The lights have been turned off in the breakout rooms; the conference concierge desk has been dismantled, and the attendees have checked out of their hotel rooms. Whew! Finally… time to take a breath, enjoy a well deserved glass of wine and reflect on a job well done.
Look around you. Do you see them? The faint footprints of social good – the inspiring influence that will linger long after the event is over. Do you hear it? The quiet whispers of positive action and ideas that echo loudly, heard far beyond the building.
Social good is difficult to quantify and measure. Whom did we impact? How did we impact? Where did we impact? We struggle with telling the stories that are so important to reinforce the messages.
“My mom went to a conference, and all she brought me back was this t-shirt” probably should read, “My mom went to a conference and she brought me back this t-shirt made from 100 per cent recycled material, crafted by artisans who generously donate their talent and expertise to a non-profit who then use the funds from the t-shirts to provide food for an inner city hot lunch program.” Not acceptable messaging is it? Unfortunately, we don’t examine other means of getting our message out there to tell the entire story.
Creating waves of change
Many conferences and events have the potential of having a ‘living’ cycle, not just a lifecycle: The potential to create waves of change that ripple for months and even years following the final words of the closing keynote.
Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
How did the event make them (attendees) feel? Did it inspire them? Motivate them? Did they find value in their connections? Will their (attendees/vendors/suppliers/community) lives change as a result?
The domino effect
Our decisions have an impact that can reach farther than we can imagine. Here is an example: In an effort to minimize the carbon footprint associated with transportation, Conference XYZ will source all fresh produce from within a 100 km radius. This decision not only supports the local producer and minimizes the environmental footprint of transporting the produce. That same decision may benefit families who work for the producer and inject more revenue into the local economy. A long-term, multi-year/event commitment to the local producer might prompt an increase in wages, and allow the producer to hire more employees, etc. Quality of life will improve for others based on your decision.
It is one decision, yet a decision that has many positive consequences that impact the social fabric of the community.
There is a school of thought that says we shy away from examining the social good that is generated from our events simply because it is too difficult to measure. How do we find out if we made a difference? How do we find out if our nudges of influence had any affect at all?
One suggestion during a recent conversation with a colleague was “why not ask them?” Brilliant idea! Poll attendees immediately following the event and then approach them again six months later. Ask them questions that are appropriate for your specific event. Do not forget to extend the conversation to vendors and suppliers.
Create a social impact story for your event, humanizing the decisions that were made, focusing on the ripples that might have been made. As Mother Teresa once said: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”