Creative meeting design: more virtual hospitality at hybrid events

In the last weeks I gave you some inspiration to leave the standard conference settings behind you and attend to more creative meeting formats. We have explored Pecha Kucha and Ignite models, gamification, interactive tools and discussion sessions. In this final post on creative meeting design I want to attend to the growing trend of hybrid events. In case you missed it: hybrid events are meetings or conferences that combine a ‘live’ face to face event with a virtual component for an online audience. For example by live audio or video streaming of speakers or online discussions on social media.

130331 Blog Holland Hybrid events from local to global

Why sharing events online?

Hybrid events increase the size of your potential audience. While many potential participants won’t attend your live-event for whatever reason, they might want to join virtually. Additionally you extend the reach of you local conference to a global community since everybody can follow you online. As I explained in my previous posts, I believe in the power of collective knowledge. More people in your conference means more idea-sharing and more brainpower. And don’t forget that all your virtual attendees can be converted into face-to-face attendees at your next event. Use the virtual component to give them a feeling of “I would like to be there right now”.

130331 Blog Holland Hybrid Events online audience

Virtual hospitality

It sounds easy to make your event available online for virtual attendees per livestream and just hope that they will keep watching. But then you forget that your virtual attendees are real human beings, who want to be seen and involved during your event. While online participants are easier to attract than a live audience, it is much harder to keep them. If they don’t like your online event, they will not only walk away, but also talk, tweet and text about their disappointment. Thus, make your virtual attendees feel welcomed and appreciated by giving them the same attention as your live audience.

130331 Blog Holland Hybrid Events Gerdie Schreuders Online Host

Virtual content

An online audience has other needs than a live audience. While your live guests will use session breaks and coffee breaks as networking moments, your virtual attendees experience them as a disruption (think about TV commercials interrupting a good movie). You can better use these time slots to give them some extra attention. Prepare extra content, like interviews with the speakers or photos, to attract online audience and engage them into the program to keep them interested. Appoint an online chair(wo)man who can host and moderate the conversations. Instruct your speakers to engage the virtual audience into their presentation. Find virtual alternatives to the groups exercises. During Q&A or sessions breaks, some time should be dedicated to responding to virtual attendee questions.

130331 Blog Holland Hybrid Events Gerrit Heijkoop Online Host

Build the bridge between live and online

Your event will become truly hybrid when you engage the two audiences with each other and build a community with a common bond to the event. When your event ends physically, the conversation can still continue on the World Wide Web. Create a virtual meeting room (on twitter or LinkedIn e.g.) where all your participants can meet and chat. Whatever medium you choose, make sure that you promote the location to your live audience and encourage them to use it.

130331 Blog Holland Hybrid Events connecting online offline

What do you think?

What is your experience with hybrid events? Have you ever joined an event as a virtual attendee and how did you like it? What would you recommend to improve hybrid events? Please share your ideas with me.

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Sustainable meetings: numbers tell the tale of green

In the last weeks we have explored a lot of options to make meetings and events more sustainable. Every step that you take towards green meetings, is a step in the right direction. But in the end you might want to know what the result of all your efforts looks like: numbers tell the tale. Therefore you will have to measure; even more if you are aiming for the Green Meetings Award. But how can we measure sustainability of an event? In this final post on green meetings I collected some suggestions on how to start with measurement.

Blog Holland Green Meetings Measure baseline

Establish a baseline

Before you start changing anything, you need a baseline to compare your future results against. Do you want to save energy and water? Would you like to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by transportation? The baseline serves as a starting point to set goals for future meetings and tells you whether you are making progress and how effective your actions are. Thus, check the green performance of your recent meetings before you get start them.

Blog Holland Green Meetings Measure Travel

Counting kilometers

As I explained in my previous posts, transportation and travel cause CO2 emissions that contribute to global warming. You can reduce these emissions by minimizing the the total travel and transportation distances. Monitor the travel kilometers for your delegates and transportation of your suppliers. You can use the Carbon Footprint Calculator for this. If you are planning to offset your CO2 emissions you can include the compensated kilometers in your measurements.

Blog Holland Green Meetings Measure Catering

Check the food

In my blogpost about green catering I discussed the main aspects of green food. Besides limiting the transportation issue by working with local foods, you can measure the percentage of seasonal products used. How many of the purchased products were labelled Fair Trade, biological or organic? All these numbers indicate how green your catering is.

Blog Holland Green Meetings Measure garbage

The weight of waste

Of course you can simply measure the total amount of waste your meeting produced per delegate. But there are more things to measure. What about the packaging material you purchased together with the supplies? How many items were reusable or recyclable? Including these factors in your measurement will give you more particular insights into your waste management.

Show no show

It is a frustrating issue but you will also have to attend to the no show percentage of your meeting. No show is an important indication for the amount of wasted resources.

Blog Holland Green Meetings Measure olympics

The ISO 14001 Standard

Nobody bars you from establishing you own green parameters. However, using existing, internationally acknowledged standards makes your measurements more transparent and trustworhty. One example is the ISO 14001 standard which was used to achieve the sustainability goals of the Olympics 2012 in London. One of their targets was reducing water consumption by 40% and carbon by 50%. They duly delivered at 58% and 60% respectively. This isn’t just great news for the environment but also reduced costs massively. On the other hand, the measurements indicate where sustainability can be improved. For London they showed that the target for use of renewable energy was missed by 9 percent.

Stop guessing!

In my opinion, measuring is a crucial part of green meetings. What do you think. Do you have any experiences with green measurments? Please share them with me.

Creative meeting design: 3 formats that foster discussions

In my previous blogpost I explained why discussions are such a crucial part of succesful meetings. The experience and knowledge of your audience is a powerful source of valuable ideas and inspiration which should be shared. Time to transform your passive audience into active participants. In this post I will explore three formats that get your audience engaged into discussions.

Blog Holland Creative meeting design discussion session open fishbowl setting

Open fishbowl

The classical fishbowl format is comparable to the familair panel discussion. A few chairs (4-5) are arranged in an inner circle, the so-called ‘fishbowl’. The remaining audience is seated in concentric circles outside the fishbowl. The discussion is performed by the participants who fill the seats of the inner circle and is probably facilitated by a moderator. The audience in the outer circles is invited to listen. So far it sounds pretty standard.

The fishbowl format gets more dynamic when you decide to leave one seat in the inner circle empty. This is called an open fishbowl. Any member of the audience can, at any time, occupy the empty chair and join the discussion. When this happens another member of the fishbowl must leave the inner circle to leave a free chair.

Blog Holland Creative meeting design discussion session open fishbowl

The open fishbowl is suitable for both small and large groups. Unlike the panel discussion, every participant has the opportunity to join the discussion at any given moment and there is no difference between the individual speakers. Since the discussion is centered, it is easy to follow.

The main problem of this format is to encourage people to occupy the free chair. You will need some kind of icebreaker for entering the inner circle. If your audience contains some very prominent speakers you need to make sure that they are not going to dominate the discussion.

Blog Holland Creative meeting design discussion session open space setting

Open Space

A typical open space meeting begins without a formal agenda. In the invitation a broad theme and the general purpose of the meeting are announced. In the beginning the audience is seated in circles around a central bulletin board. After a short introduction of the topic, participants are invited to introduce an issue or opportunity related to the theme. Their suggestion is written on a piece of paper and posted to the topic wall. After all issues are collected the wall becomes the official agenda of the meeting. When the topics are established participants can sign up for the individual sessions. Those participants who suggested a topic are expected to moderate the session about it.

Blog Holland Creative meeting design discussion session open space agenda

This format is suitable for medium-sized to large groups since the group as a whole is split up. The great advantage of open space is that participants can address issues which are important to them and are free to join those session they view as relevant. Keep in mind that your own influence on the agenda is limited.

Big problem: rather than one central discussion there will be numerous small discussion tables. How can you manage that the main results can be shared at a central point at the end of the meeting? Many participants might feel unable to cope with a role as a moderator, with as a consequence that they won’t suggest a topic. How can you get them prepared for this task?

Blog Holland Creative Meeting Design World Cafe table

World Cafe

The general setting for this format is modelled like a cafe with many small, round tables, each providing 4-5 seats. The host welcomes the participants, introduces the topic and the goal of the meeting. He also describes a problem or question which is subsequently discussed between the participants at the tables. Discussion time is about 20 minutes. Then, each member will leave his seat and shift to a new table for a new round (which can probably be prefaced by a new question/problem). At the end of the session, participants are invited to share their results with the whole group.

Blog Holland Creative meeting design discussion session world cafe

The World Cafe is a highly dynamic format for very large groups. The conversation threshold at the individual tables is very low due to the small group. There is no problem to engage everyone into the conversation. However, it can be difficult to monitor and moderate the progression of the individual discussions and to connect them to a general outcome in the end.

What do you think?

Do you have any experience with these meeting formats as a planner or as a participant? How did you feel at these events? What is your opinion? I would love to discuss that with you.

Sustainable meetings: a green trophy for a green meeting

So far we have discussed many possibilities to ‘engreen’ the meeting industry, including travel, catering, waste, no show and hotels. Meeting planners that demonstrated intensive efforts to reduce the environmental impact of meetings and conferences will be rewarded for their good will. Next to economical benefits and a public image boost the planner can be honoured with the Green Meetings Award, an initiative powered by IMEX and the GMIC.

Blog Holland Green Meetings Award

The Green Meetings Award is annually handed to a meeting planner who put an exceptional effort into the organization of a specific green meeting through design, planning, implementation and evaluation. There are two award categories: the Large Meeting Award for citywide events (5.000 to 25.000 or more attendees) and the Small to Medium Meeting Award.

Curious what you have to do until you can put that trophy on your desk? Let’s have a look at the evaluation criteria. These concern not only the sustainability of the event itself. As a winner, you have also significantly contributed to the general improvement of future green meetings.

Blog Holland Green Meetings Sustainability Planning

Green planning

This refers to the planning process of the meeting and requires that you have identified the main sustainability issues of your meeting. Based on these issues you have established criteria for measuring and monitoring the environmental impact, such as energy and water use, green house gas emissions and waste production. Use these criteria to set defined goals and describe how you are going to achieve them. Additionally, the judges expect you to involve suppliers and other stakeholders in sustainability issues by making green arrangements with venues or caterers for example.

Blog Holland Green Meetings Award Sustainability Performance

Green performance

The judges will review the actual environmental performance of the meeting. The evaluation of your established criteria and methods has to show that the environmental impact of your meeting has been reduced to a minimum. Thus you have significantly reduced your energy and water consumption compared to previous/other meetings and prevented as much CO2 emissions and waste production as possible. For the economic aspect, it is important that you keep the operational costs of your meeting as low as possible or that you support local markets by working with local suppliers.

Blog Holland Green Meetings Award Communication

Green communication

Organizing a perfectly green meeting will not earn you the award if you won’t share your achievements with others. Sustainable meetings go hand in hand with social responsibility. The judges want to see that you share your achievements and methods with others. Spread the green message to inspire other planners and contribute to the improvement of future green meetings. Show a general commitment for environmental issues within the meeting industry by supporting and educating other planners and suppliers.

Are you the winner in 2014?

The submission period for the 2013 award has elapsed. The winner will be presented during the IMEX Gala on 22 May.  Do you think that you are a truly green meeting planner? Then nominate yourself (or let someone nominate you) for the 2014 award.

I wish you good luck!

Creative meeting design: less listening & lurking, more sharing & doing

In my previous blogposts I discussed the option to integrate interactive tools like Send2Stage and TimeVote into your meeting. These tools provide the great possibility to give your audience a voice during the session. However, if you don’t listen to that ‘voice’, these tools are quite senseless. Besides, you might miss big opportunities.

Your audience is not a flock of sheeps that has to be led into the right direction, but a powerful source of valuable experience and knowledge. Their input can improve the output of your sessions and your meeting as a whole. Therefore discussions are a powerful tool, but unfortunately most meetings skip them for several reasons. In this post I will give you some reasons why you should foster the discussion for your future meetings.

Flock of sheep, New Zealand, Pacific

What is a discussion?

The term ‘discussion’ is often misused. The Q&A moment at the end of a session is not a discussion. Tools like Send2Stage enable the audience to give their feedback on a speaker or topic, but they don’t create a discussion. Questions and comments only adress the speaker who will answer them from his expert point of view. By doing so, the audience is treated like an empty bucket: they listen passively to be filled with the experts opinions and knowledge.

In a real discussion you facilitate not only the dialogue between the audience and the speaker, but also interaction within the audience. Let your participants articulate their own ideas, identify different point of views and integrate new input with their own background knowledge. This has two great advantages. Firstly, you increase retention of the received information. Secondly, it allows all participants to learn from each other and to generate new knowledge.

Prolonged learning

During most conferences the audience is a passive recipient of information that is sent by the speaker. As I explained in my post about Pecha Kucha and Ignite Events, this information will be quickly forgotten if the recipient gets no chance to apply it. By discussing the new information with other participants they can think about the content and embed it into their individual framework of knowledge, experiences and emotions. As a consequence they will still be able to recall the information four weeks after the session.

Blog Holland Creative Meeting Design Discussion Paint Buckets

Colourful buckets

For a real discussion and useful meetings we have to change our idea of the audience. If I fill an ’empty bucket’ with information, I won’t create a new idea or generate knowledge. Luckily, each of your participants brings their own knowledge and background to your meeting. Thus, using the bucket-analogy, we could assume you audience as a composition of half-full paint buckets of different colours. Now imagine, that we allow these buckets to get in touch with each other and exchange their contents. Instead of adding one and the same colour (the colour of the speaker) to each bucket, we will create various mixes composed of all present colours. Instead of putting the same information into the head of every participant, we can generate inumerable new ideas, insights and perspectives by joining and adapting our knowledge in a discussion.

How to get started?

Of course a discussion will not emerge out of nothing and unfortunately you might feel a certain resistance from your audience and your speakers when you try to integrate one into your session. How can you convince participants that the discussion is beneficial and how do you encourage them to get involved? What can you do to prevent that the interaction will be monopolized by two or three people? In my next post I will pay attention to these questions. Do you have any suggestions concerning discussions? I would love to hear them!

Sustainable meetings: some of Holland’s greenest hotels

In my previous blogposts we explored many options to make you meeting more sustainable. After discussing eco-friendly travel, green catering and waste reduction, it is time to have a look at the accomodations for your meeting delegates. Hotels are not particularly famous for being sustainable. Most of them consume huge amounts of resources and produce tons of waste in return.

Luckily, more and more hotels are joining the green movement and started to reduce their environmental impact. In Holland many hotels have achieved Green Key status which means that they have taken effective measures to save energy and water and to reduce waste production. Hopefully these 3 great example inspire you to do the same!.

3. Mercure Hotels

After receiving the Green Key Award for all its hotels, the Mercure chain was also the first one in Holland that offered CO2-neutral meetings. This means that Mercure compensates the CO2 emission of its hosted meetings by investing into sustainability projects of the Climate Neutral Group. Since 2011 the money is donated to the biggest windmill park in Taiwan.

Blog Holland sustainable meetings hotels windmills

2. Inntel Hotels

All hotels of the chain Inntel have received the Green Key Award in 2011 with a score of 37 points. This makes Inntel one of the most sustainable hotel chain in Holland. The  accomodations in  Amsterdam, Zaandam, Rotterdam and Zutphen applied a very eco-friendly buying policy. They only use eco-labelled, recyclable or fair-trade products and purchase them in bulk to avoid unnecessary packaging material. Waste is carefully sorted and in a large part recycled or composted.

Blog Holland sustainable meetings  hotels inntel rotterdam

1. Green Meet*s Resort

One of my personal role models for sustainable hotels is the Green Meet*s Resort in Erica (Drenthe). Green Meet*s aims to have the most eco-friendly alternative for all daily practices. The resort has installed underground heat pumps that supply the accomodation with earth heat in the winter. During the summer, they have a cooling effect. Waste water is cleaned by a helophyte filter and is reused to sprinkle the gardens and golf courses. The roof of the building is covered with solar cells. The hotel has plans to become fully self-sustaining in energy.

Blog Holland sustainable meetings green resort drenthe

The impact of hotels

The environmental impact of hotels lies in three key factors: energy, water and waste. Most hotels possess energy- and water-intensive facilities for lightening, heating and amenities which emit more CO2 than an average household. Additionally, the average hotel guest is not likely to treat his hotel room with the same economical concerns as his own houshold – it would not change his bill after all.

It is estimated that hotels produce one kilogram of waste per guest per day. Managing this waste is an environmental and financial problem. Therefore green hotels are looking for waste preventing solutions and alternatives to the landfills.

Choose green

When you plan a green meeting, your should also take a careful look at the hotel you select. You can find a list of sustainable hotels in Holland on the official website. Which hotel would you recommend for green meetings?