-person events are able to happen. Because sustainability isn’t embedded in our everyday thinking yet, there wasn’t necessarily that automatic thinking to consider what the impact of PPE and extra safety equipment would have on sustainability. Abena recommends thinking a bit more deeply about safety equipment that doesn’t need to be disposable or bad for the environment, such as digital delegate packs, reusable masks or eco-friendly hand sanitiser in sustainable containers.
Creative sustainable initiatives
Gone are the days where it’s acceptable to hand out endless amounts of single-use plastics and pointless promotional items to delegates. It is possible to reward delegates in a sustainable way, by offering goody bags with items from conscious, local brands or by implementing an experiential approach to rewarding delegates. Paula suggests art installations or ‘artivism’ - using creative installations to show delegates how to think differently.
Jason suggests you can start with designing different types of stands and being more efficient with materials but it is also the amount of waste produced at these shows which is the crucial thing to think about. The biggest and most conscious change he makes for his events is to stop giving away pointless items and to switch to using locally produced things such as handmade chocolates, tree bombs or other things for the garden instead of a bunch of pens. At EventLAB 2019, our exhibitor Candy Mechanics offered a great way to start a conversation and avoid useless plastic too by creating custom chocolates made to order carved in the shape of your face. Besides, who wouldn't want a chocolate carving of themselves?!
Abena says sustainability can sometimes be seen as a ‘tickbox health and safety’ exercise, which it shouldn’t be! Planners should use sustainability to make their events better. Considering delegate transport, Abena suggests that if you need to move delegates from one place to another, or if you offer shuttle pickups from a station, for example, you could make that part of the event! You could have a guide on the shuttle and have some kind of experience or talk. This not only reduces emissions but raises the event experience too.
Another creative way to tackle transport is to refer delegates to clean air walking routes - point out a route from a public transport hub to the event. You’ll reduce emissions from travel, as well as giving your delegates a healthier, more enjoyable and calmer start to their day!
Are there any top tips to start, and where to go?
Paula believes that your approach entirely depends on the type of event you want to organise. Make the connection between the topic of your event and the impact that the topic of your event may have. For example, if you’re hosting a fashion event, only select conscious brands, or make sure the hanger isn’t made of single-use plastic. It’s all about making the connection.
Jason adds that this is your opportunity to put across your personality and show you care. And his top tip is ‘less rubbish for the sake of rubbish’!'
Finally, Abena’s top tip is to focus. If you try and tackle everything, you’ll likely get overwhelmed, so pick one or two issues and do as much as you can before moving on to another one.
And feel free to get in touch with any of the panellists if you need more help!
About The Speakers
Paula Miquelis, Co-Founder & Creative Director, Green Is The New Black
Paula Miquelis is an entrepreneur, sustainability geek and creative. She co-founded Green Is The New Black (GITNB), Asia’s first conscious festival and online platform for people who want to #LiveMoreConsciously by improving the way they think, work and consume while doing more good in the world. GITNB aims to be the number one community of sustainable brands in fashion, beauty, F&B and lifestyle in Asia to provide alternatives options to live more consciously and reduce our collective impact on the Planet.
Abena Poku-Awuah, Managing Director, Legacy
Abena is the Managing Director of Legacy, a sustainable events agency that organises events whilst considering their environmental impact, carbon footprint, and potential for positive social change. She also runs the Legacy Marketplace, an online marketplace to help anyone organise an event using environmentally friendly suppliers.
Jason Charles, Event & Broadcast Manager, Rightmove
Working within the industry for more than a decade Jason has sat in the driving seat of a full spectrum of events, from music festivals to corporate events large and small.
Creative mind for Rightmove’s physical and online events program, Jason is passionate about ensuring that every event is better than the last and represents a FTSE 100 company.
Neil Thompson, Founder & Managing Director, Delegate Wranglers
With 22 years experience in the event industry, Neil founded The Delegate Wranglers Facebook group in 2014 so that members can share their huge expanse of information, expertise and experience with others. Since then, the group has organically grown to over 20,000 (highly engaged) members with millions of pounds of business being traded every month, as well as countless connections, advice and information being passed between each other.
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Izzie brings a deep understanding of the events world to Hire Space, and keeps busy by writing lots of Hire Space and EventLAB content and managing the Hire Space social media presence.