Guest Blog By Lis McLoughlin, PhD
Online events are easier, save money, and more sustainable than in-person events when done right.
Online events benefit the environment by replacing energy-intensive and currently (during the pandemic) dangerous in-person events. Online events are safe because they maintain social distancing, and are also efficient as they eliminate all transportation, facility heating/cooling, catering and waste energy costs, adding a relatively small internet energy use cost. This is a huge savings. A recent Australian study found that videoconferencing takes at most 7% of the energy of an in-person conference.
Here are a few tips to help you hold your green event safely and seamlessly online.
Choose the right format for your event.
Event software comes in 2 main types: webinar or meeting. Which will best suit your audience? An easy test is to ask yourself how you would set up the chairs if you were meeting in person. If the chairs would be in rows all facing a podium or a stage, that’s a webinar. If you’d be in a circle or around one or more tables, it’s a meeting.
Invite, meet, follow up electronically.
It’s easiest and least wasteful of paper to invite people to your event by email, e-newsletter, social media post, or through your website. People who are not online already are not likely to come to your online event, and it’s long, complicated links are difficult to type into a browser manually. An added bonus to online events is that the advertising, outreach, and ticketing is taken entirely online, too. After your event, your reports from a webinar (email lists, registration, attendance, etc.) and any follow-up surveys will also be electronic in database format without the need for paper.
Once they are there, how do you make your participants feel safe and comfortable?
With “zoom bombing” (unwanted guests who hijack the event) on the rise, extra attention needs to be paid to your settings. There are ample settings in Zoom, which is the software I use the most, to make your event secure and enjoyable for all. The add-on webinar software is the safest option because the attendees cannot turn on their cameras or microphones. But this more controlled environment can be emulated in a meeting format too. The administrator on your account, and then to some degree the host, has the power to decide who can share screen and when; if profile pictures are shown; if attendees can turn on their camera and/or microphone; and how the camera/microphone are set (on/off) upon entry. All these settings can be made in advance so that the meeting becomes a safe place for your attendees.
Don't burden your host with other duties.
The more technically challenging your event, the more you need someone whose job it is to make the technology run smoothly. While we all understand that an in-person conference host will have other staff running the facility, oftentimes people try to do it all themselves online—and then wonder why the event did not run smoothly. The person running the meeting should be running the meeting, not muting the guy taking a phone call; the emcee should be focusing on making your guest speakers sound great, not futzing with the sound system. Online events have the capacity to reach more people than would attend in person because they are not as bound by geographic lines, so you can look good (or not) to a larger swath of potential customers at once. This is another reason online events are greener—no one has to fly to one, and you can serve many more audience members at once; no more need for multiple regional conferences.
Pay attention to content.
If your online event adjures people to buy a bigger car, it’s not green. Think about the goals of your event. You’re sending a message by meeting online in a safe, convivial, and environmentally-friendly way; what other green practices can you model for those who attend?
NatureCulture LLC is owned and operated by Lis McLoughlin, PhD, and runs on solar power off-grid in the hills of western Massachusetts. Working mostly for the environmental, non-profit, and creative communities, NatureCulture produces festivals, meetings, workshops, conferences, auctions, book launches, readings, family gatherings and other events large and small, including hybrid online-outdoor events. Nonprofit rates available.
Massachusetts governmental agencies: we are on Commbuys and certified as a diversity supplier. Educational institutions: we are on Handshake and offer internships in a variety of projects around environment and creativity.