Sustainable meetings: plan your meeting as an zero-waste event

After focussing on eco-friendly transportation and green catering, let’s attend to the third polluting aspect of meetings – waste. Every conference or event generates tremendous amounts of waste. A lot of time, money and resources is devoted to the collection, transportation, storage and removal of these materials.

The good news is that most waste can be prevented or recycled. This is not only beneficial to the environment but also for your purse since rates for garbage collection are dear money. The key strategy to minimize waste is: plan ahead! Keep waste reduction in your mind when you start organizing your event. Choose a venues and suppliers that support your green ambitions and stick to the three R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle.

Blog Holland Green Meetings Waste Bin


Every piece of waste you prevent is one piece less to remove. There are many possibilities to reduce waste. For example, you can save tons of paper if you send all letters, memos and program information electronically instead of using printed hand-outs. Request that your caterer works with reusable plates and glasses. Offer washable towels in the rest rooms instead of the paper version. Identify activities that produce waste and try to find a green(er) alternative.

Blog Holland green Meetings reuse cardboard boxes


Many items you buy for your event are perfectly reusable for future events. If you need scrap paper you can simply use the blank side of printed documents. Make sure that name tags are reusable and returned after the event. Cardboard boxes and packaging materials can also be used for your own post or for storage of materials. If your meeting requires additional items such as tableware or linens, try to rent them. Leftovers such as decorative material, pens and floral arrangements are nice gifts for schools, hospitals or other non-profits.

Blog Holland green meetings waste reuse


Of course you cannot prevent every little bit of waste. Recycling of these materials is not only space-saving on the landfill but also decreases the use of new, virgin materials, which require more energy and resources to process than the secondhand stuff. Ask your supplier about possibilities to compost food leftovers and organic waste or donate them to a local charity. Provide clearly labelled recycling bins for paper, glass and cans and request your participants to use them.

Blog Holland Green meetings recycle

And last but not least: be proud!

Let everyone know about you efforts to make your event green. Inform your participants about your green ambitions so that they can support your goals.

In Holland we try our very best to make your meeting as green as possible. If you have additional suggestions concerning waste reduction or other environmental issues, I’d love to hear them.

Creative meeting design: gamification

In my first blogpost about creative meeting design I suggested that standard meeting formats are the least supportive to increase engagement and participation of your audience. So how can you encourage them to get more involved? According to the Dutch game-expert David Nieborg, speaker at recent MPI EMEC in Montreux, gamification is an helpful technique. It means the implementation of game-like structures into your meeting format. In this post I will explain the principle behind gamification and mention some points you should consider before you start playing.

130224 Blog Gamification

What are we talking about?

The term ‘gamification’ means that game mechanisms and dynamics are applied in a non-game context. Game mechanims are actions and items that make an activity playful. Those can be challenges, leaderboards, collectable goodies, points and levels. The factors that drive us to play a game are called game dynamics. Think about rewards, achievements or competition.

Blog Holland Gamification mechanics dynamics

How does it work?

It is based on the psychological principle to provide positive reinforcement for a desired action. Imagine you want to teach your dog a new trick. He will be more willing to learn if you reward him with a biscuit. In the same way human beings are more willing to perform certain actions when they receive some kind of reward. Consider the giveaways and bonus-point systems that many companies offer
to their customers.

Blog Holland Gamification positive reinforcement

Potential benefits

Incorporating games into your meeting can have many advantages. Playing is fun and therefore improves the engagement and participation of the audience. The challenge and the expectation of a reward excite the brain resulting in increased learning. If the game is played with a group it supports team-building and networking.

Blog Holland Gamification fun

Potential pitfalls

While some meetings would definitely benefit from some playful interaction, it might work distracting for others. Therefore you should ask yourself whether a game has an additional value for the goal of your meeting. Your audience plays the most important role in your game, thus make sure that they understand the purpose of your game and that they are willing to play with you. Keep in mind that every game can have unintended consequences or side effects and be prepared to deal with them.

What do you think?

Do you have any experience with gamified events? What do you think about that idea? I’d love to hear your opinion about it.

Sustainable meetings: 5 tips for green catering

When planning a green conference or business meeting you also have to attend to the catering. Your participants need good meals to fill their stomaches and energise their brains. The dishes you serve them can make a big difference for the environment. Hire a caterer who is willing to work with you on green meals. Here are some tips you should keep in mind.

Blog Holland Green Catering Native food rabbit

1. Native nibbles

Your food should not have to travel further than your meeting delegates. The first step to green catering is to work with local suppliers. Local foods travel a shorter distance from farm to plate demanding less fuel for the delivery and causing less CO2 emissions.
You will be rewarded with extra fresh and healthy products.

2. Seasonal snacks

Local suppliers can grow fruit and vegetables out of season. This costs extra energy for artificial heating and lightning in greenhouses. Seasonal products are not only better for the environment but also for your purse. Ask your local caterer for seasonal dishes. A typical Dutch winter dish is stamppot from mashed potatoes and vegetables.

Blog Holland green catering stamppot

3. Untoxicated

For a long time they were dismissed as hippie stuff but recently organic foods are becoming a new health and eco-trend.’Organic’ means for fruit and vegetables that no pesticides and fertilizers were used for their growth. Organic meat has to be made from animals that have not been fed anitbiotics.
‘Nontoxic’ products are not only better for the environment but also for your health. According to organic-fans they also richer in taste and nutrients.

Blog Holland green catering meat

4. No need for meat

The animal feed and meat industry belongs to the most polluting industrial sectors. Livestocks produce more greenhouse gasses than all the cars in the world and due to grazing they claim more land than any other human activity. They are fed tons of antibiotics that also contaminate our water. Thus eating less meat does not sound like a bad idea. Ask your caterer for low-meat or vegetarian dishes. You will also contribute to animal welfare

5. Left overs left for good

Make sure that your caterer uses reusable platters, tableware and serving dishes. Talk to you caterer about what quantities are served to reduce leftovers and inform about possibilities to donate or recycle surplus food.

Now it’s up to you!

For more information about green restaurants and catering in Holland you might want to take a look at the “Green Meetings” section of my website. If you have additional suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Creative meeting design: How can Pecha Kucha and Ignite Models improve your next conference?

If you are following this blog closely, by now you might have made your meetings less boring and changed the setting. Next up: fresh meeting formats! Pecha Kucha and Ignite are new presentation models that are becoming popular worldwide. Both models are used for many events were various people can introduce their ideas in a creative and original way. Let’s have a look at them.

Blog Holland Creative Meetings Pecha Kucha Ignite

Pecha Kucha: 20 x 20

Pecha Kucha was developed in Tokyo by the architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham who were looking for a form of presentation that prevents the speaker from talking too much and getting lost in details. The name originates from the Japanese word for ‘chatter’. In a Pecha Kucha every speaker is allowed to show 20 images, each for 20 seconds, resulting in presentation of totally 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

vs. Ignite 20×15

The concept of Ignite is similar with the slogan ‘Enlighten us but make it quick’. Each speaker gets 5 minutes and 15 slides, which are displayed for 20 seconds each. The model was introduced in Seattle by O’Reilly’s Brady Forrest and Esty’s Bre Pettis to allow more people to share their ideas in an informal setting. Check out this really cool Ignite performance by Tom Scott:

Brief and to the point

If you want a conference with many speakers that entertain the audience and provide information quickly, Pecha Kucha and Ignite have many advantages. It protects the audience from long monologues and forces the speakers to make their point quickly. The format is perfect for young professionals to share ideas and small projects that would not fill a whole lecture.

The greates advantage is the briefness of the talks. Our brains capture information better when its presented in small chunks. Thus we are more likely to retain a five minute talk than a lecture of half an hour.

Blog creative meetings ignite and pecha kucha

Select and discard

The weakness of the short talks is that our brains also need to rehearse and repeat the information we are offered. If we simply move from one speaker to the next we will have fogotten the first presentation before the second has started. During the talk we store  information in our working memory which lasts for about 20 seconds. If it is not processed any further after the talk it will simply be discarded. This cognitive mechanism prevents our brains from information overload.

Time to process

How can we achieve that the information enters our long term memory? By letting the  audience reflect on it in an interactive discussion after each talk. Encourage the speaker to think about interesting questions that trigger the discussion. This allows the participants to place the fresh input into the context of their own knowledge and experience where it acquires its meaning. At the same time the session becomes more profound.

Curious about these forms of meetings? There a many Ignite and Pecha Kucha events in Holland to get you inspired. For internationals there are an Ignite at the Mediamatic Fabriek and a Pecha Kucha by Golfstromen in Amsterdam.

Sustainable Meetings: 4 tips to make your travel greener

In this blogpost I explore what you can do the make the travel around your meeting greener. When you organize an international meeting the delegates necessarily have to travel to the destination by car, train and/or plane. Whatever mode of transportation they choose – travelling causes CO2 emissions that increase greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. While a lot of technical advance with respect to green travel is taking place, it might stil take years before they are fully developed. Naturally nobody wants his trip to have bad consequences for the climate. Here are some tips to make your travel greener.

Eco-friendly car

1. Choose the greenest mode

If you have different options to travel to a destination, choose the transportation mode that will cause the lowest emissions for your trip. In the chart below you can see that cars and trains e.g. cause lower emissions than planes so if you have other options than flying, you should not fly.

Blog holland Sustainable meetings green travel modes

2. Book a GreenSeat

In most cases it is impossible to avoid all CO2 emissions that your trip might cause. You can decide to compensate for these emissions by booking a GreenSeat. With a calculator you assess the emissions caused by your journey and the amount that offsets them. This amount is used to supply households in developing countries with renewable energy.

blog holland sustainable meetings green travel suitcase

3. Pack a green suitcase

It might sound ridiculous at first but if everyone would travel without dispensable luggage a lot of emissions could be prevented. Every bit of extra weight requires more fuel and
therefore produces more CO2. Thus keep you suitcase as light as possible. Your will be rewarded by less weight you have to carry.

Facebook Holland Green Taxis Amsterdam

4. Explore your destination

Do a little research and check the options for green transportation at your destination. Several cities offer fully electrical or hybrid vehicles or taxi services that ride on
biofuel or natural gas. For short distances you should go for the power of man: rent a bike or walk. Check my official website for green transportation in Holland.

5. Your own best tip to make travel greener

I would love to read what tips and tricks you use to reduce travel or reduce the emissions of travel around your meeting!

Creative meeting design: Settings to inspire

In one of my previous blogpost I mentioned some aspects that make your meeting a boring, repetitive routine. Time to focus on the helpful tips: how can you turn your meeting into an inspiring and succesful event?
Creative ideas emerge when your mind combines two or more existing concepts in a new way or applies an old idea to a new domain. How can you trigger that process? By tickling you senses with new surroundings. Change the setting!

Set up for eye contact

Face to face contact is probably the most important advantage of meetings, so you should choose for a setting that allows people to see each others faces. A circle or a u-shaped form are the best options. Both forms encourage interaction and puts everyone on the same level. The visual contact might also prevent your participants from distraction.

Blog Holland creative meeting design sunshine

Let the sun shine in

If you have the opportunity you should plan your meeting in an outside venue. Research has shown that natural surroundings stimulate our short term memory and creativity. Bright daylight boost your energy and attention. If you don’t have the option to gather outside make sure that you pick a meeting room with big windows and encourage participants to go outside during the breaks.

Keep moving

Passive sitting and listening is kills our concentration and creativity. The brain develops when we are physically active. Plan regular breaks and make sure that your guests get up, walk around and chat. Encourage them to take a different chair when they return to stimulate a change of perspective.

Blog Holland creative meeting design seatin

Make yourself a home

You participants differ age, lenght and weight so you can expect that they have different physical needs. Ideally you have various types of chairs to offer everyone a comfortable seat. Provide some refreshments and so that no one can get hungry or thirsty. Are you looking for a special venue in Holland? My official website has some great tips for you.

Add some colour

White walls may have a number of advantages but they are terribly boring. Research has shown that colours can have a significant impact on our mood. Maybe your venue has artwork available for you to use to liven up a meeting room. For creativity you should lay the focus on red and yellow. Both stimulate brain activity and mental processes. And never forget my favorite: Orange encourages social interaction. This guide tells you more about the psychology of colours.

Creative sketches

Research has shown that doodling helps the brain to focus. It prevents our mind from wandering away from a boring lecture or conference talk. As I said above our brain wants to be active. Thus the random sketches created by our hand are a coping mechanism to process all the stimuli we receive. At the same time we give our fantasy the freedom to experiment with the new information. Thus, some pens and paper around the room might stimulate some creative juices.

What do you do to get the best ideas out of your participants?

Please share your personal tips with me!