This week I was lucky enough to attend two events organised by Conference News as part of their programme of events for CN30UnderThirty winners.

On Tuesday we met at the QEII centre for a roundtable all about sustainability in the events industry with a specific focus on how to put sustainable development goals to work through hybrid events. Attendees included fellow CN30UnderThirty winners, industry professionals and people with a passion for sustainability, with Martin Fullard facilitating the conversation.

We began by discussing what sustainability meant to us, taking into account both the environmental side and a wider definition of working towards a “better and more sustainable future” encompassing tackling poverty, and promoting equality and justice.

The conversation then turned to hybrid events and the challenges and possibilities they offer. The mindset is moving, attendees agreed, from “numbers of people to quality of people”. Virtual and physical audiences need such different things so we discussed the importance of outlining the different needs and finding ways to meet them, rather than trying to make one event plan work for very different audiences. Over the pandemic we have seen a demand for constant content, which can be a difficult and costly demand to meet, but again attendees emphasised a shift in focus towards quality over quantity. Whilst television style broadcasts have become more normal, this can double an event budget. One attendee reminded us, “Content is the value, and production enhances content.” Using Facebook Live was recommended as a way to stream events in a cheap and accessible way where cost is a barrier to higher production values.

Going local came up a lot. Several people around the table emphasised the importance of using local suppliers and crew, with one attendee suggesting that each county could collate a list of local suppliers for ease of reference. Another attendee said they are seeing clients ask for multiple smaller events that are localised rather than one massive event in one place for all their proposed attendees, which leads to so many people travelling long distances to be there.

We discussed accessibility, both in virtual and in person spaces, as well as the communication of a venue/ platform’s accessibility prior to the event in registration platforms. One attendee said they’ve had a positive response to making audio versions of their articles and blog posts available to people.

Importantly, everyone agreed, it’s about making your sustainable development goals work alongside your business. “Tackle what you can do by looking at what your business is doing,” said one guest. Another attendee recommended looking at your total event programme for the year and embedding your goals into each event into this overall view. And don’t be afraid to communicate what you’re doing to the industry press someone advised, so that other companies can take from your example and the industry as a whole can improve.

It was a really interesting discussion, full of tangible ideas across a whole range of talking points under the bracket of sustainability.

Later in the week I attended Conference News’ Just Meet Live event with a focus on spaces for awards ceremonies. We were welcomed to Carlton Terrace House with tea and biscuits and then it was time for speed dating with the venues! We had seven minutes with each venue, enough time for us to share what we were looking for with them and for them to introduce us to their venues or venues: (in the order I met them) ExCel London, Farnborough International, Holiday Inn City Centre and The BCEC, Best Western Hotel Group, Carlton House Terrace, Ministry Venues, Royal Museums Greenwich and Odeon Events. From screening rooms to conference centres, luxury hotels to historic spaces, concert venues to the underside of a boat, it was a pleasure to meet them all. Every venue had so much to offer and I found out about spaces I wouldn’t have otherwise known about and got to do it all in one place.

The event finished with canapés and drinks, and a chance to catch up with everyone following their speed dating experience. It was lovely to be in the room with so many industry professionals twice in one week, and great to connect with new people across the industry. Thanks so much for organising Conference News!

Photo by The Climate Reality Project on Unsplash

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