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Sustainability Engagement: Carrot Or Stick?

I was lucky enough to be invited to guest speak at an event sustainability day held for final year students at Manchester Metropolitan University. It was a fantastic platform to engage with students and industry professionals in discussions about the importance of sustainability in events, and included a variety of speakers offering various angles and expert opinions.

I really enjoyed Prof. Xavier Font of Surrey University, who discussed sustainability from a marketing perspective, suggesting that a more humorous, honest and trustworthy approach will normalise the topic in customers. He warned that there are a number of dangers in over-communicating your efforts, recommending that businesses should avoid moralising the topic and be aware of the level of assertiveness in their approach (as forceful communication is deemed less effective). Andrew Walker also shared some fantastic practical examples from his personal sustainability journey as a 14-year member of MPI. He highlighted his on-going efforts to integrate sustainable practices into their event planning process; MPI’s 2013 World Education Congress in Las Vegas was highlighted as a case study, which saw 1,500 attendees take part in a unique project to build, piece-by-piece, an estimated 250 prosthetic hands. These were then distributed to victims of land-mines across the globe, reinforcing the event’s tagline – When We Meet We Change The World.

Other speakers included Dominque Wallace (a freelance event manager), Pete Bradshaw (Ethihad Stadium) and Teresa Moore (A Greener Festival). Folk singer Max Wheatley also demonstrated his musical talents by summarising each speaker’s key points through witty, improvised song.

For my own presentation, I focused on my learnings and experiences of sustainability as a recent graduate. I discussed the business benefits that derive from sustainable practices and summarised the key findings of my final year dissertation project, which investigated engagement in the corporate event sector. Having interviewed a number of directors and staff from well-known UK event agencies, my results revealed that while most respondents acknowledged the perceived benefits, there is an apparent lack of significant strategic engagement. To reinforce this notion, I also shared the findings reported at this year’s Sustainable Events Summit. New research commissioned by Positive Impact revealed that only 18% of respondents publish their sustainability reports and, while most acknowledge that sustainable practice is vital, the majority are failing to implement this in the delivery of their events.

Does the industry therefore need stricter, imposed regulation? It was argued at the summit that regulation could stifle creativity and innovation in events. It was also suggested that for a genuine behavioural change we need to be doing more from an education perspective and encouraging and recognising the champions who are driving more long-term, favourable impact. Less stick, more carrot!

I have found blogs to be a fantastic platform to communicate sustainability stories online and recommend that both individuals and organisations share their efforts, however small, to educate and encourage stronger sustainability engagement in events.

Attending the sustainability day as a guest speaker provided an opportunity to interact with budding event professionals and network with industry experts. I also felt a great sense of familiarity in returning to a lecture theatre, however this time with the shoe on the other foot.

I will now pass over my monthly blog to an old university friend and colleague at Ashfield Meetings & Events, Lauren Beadle, who will continue to share her event experiences with you in the new year.

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Quality is not an act, it’s a habit

I have recently returned from a week-long trip to Ireland, where a colleague and I delivered a quality assurance conference for one of our pharmaceutical clients.

The event was held in the town of Killarney, stretching around the picturesque Iveragh Peninsula. This was in fact my first ever trip to Ireland and I was lucky enough to be given a truly authentic experience.

As the event was held for internal staff, it was constrained less by pharmaceutical compliance and allowed for what some would say was a more entertaining programme. Aside from the three-day conference, multiple break-out sessions and an awards dinner, guests were also treated to a traditional jaunting cars excursion through Ireland’s first national park. A personal highlight of the trip included an external dinner in a traditional Irish tavern. The evening was complete with Guinness, céilí dancing and a live folk band – of course not forgetting the song request for Galway Girl!

Quality is not an act, it’s a habitThe content of the conference focused on the delivery and assurance of quality in the client’s products. With quality being one of Ashfield’s five core values, the programme delivery by our team mirrored the conference content. Our planning and organisation pre-event and on-site used systematic operating procedures to ensure delivery of the highest quality to ensure customer confidence and strengthen our agency’s credibility.

On the surface a high-quality event should be seamless, offering delegates a smooth transition through their schedule and between activities. However the reality of event logistics that I have experienced is not simply sitting at a welcome desk and organising tea and coffee breaks. The real nitty-gritty truth of events can be seen behind the scenes, where a dedicated team are relentlessly working to a precise schedule built upon months of preparation and hard work. We can probably all take inspiration from the Henry Ford quote, ‘Quality means doing it right when no-one is looking’.

I chose a career in events as I believed that I possessed a certain mixture of attributes that align to delivering quality events; organisation, attention to detail, strong communication skills and empathy. This may be an essential skillset for a newbie to the industry but what really sets aside a budding event professional from others starting out?

I’ve come to learn that with experience I will build a different skillset, not likely taught at university. A fully-rounded event manager must have a strategic understanding of a client’s business and objectives, and insight into numerous important facets of the event spectrum and creativity and innovation in abundance. I’m eager to immerse myself in as many different opportunities and projects as possible to learn these skills. They say there is no time like the present…  I am grateful to have been asked to guest speak this month at a sustainability day at Manchester Metropolitan University and I am also supporting the delivery of a full-service event working alongside the creative and production teams in our internal engagement department. This event will also take me to an entirely new location, the distinctly less Irish town of Stevenage. I look forward to sharing my experience with you next month.

Quality is not an act, it’s a habit

Starting out

My name is Ella and I’ve recently celebrated my one year anniversary at Ashfield Meetings & Events. With only a year under my belt I still consider myself a newbie to the industry with lots to learn. Over the next 12 months I intend to share some of these learning experiences with you and talk about the events I will be delivering. I thought learning would be an apt theme for my first blog and provide you with the opportunity to also find out a little bit more about me.

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