Is this the start of more sustainable events?

22 Jan 2021 3min read

Before COVID-19 hit, people would travel across the globe to attend world summits, industry conferences and a multitude of other events taking place each year. The environmental impact of so much travel is a lot to comprehend, especially considering that one long-haul flight can produce more carbon than some people produce in an entire year.

With events across the world moving to online platforms in response to the pandemic, could this be the start of a new, more sustainable way of holding events moving forwards?

If we take RDD 2020 as an example, a respiratory event Team Consulting attends every year, it’s hard to ignore the environmental benefits of moving an event online. Based on the average emissions of a Boeing 747, if every delegate that attended the online event had booked a separate flight to its usual location in Palm Desert, California, their air travel alone would have produced roughly 34,000 tonnes in CO2. That’s equivalent to the amount produced on average by 4,197 UK households over the course of an entire year.

Alongside the clear environmental benefits of moving online, the digital format of these events has also allowed many companies to attend that may never have done so in person. Coupled with some nifty tools for networking, marketing and knowledge sharing, these events have proved that you don’t have to buy a costly airline ticket to meet new people and learn new things.

Despite this, these temporary online solutions have also had their fair share of challenges. As anyone working from home will know, it’s difficult to become fully immersed in an event when you’re sat at the same desk where you work each day. Even without the constant distraction of work emails and phone calls, there’s no escaping the fact that you simply can’t create the same atmosphere online that you get with a venue full of people.

Paul Greenhalgh, Team’s Director of Design, giving his talk on connected devices at DDL 2020.

So what does this mean for the future of events? It would be naive to think that events will simply continue along the digital path once the pandemic eases. What we are starting to see however are more hybrid options, with delegates offered the choice to attend either online or in person.

Companies may think twice about sending a delegate halfway across the world if they can just as easily book a few meetings online, while having the option to dial in remotely could save international speakers the need to hop on a plane for a 30-minute keynote. As we draw closer to a return to normality, I hope that more events will follow this trend and offer people the option to attend remotely, without the need for too much environmentally unfriendly travel.

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