Joe Taylor, director at evensix writes for Environment Journal about the environmental benefits of virtual events, conferences and exhibitions.
Not only has the Covid-19 pandemic affected our economy, health and personal lives, it has also fundamentally challenged the way brands market themselves, specifically in the form of events, conference and exhibitions.
In fact, research by Eventsforce in April 2020 found that 50% of companies have had to move their events online, with the majority opting for smaller-scale events with streamed sessions, virtual attendee engagement and networking as a result of the pandemic.
And as everyone continues to talk about this ‘new normal’, it makes me seriously consider what a ‘new normal’ will actually look like in the event industry moving forward?
Will virtual events become the norm over years to come? Or will we all simply snap back to business as usual?
And most importantly perhaps, what can we actually learn from running events in a pandemic that we can take with us if the future is a blend of both physical events and online?
One thing that cannot be disputed is the environmental benefits of hosting online events.
Running an event online is undeniably greener and more sustainable than everyone turning up to a physical venue.
For instance, when hosting a physical event, not only does the event team need to consider the logistics of getting people to the venue, but they will also need to consider the amount of food wasted, rubbish cleared, employees, to work the event, and indeed the energy required to run that event, from lights to heating to serving up food.
According to a study by Birmingham University, a one-day physical event can produce up to 170kg of Co2 and create up to five tonnes of refuse waste, not to mention the increased carbon footprint of delegates and event staff travelling to and from the venue and indeed all the paper printed, banners created, stands built (and often sadly binned) and so forth.
Through the use of virtual events, not only can brands commit to a reduced carbon footprint and reduced waste, but delegates can also feel assured that they are also doing their bit too for the environment which is, of course, a big driver in our purpose-led world today.
Likewise, as more and more corotates place sustainability at the core of their CSR policies, delegates will likely have an easier time asking to attend an online event versus asking to travel abroad to a large event and racking up a hefty air travel footprint.
Ultimately, we believe that the events industry is actually at a tipping point right now (albeit forced into one) in which it could actually innovate way beyond its current form and demonstrate digital excellence that is far superior to how it was pre-pandemic.
This, in our opinion, presents a unique opportunity to those more environmentally conscious brands who are willing to be brave and try new things in the virtual events space.
Those who are willing to think outside of the box and take a stronger stance on the environmental impacts of running physical events could demonstrate suitability values that may well allow them to take market share.
The future of the events industry (and indeed many other industries) is of course rather unknown due to the pandemic, but certainly those brands who are willing to think outside the box when it comes to delivering virtual events, and indeed think longer term could be at a competitive advantage.
This is why we believe that delivering an event virtually shouldn’t just be a stop-gap until we get back to normal.
Retooling, replanning and taking a more considered and sustainable approach to delivering virtual events longer term could in fact be a game-changer.
Photo Credit – Pixabay