We’re moving, which means we’ve been decluttering the house, or at least trying to! As part of the “big clean”, I came across a suitcase full of old conference bags, with all kinds of exhibitor catalogues, flyers, brochures, etc. Perhaps with a hint of procrastination, I decided to calculate the water footprint of one of these bags. Here’s what I came up with:
- 1 cotton tote bag = 2500 litres
- 182 pages of paper = 1820 litres
- Total = 4320 litres (over 1000 gallons!)
- Estimated event participants = 2500
- Total water consumption from tote bags and materials = 10,800,000 litres
According to this National Geographic article, the global average water footprint of 900 gallons per person per day for diet, household use, transportation, energy, and the consumption of material goods, meaning that the bags and papers from this one conference were equivalent to the daily needs of 12,000 people.
World Water Day is coming up on March 22nd and I hope that these tips for reducing the water footprint of your event will come in handy.
Let me start by saying, I’m not an academic. I do however, have a great appreciation for academics, and particularly those that are using social media to help inform and engage the non-academic community. A few months ago, I came across the #ScholarSunday hashtag – started by Dr. Raul Pacheco as a #FollowFriday for academics. I think this is a brilliant way of helping to identify those academics that are transforming the role of academics in society. From a meetings industry perspective, finding engaging academics can add an valuable perspective to your program, regardless of whether or not you’re hosting an academic event.
What I look for in a #ScholarSunday:
- Do they challenge my assumptions?
- Do they tell great stories, and are they able to back them up with solid research?
- Can and do they respond well to criticism about their findings or posts?
- Do they actively engage with their friends and followers on social media, or do they only broadcast about themselves?
- Is their work accessible to the non-academic?
- Do they come across as human?
Why My 1st #ScholarSunday goes to @GlobalEcoGuy
My first #ScholarSunday goes to @GlobalEcoGuy (Dr. Jonathan Foley, the director of the Institute on the Environment (IonE) at the University of Minnesota) for the reasons listed above. His TED talk (see below) and thought provoking articles in Nature and Scientific American focus on a plan to feed the world while sustaining the planet. (FYI – their new publication ensia is my favorite online magazine – great science, stories and visuals.)
In preparation for this post, I had the pleasure of interviewing him about science & social media. A short excerpt from the interview is below:
@meetingchange A2: Many! But mostly to get outside the academic ivory tower bubble, at least for a bit. We usually only talk to ourselves…
— Jonathan Foley (@GlobalEcoGuy) March 7, 2013
I also put him on the spot for who he likes to follow on social media. His comments on possible generational differences to approaches to social media can be found in the transcript above, and he also provided a few names:
— Jonathan Foley (@GlobalEcoGuy) March 7, 2013
Advice for Eventprofs about Academics as Speakers
I have planned many academic conferences over the years, and I can say that some academics are exceptional presenters and others well, are not. I think that #ScholarSunday has the potential to be a great resource for event professionals because it helps us to identify academics that know how to engage and are respected by their peers. In addition, I strongly recommend finding videos of their presentations, as this helps to get a sense of their presentation style as well. A few tips to share with them before their sessions include:
- Review expectations about the presentation style that you and your participants need, including interactive and visual elements.
- Ask them to engage with your event participants using the event hashtag before, during and after the event.
- If possible, schedule a twitter chat with several speakers and your community members and send the transcript out to promote your event.
- Provide them with background information about your audience and the audience’s knowledge of the subject matter so that the content can be appropriately tailored.
- Consider an interview format rather than a standard lecture presentation, this can help make the session more engaging for the audience.
I’ve been struggling lately with finding relevance for associations. I’m struggling because I love associations, but I question how they will continue with current models. Here’s my problem: I think many associations have forgotten why they exist, and instead, focus on just collecting dues and holding events. I’ve spoken with several association leaders lately that are having a hard time meeting financial goals, delivering value to stakeholders, and achieving their goals. I’ve also spoken with many association members who really question why they pay to be members of an organization and whether or not the fees are worth it. We need a major transformation both in terms of what associations do, and how they are funded.
I think many associations act like cocoons: they’re insular, and keep their value hidden. On the other hand, I’m also starting to see signs of associations evolving to be more like butterflies – and I hope to see more of this. So how do cocoon associations and butterfly associations compare?
Cocoon associations are inward facing: concerned with themselves and their growth. They focus on recruiting members and holding events. They hide their value – and showing it only to those on the inside, and are restrictive about things like sharing content. They are tightly guarded, and put up a barrier that separates them from the world. They are also stuck in one place, not able to leave their spot. This combined with their vulnerability to everything from the economy to their competitors. Cocoon associations don’t sound very promising – but they have a huge potential to emerge transformed.
Butterfly associations on the other hand have an outward focus and they show their value to everyone around them. With their wings outstretched and open they move freely as needed. When faced with a possible threat – they can fly to a safer place. They’re not completely protected from the butterfly nets of the association world, but they have the ability to be nimble. They are also transformed with a new focus on the mission of the association, not simply the management of the association. Butterflies are fascinating, they soar to great heights and they’re loved.
The Transformation Process
Becoming a butterfly association is no easy task and involves consultation and collaboration as well as answering some pretty tough questions. A few questions and tips to get you started:
- Start by asking yourself: How is your association relevant? Do you deliver value?
- Next, ask yourself if your current practices are the most effective way of achieving your mission. Are you preventing your leadership from focusing on key priorities because they are being consumed by projects that while valuable, or are not the best use of their time and talent? Are there other initiatives that would be more important?
- Develop a long-term plan, one with room for flexibility, but that ultimately commits to a transformation.
- Develop an alternative funding model that will help ensure your long-term sustainability that is not heavily dependent on member dues.
- Gain support for your vision with your board and stakeholders. Keep in mind that when you’re stuck inside the cocoon, it can be difficult to see the beauty that will emerge.