On television they're the evil Visitors. In the graphic novel and film he's scorned as a terrorist. For meetings the letter "V" might assume the same degree of loathing and dread: the Virtual Meeting! Striking fear in the hearts of many an event professional, the virtual meeting is something we can't deny but at the same time can't find it possible to fully embrace given how counter it is to the destination-driven business model for meetings.
Yet for event sustainability the model presents significant benefits, as proven by a recent analysis of a hybrid meeting.
The Event: An invitation-only business meeting, hosting attendees from around the world. 1600 executive attendees attending in person, 5700 technical specialists attending virtually.
The Scope: Carbon footprint analysis completed for the in-person meeting, including venue, hotels, ground transport and air travel. Additional analysis of the virtual meeting, including estimated electricity used while in the virtual environment.
The Result: An estimated 2355 metric tons of carbon emissions were produced by the in-person meeting for 1600 participants. The 5700-person virtual event produced an estimated 5.6 metric tons for carbon dioxide. 10,054 metric tons of emissions were avoided by inviting technical experts to participate virtually: the equivalent of taking 2000 cars off the road for a year.
The reality-check: Would all of the virtual attendees have attended in person if afforded the opportunity? Likely not. However the question remains: as a specific audience whose event-participation needs are fulfilled by attending virtually should they attend in person? In the case of this event it would seem the traditional model of more heads in beds might not apply, and another business model is at work to meet attendee expectations.
What does the trend toward hybrid meetings that integrate technology to enable participation mean for event sustainability and destination managers? Are we denying what seems to be an inevitable march toward and increasingly virtual meeting experience? Or are we creating a proactive strategy to deliver the best experience using the most effective medium for the audience?