Behind the Scenes By Michelle Russell
I’ve flown on three different airlines in the last week to attend several meetings— so air travel is on my mind.
he environmentalist David Suzuki told Convene more than five years ago that he was going
to stop flying to meetings because air travel left too heavy a carbon footprint. The meetings industry model is built on delegates taking to the skies, so his comment stuck with me. “In the long run, I’m just not going to be able
to travel by plane,” Dr. Suzuki told us back then. “I’m now turning down invitations to speak just because I don’t want to get into a plane and fly; it just doesn’t make sense to me. There ought to be ways to use teleconferencing much more.” (Read his full interview at http://bit.ly/ Convene-Suzuki.) I thought of Dr. Suzuki when I came across
an article in the February issue of Forbes magazine about theWorld Economic Forum (WEF), held in Davos, Switzerland, in January. (Go to http://onforb.es/Convene-Forbes for the story.) I can imagine Dr. Suzuki nodding vig- orously at the part of the story pointing out that 90 percent of the carbon emissions associated with the conference were related to travel to Switzerland. But this renowned scientist might scratch his head at other environmental-impact findings from the event. BeforeWEF, according to the article, analyz-
ers were installed “to measure the expected spike in greenhouse-gas emissions from a week of helicoptering, limousine riding, and bloviat- ing about environmental sustainability.” More people, more heating, and more traffic should have resulted in more emissions, but emissions actually fell 40 percent, and then rose 5 percent afterWEFended. Kenneth Davis, a Penn State professor of meteorology interviewed in the story, offered one possible explanation:Tight security kept cars off the roads and participants inside confer-
10 pcmaconvene March 2012
ence halls. When they did venture outdoors, many boarded low-polluting vans arranged by WEForganizers in an effort to minimize the event’s environmental impact. While there is no getting around the fact that
air travel is environmentally expensive, it would seem that sustainability efforts at least can miti- gate a meeting’s overall carbon footprint. Rebecca Rothney believes that airline passen-
gers can have a positive effect on the world, if not on the environment. While she has focused on how leisure travelers can help those in need around the globe, she’s got particularly high hopes that meeting attendees will start to Pack for a Purpose. Read about her on p. 30. In the years sinceDr. Suzuki questionedwhy
there weren’tmore teleconferences, the meetings industry has begun to embrace virtual and hybridmeetings in earnest as a component of— rather than a replacement for—livemeetings. Andwe’re starting to get serious aboutmaking thema valuable experience for participants. In June, theVirtualEdge Institutewill roll out the first-everDigitalEvents Strategist (DES) certifica- tion program. Read all about it on p. 32. Certainly the DES program is tapping into a
growing market. Whether it’s for economic or environmental reasons—or simply to better meet their constituents’ needs—more than one- quarter of respondents to our annual Meetings Market Survey (p. 41) said that their use of virtual meetings and events has increased in the past year. Overall, results from this year’s survey offer a
picture of an industry that continues to climb out of the recession.Doplanners think better times are on the horizon? It depends on whether they see the plane as half-empty or half-full.
LEGAL EAGLES: We asked five attor- neys specializing in the meetings and hospitality industry to fill us in on the issues that keep planners up at night and the ones that may not be on their radar at all (see this month’s CMP Series on p. 65). Whether they concern com- plex technologies or critters barely visible to the naked eye, these are legal issues planners need to keep in mind—and in their contracts.
Michelle Russell Editor in Chief email@example.com
MICHELLE RUSSELL PHOTOGRAPHED BY DENNIS CHALKIN; ILLUSTRATION BY JIM FRAZIER