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Driving the Paperless Events Revolution: an mdgroup White Paper

4 August 2016

Introduction

Did you know that cutting out paper waste for a conference with 500 attendees can save over $750 and 200lb of wood?

According to studies by North Carolina University’s Centre for Sustainable Tourism, the average conference attendee in the US can take home up to 10lb of paper. Among this will be countless schedules, flyers, meeting notes and handouts.

How much of this paperwork will be useful to the attendee in the long term? It’s hard to say. What we do know is how much of it is necessary for a successful event - none.

With over 300 million tons of paper produced globally every year, paperless solutions are increasingly vital to slowing global warming, conserving energy and water, reducing pollution and saving the world’s forests.

Switching to paperless corporate communications and recycling office waste are admirable ways to make a difference, but in order to truly turn the tide for global ecology, we need to start a revolution. We need to change the way that business is done on a global scale, and one way to achieve this is through changing the face of corporate events.

By cutting paper out of corporate event culture entirely, and replacing it with comprehensive digital solutions, we can not only save money, man hours and trees - we can also drive a whole new method of sharing information and pave the way for smoother event communications.

It’s clear that sustainability is the way forward for corporate events, but that’s not to say that making the switch is simple. We’ve compiled a guide to help you take advantage of the abundance of new paperless event technologies available.

Your paperless event

While five years ago, persuading event-goers to leave their notebooks at home and eschew print-outs in favour of pdfs would have been a serious feat, a lot has happened since then. 80% of internet users now own a smartphone, according to stats from Smart Insights, and over 1 billion people worldwide own a tablet computer. Chances are, that demographic makes up the vast majority of your event attendees.

Play to what your audience know by creating an accessible and comprehensive app in place of paper communications throughout the event experience. Ensure that this application accommodates iOS, Android and Windows systems, so that every one of your attendees can stay on the same virtual page.

We've had great success with the introduction of our mdevents purpose-made apps and use of RFiD technology to automatically log attendees, accredit CPD points and provide all the information delegates need directly to their personal device. As a result of this technology and a switch to paperless, we've seen clients save up to 40% on event costs. 

If you have a larger budget to play with, you could even consider investing in or renting a number of tablets to distribute to attendees for the duration of the event, containing everything they will need to interact with the event’s content. This option allows for complete personalisation of the event app experience, with branded backgrounds and hand-picked multimedia.

The digital contents of your event need to be addressed alongside planning every aspect of the event itself, as anything that would traditionally require paper needs to now be adapted and enhanced for a digital experience.

As you work through your digital options, you’ll realise how much extra scope a carefully-designed digital platform will give you for brand engagement and exchange of information, throughout the event and beyond.

Before the event

  • Promote your app heavily via your website, email and social communications, and include a link to download it.
  • Include your booking platform as part of the application, making it the first point of access for any potential attendees.
  • Share important information via the app in the run-up to the event, such as transport and accommodation info.
  • Incentivise downloads by releasing the full event schedule exclusively via the app, and heavily promoting the release via social media.
  • Encourage conversation amongst potential attendees via a designated Twitter hashtag, ensuring that digital communication is associated with every aspect of the event.

During the event

  • Create a smoother arrival experience by including a check-in platform on the app. This will allow you to track attendance in real time, as well as cutting down on the number of employees needed to greet new arrivals.
  • A digital program portal, allowing attendees to create their own schedule from the options on offer, will solve the problem of printing countless paper schedules as well as ensuring that attendees don’t double-book themselves.
  • An interactive map of the event facility, including information about the sessions being held in each area, offers added value over a simplified paper map.
  • Encourage speakers and exhibitors to design digital posters in place of handouts or flyers, and make these available via the app. These can include video, audio and high quality images as well as links to relevant web pages, giving them far more value than conventional handouts at a fraction of the cost.
  • Including a function for attendees to make their own notes alongside event content will cut out the need for notebooks, as well as allowing event-goers to quickly share their additions and opinions online.
  • Include a real-time summary of conversation via the designated Twitter hashtag. This will keep attendees in the loop and ensure that they can join the conversation and make all-important connections - both digitally and in person - throughout the event. Consider projecting this channel onto a ‘tweet wall’ during the event, promoting engagement in an eye-catching manner.

After the event

  • Include polls and feedback forms on the application, allowing users to quickly provide their opinions while the event is still fresh in their minds. This is far less time-consuming and more effective than distributing and processing paper forms!
  • Maintain an easy-to-access collection of digital posters and online material from the event, so that attendees can quickly return to inspiring information after the event.
  • Continue to collate conversation on social media using the app, gathering vital insights into what your audience are talking about after the event is over.
  • Use the app to announce your next event as soon as the current one is over - or even during it. 

Ensuring adoption among attendees

The biggest fear when it comes to launching your first paperless event is that attendees will be unable or unwilling to fully adopt the premise. Often, attendees and exhibit holders simply print off their own materials, or worse - complain because they can’t find any!

The key to avoiding these issues and ensuring that your attendees truly enter into the paperless mentality is marketing. The paperless nature of your event is not to be a footnote in event promotions. If it’s going to be recognised, it needs to be heavily publicised!

Make an official announcement about your paperless event, and surround this with a press release and social campaign to get people talking about what’s to come. Ensure that links to relevant apps are available to attendees via email and social platforms in the buildup to the event - ignorance is not an excuse!

A creative way to dissuade attendees from printing materials at home is incentivising app use. Create a campaign around how easy-to-use and up-to-date the app is, ensuring that attendees know that it’s the first port of call for all the latest event info.

Push the matter even further by including exclusive news and offers via the app. Nobody wants to be left behind, so promoting your event app as central to the event itself will get even the most cynical stakeholders on board.

Further incentivisation can come in the form of a competition. Hold a prize draw for all registered app users attending the event - a creative prize would be  a new smartphone or tablet to interact with the app on!

Bear in mind that by holding a paperless event, you and your team will need to be the foremost adopters of the available technology. Show a consistent commitment to going green throughout the planning and promotion of the event - and indeed across your company culture - and your stakeholders will be more likely to embrace the idea.

How mdgroup can help

Going paperless is a rewarding yet daunting task, but mdgroup offer full-service assistance covering all aspects of sustainable events.

We pride ourselves on streamlining technology into your event from the very beginning, to ensure that financial, enagement and ecological goals are met across the board. As well as using custom-designed apps to maximise audience participation and minimise carbon footprints, we can enhance your paperless experience with online facilities for booking and check-in, feedback mechanisms and audience tracking systems.

We will act as trusted partners to ensure that your message is being seen and heard in the digital world - as well as an overarching message of commitment to corporate social responsibility!

Conclusion

While creating your first paperless event involves significant attention to detail, once your stakeholders are on board you’ll stand to save thousands of pounds, and cement your reputation as a company that cares - and that’s just in the short term. 

You’ll also be contributing to a general shift in corporate culture that places environmental issues at the top of the agenda and works daily to combat them. Launching your paperless event campaign isn’t just changing the future of events - it’s ensuring a future for our planet.

Getting excited about how technology can elevate your next event? Check out this white paper on how to take your event properly into the digital world. Get in touch to see how we can help. 

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