Destination Net Zero GLOBE Series GLOBE Forum Leading Change

Top 5 tips for running sustainability events during COVID-19 (and beyond)

By Elizabeth Shirt, Managing Director – GLOBE Series

 

When I joined GLOBE Series as Managing Director in early 2020, I was super excited. I knew GLOBE had been producing sustainability and climate events for over three decades, and I wanted to be part of the next chapter. After all, we have no time to lose on the road to creating a net-zero, equitable future. I knew that GLOBE events would be where critical conversations and collaboration took root.  

What I couldn’t have predicted was a global pandemic that shook the event industry – among many others – to its core. We quickly pivoted to offering virtual events, and were pleasantly surprised to find that many partners and clients were keen to engage us on everything from programming to technical platforms. Our event services are now a permanent part of what we offer.

After two years of virtual events, I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised by what came next: a huge pent-up demand for getting together in person. GLOBE Forum, which has happened every two years for the past 30, sold out for the first time in its history. We had thousands of people register for in-person and virtual programming. With all that behind us and a huge amount of work to do in the next decade, I’d like to offer our top learnings that you can apply to your own sustainability and climate events.

 

#1: In-person events aren’t dead

After two years of Zoom meetings from our home offices, I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised at the tremendous interest in getting together in person at GLOBE Forum. People REALLY wanted to see each other after all that time, and the importance of human connection really came through in both our ticket sales and the vibe at the event itself.

How do you make the most of this desire to connect, which in turn fuels more collaboration and innovation? When you’re creating your program, don’t just think about who’s on the stage, think about who is in the room. Consider how you can help your attendees connect with each other – not only in your official programming, but outside of it.

For example, at GLOBE Forum we offered recharge lounges, meeting pods, and multiple networking events. These are where the magic happens…where else can a Chief Sustainability Officer of a multinational company get the opportunity to talk policy with a federal or provincial policymaker? Or a small company with big ambitions become part of the climate conversation? There were so many instances just like this at Forum.

For the first time ever, we also hosted an in-demand “Meet the experts” session with our colleagues from The Delphi Group. This was another way that we leveraged our own connections to help other companies make connections that will help them do what they do even better.

#2: If you’re not thinking about equity and access, start now

You can’t get away with all-white manels anymore. We will and should be held accountable for the people on stage, virtual or otherwise. Plus, if we’re going to build a better future, we need to have all the voices at the table – taking into account age, racial and gender identity, and differently abled perspectives.

At GLOBE Forum, we set and met speaker diversity targets. We considered what it really means to acknowledge the land we are gathering on. We also made sure to create space for First Nations leaders — who represent peoples who called Vancouver home well before any of us lived, worked or played here — to open the event, welcome us to their traditional territories, and talk about why sustainability is fundamental to their communities (and has been for centuries).

Could we do better? Absolutely, and we will keep the pressure on ourselves to ensure all our events are as inclusive as possible. If you’re considering an event, we encourage you to do the same.

In terms of event accessibility, providing virtual and hybrid options was definitely a huge step forward for us at Forum. Fortunately, we were able to leverage the expertise we’d gleaned during two years of the pandemic. We also ensured our event was accessible to a broad and diverse audience by providing targeted discounts for students, not-for-profits and under-represented groups.

 

#3: It’s not easy being green….but do it anyway

Ensuring your in-person event is sustainable is more and more important to your stakeholders – and is even more important if your audience lives and breathes sustainability, as ours does. There are a bunch of things you can do to work towards net zero, such as:

  • Select a green venue. For example, GLOBE Forum takes place in the Vancouver Convention Centre, which is the world’s first double LEED Platinum certified convention centre.
  • Ensure your badges are recyclable.
  • Offer catering linked to sustainable food sources and local suppliers.
  • Consider going paper-free by offering your program online only.
  • Consider a fully virtual event OR partner with a credible offsets provider to mitigate the emissions associated with in-person events. We partnered with Ostrom Climate at GLOBE Forum to mitigate our event-related emissions.

Our mission is to provide events that are as green and sustainable as possible. We still have some work to do, but asking the right questions from the start is key to making progress.

#4: Go beyond a chatfest…link your event to outcomes and action

The learnings and best practices that people can glean from speakers and fellow attendees at events have a lot of value. However, with less than a decade to make urgent progress towards a net-zero future, we need to go beyond talk to action and impact. This is also what will make your event that much more compelling than another Zoom webinar.

At GLOBE Forum, we not only offered GLOBE Advances – deep-dive workshops on our key themes – but very intentionally built our program around the 10×10 Action Plan: the 10 actions in 10 years we need to take to get to net zero. The 10×10 will be developed out of the discussions that took place at GLOBE Forum and will specify WHAT needs to happen and WHO needs to do it on the road to net zero. These actions will be unpacked at future GLOBE events with the goal of ensuring accountability and impact. Read more about the 10×10 here.

#5: Take 5 after your event is over

There is nothing quite like putting on an event. It’s a high-intensity and high-stress undertaking. It’s really important to acknowledge that and to build it into your calendar in a way that won’t over-tax your team – such as ensuring they can take a breather when the event is over. Think about what’s going to be your best quarter for planning, your best quarter for implementation, and your best quarter for recovery.

It’s also important to define rules of engagement when things get stressful and so that you can stay true to your culture and values. This can really sustain you when the team is going a million miles an hour in a high-intensity environment.

 

Are you thinking about offering an in-person, hybrid or virtual event, workshop or presentation? We can help!

For more information about how we can partner with you to deliver your next sustainability event, reach out to our Senior Manager, Event Partnerships, Caroline Vanesse, directly at caroline.vanesse@globeseries.com.

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