Why communication is key to sustainable meeting success

Why communication is key to sustainable meeting successOne of the first tips I share with event professionals who are beginning to plan sustainable meetings and events is to remember to tell everyone what they are trying to accomplish (i.e. strategies they are using to minimize the environmental footprint). And then I tell them to ensure that afterwards, they express to everyone involved how well they did (i.e. how much waste was diverted, energy saved, etc.).

One of the first steps is to draft a green meeting policy for your event. The initial version of a green meeting policy does not have to be fancy, nor does it have to be pages in length. It does need to be thoughtfully constructed; each statement or goal needs to be carefully considered and strategies determined.

Once drafted, you can share your policy:

  • on the event website
  • within the event application (if using)
  • in your sponsorship packages
  • in RFP packages
  • In vendor contracts
  • With volunteers
  • With employees
  • With vendors
  • With attendees
  • With the facility staff
  • All participants in the planning process

In other words… tell everyone!

Last year I was working on an event where we specifically outlined in our policy that we would minimize food waste, and one of the strategies we were going to use (among many) was to save all food scrapings from the banquet which would then be delivered to a local pig farm. We had arranged this with the farmer in advance of the event.

The students who were assisting with table service worked tirelessly throughout the evening to accomplish this goal. They meticulously scraped each and every plate and were very excited that they were helping to divert such a large amount of food waste.

As the evening drew to a close, I suddenly received an urgent call on my radio with instructions to go to the kitchen ‘immediately’. Once I arrived, I was greeted by visibly upset students who informed me that the caterers had dumped the food scraps into the garbage during clean up.

This was my fault.

The entire catering staff didn’t know what we were trying to accomplish by saving the food scraps. I had informed the catering manager of our strategy (it was also a part of the agreement), but he had not informed each and every staff member of the importance of saving the food scraps. As a result, the scraps were accidentally thrown away.

I should have held a tailgate meeting before each shift or delegated a staff member to do so which would have ensured that everyone working the event, including last minute staff replacements, were familiar with our policies. This is where having an event “green team” in place during an event can be very helpful.

What did my team do?

First, we had to calm down the students and explain that it wasn’t their fault and we appreciated all of their hard work (they had taken their task very seriously). We explained that although it was unfortunate that the scraps were thrown out, it was okay to make mistakes because that is how we learn.

As a result, I have changed how I share my policies and strategies. I tell everyone and then I keep telling them throughout the event. Afterwards I tell them how well (or poorly) we did and I thank them for their hard work.

Some of my best ideas came from the ashes of failure, and I guarantee that yours will too!

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