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What’s Your Standard?

October 15, 2010

Yesterday, October 14th, was World Standards Day.  While this might not have made your list of official celebrations in the way that, say,  New Year’s, Christmas, Ramadan, Yom Kippur or Bat Appreciation Month (apparently October, for you crazy macabre Halloween fans, but I couldn’t find an official website to link with) do, standards are increasingly important to the sustainability in general and the meetings and events industry in particular.

While we might be tempted by the word “standards” to put this on the list of things we will never do, just to get back at all the authority figures in our lives, they have some important functions for the industry.

First, they give the industry some credibility.  For an industry that has been struggling to get a “seat at the table”, standards provide objective criteria to evaluate performance.  This is something that is easily understood in the boardroom.

Second, they give sustainability in the industry a baseline.  The term “green meetings” is so overused that no-one really knows what that means anymore.  Does it mean you have banned bottled water, or does it mean you have integrated sustainable considerations into all parts of your event from the supply chain to your organizational strategic objectives?

Third, they give you some credibility as a meeting professional.  While the industry is full of what I might call “soft” expertise, standards give you “hard” credibility, and I am not referring to the level of difficulty in implementing them.  I have blogged before about how Operations Management claims event professionals as part of their knowledge baseline.  Because of using tools such as project management software and decision analysis to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of operations, and because of rigorous certifications such as the Project Management Professional (PMP), they aren’t typically viewed as extraneous or disposable in the way many meeting professionals are by their organizations.  Being aware of and then implementing standards gives you a way to impact strategy and efficiency and then report back on key indicators.

The three most critical standards and/or reporting guidelines in the industry right now are British Standard 8901/ISO 20121; the Global Reporting Initiative’s Event Sector Supplement; and the APEX/ASTM Green Meetings Standards.  You owe it to yourself and to your organization to take a look. Next October 14th, you’ll have an excuse to party.

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