APR 2012

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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2012 Sneak Peek Directory Subscribe Advertise Contact GREEN MEETINGS Cut Out Paper & Give The China-Cup Experience While bumping along on a recent flight, I asked the attendant for a cup of tea as they came to my row. The tea was served in a disposable cup with a paper packet of sugar and a plastic stir stick. Nothing fancy. On the flight home, I was upgraded to first class. I ordered that same cup of tea and this time it arrived in a china cup, with a sugar cube and a silver spoon. Delightful. Was the airline suddenly concerned about the environment? No, they wanted to show me first class service and make me feel like a valued guest. Now, the environmental world talks a lot about reducing the use of paper and using recycled paper for your conference and events. You've probably heard it all before and it is great infor- mation. While there are a lot of reasons to go paperless at your event, the most overlooked reason is to treat your guests as VIPs. Yes, VIPs at your event. Do you really want to serve guests on paper plates or with paper cups? Wouldn't they feel a higher level of service if you offered them china instead? This is especially true when it comes to linen napkins. I even request linen cocktail napkins for both luxury and sustainabil- ity at a cocktail party. Guests always tell me how much they appreciate this detail. It then goes without saying to have a sil- ver sugar bowl and creamer available instead of little packets of sugar and plastic containers of creamer. By eliminating all the handouts in your conference bag (or the bag all together) in favor of a compact USB key they can reuse, guests will feel you took their well-being into consideration. They don't have to drag the full bag around the conference, only to toss the papers when they return to their hotel room. Speaking of hotel rooms, request the hotel staff to ask if your guests want a morning paper or not. Let them know their preferences can be accommodated. The same goes for the checkout procedure. I recently had a hotel ask if they could email my final bill so I would have it in my office at my con- venience instead of carrying it back across the country and searching for it when it was time to do my expense report. Suggest your exhibitors also email information after the event to the interested participants. This will eliminate the need for exhibitors to ship the info to the show site and guests to pack it home. QR codes are quickly becoming a way to effortlessly transfer information. You may not be able to eliminate the paper in name badges, but why not make them a keepsake. One brilliant idea our client discovered was to provide name badges that are also art. They commissioned an artist to make beautiful, one-of-a-kind badges for attendees. This is an ideal sponsorship opportunity as guests will be admiring the name tags hanging around each other's necks. To make the story even greener, badges can be made from reclaimed container plastics and textile trimmings that would have otherwise been discarded. Signage is another huge use of paper. Look to electronic signage which adds sophistication and the ability to be easily adapted. These will save both time and money. If you are ad- vocating social media at your event, you may also want an electronic sign with the twitter feed streaming across for all to see. Who doesn't love seeing their name in lights and getting recognition for being a part of the community. Technology is a wonderful tool when you go paperless. Exhibitor kits, registration, housing and program guides can all be available electronically and shows that your event is state-of-the-art. Your guests will feel that they have chosen wisely to align with a prominent organization. Because the South has cornered the market on hospitality, many of us look forward to visiting for conferences and events in the region for just that reason. We look forward to it because it reminds us of an era when graceful entertaining made us all feel at home—before this era when everything is disposable. We feel like a valued guest and not just another head in a bed or mouth to feed. That is what makes people want to attend your events—especially when decisions are based on tight travel budgets. For me, it is similar to the warm feeling I had when sitting in that first-class section enjoying a sip of tea out of a china cup. ■ www.con v APRIL 2012 ConventionSouth 19 s

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