Thanks to today's mobile conference apps, creating a more eco friendly event without compromising the attendee experience is possible

The thought of going completely paperless can seem a little scary - attendees want and need their handouts. Going paperless doesn't have to mean you are taking something away from attendees. Digital content is not just greener but provides an unmatched convenience for attendees. Simply look at what's been happening in the publishing industry - this year, ebook sales have now surpassed even hard cover book sales. The easy access, light weight, ability to search, highlight or take notes adds value for users. If you offer the EventPilot conference app, just like with ebooks, you are greatly enhancing the attendee's experience with the countless benefits of convenient and interactive event apps. So, if you are thinking about taking the plunge to create a paperless event, the following ideas may come in handy:

Get attendees on board early

Communicating the environmental impact of all your printed materials early on can help you get attendee buy-in long before your event. Estimate your water, CO2, and waste savings from eliminating printing with our free green events calculator. Include it all - your brochure, program updates, daily news, announcement flyers, tote bag content, session materials, evaluation surveys, and more.

Reward attendees that support your efforts

Survey attendees during registration if they are going to be using a mobile device or need a printed version to access the event program. Also include the environmental impact information to help registrants making their decision. This instantly allows you to determine how much to reduce printing. Reward sustainability with a special icon or color on the attendee badge that publicly indicates their choice. Alternatively, an incentive such as a reduced registration fee may attract additional mobile use.

Provide a mobile app

While USB sticks and PDFs were a step in the right direction, they do not offer the interactive and personalized experience your attendees need while at the event. EventPilot on the other hand is not just a digital version of a printed program. It is designed as a Swiss Army Knife that

  • gives attendees access to updated information when and wherever they need it,
  • in a personalized and convenient format,
  • without external limitations (such as requiring Wi-Fi) to work.
Your choice of the right app will be the key difference between a great paperless experience or unhappy attendees. If the experience is frustrating or cumbersome, your attendees will ask you for a printed program.

This app ROCKS. Having been to a few large conventions where juggling events and speakers was always an excel or paper effort this is a nice relief from all the paper.
Tony Walsh, NRF Attendee

Make handouts even more valuable

The session handouts are one of the most valuable takeaways for your attendees. You can easily integrate PowerPoint presentation slides offline and allow attendees to take notes directly on the slides - just as they would have with printed materials. Mobile session handouts actually offer more value to attendees than paper could:

  • Take notes you can export into an email report with the slide image attached
  • Searchable and filtered by keywords
  • Bookmark slides for later review
  • Tweet slides - why not send a slide with your comment to Twitter?
  • Light weight and convenient - no need to carry around stacks of paper
  • Accessible in context of the session description and speaker bio/contact information

For medical meetings, you can easily include all of the scientific research abstracts directly within the app. Take a look at the ACC.12 app which includes thousands of abstracts offline.

Include evaluations and credit tracking

You can easily include session evaluations or forms to track education credits directly in your app. Not only is it paperless, it saves your team hours of work dealing with paper forms and it's convenient for attendees with easy access from the session description. Services like SurveyMonkey offer great mobile formatted surveys with powerful data analysis features.

Highlight daily news in your app

The home screen of your app is a great place to post a link to your daily news. Simply create a basic web page you can link to from within the app or your website. Include the following meta tags to make help make your page look good on a small screen:

In your HTML header, include the following two meta tags

<meta name='HandheldFriendly' content='TRUE' /> 
<meta name = 'viewport' content = 'width = device-width' />

Incentivize exhibitors

One major paper-waste-contributor and probably the most difficult to turn paperless is your exhibition. Ask your exhibitors to support your efforts by becoming a "Green Exhibitor" and leaving all paper at the office. Those exhibitors could be marked with a "Green Exhibitor" badge at the booth, listed in a special section within the app above all other exhibitors, and receive the option to include a trackable link to a YouTube video, interactive product fact sheet, or webinar signup form directly in the app. These interactive and immersive documents are more valuable for your exhibitors than a high gloss brochure in the trash can.
Alternatively, you could always incentivize exhibitors with booth discounts, a special booth placement, or charge an additional fee if they wish to bring paper or SWAG.

Reduce use of posters and signs

Instead of printing signs or banners, use projectors and monitors which you can also reuse at different events. Projectors and monitors can offer more flexibility and a more interesting animated way to display sponsor logos. Set up iPads with the app to display important messages at the registration desk. The displays can be turned off at night and the power use offset with green energy. To provide links to additional information, use QR codes on the screens (generate QR codes freehttp://qrcode.kaywa.com/). If you plan to print QR codes, use short URLs that simply redirect to a web page. You can change the redirection any time without having to reprint the QR code. Choose a conference app that has a QR code reader built-in, so your attendees do not have to download an additional app.

Tip: Display the short URL below the QR code - not all devices have cameras (e.g. Kindle Fire). Ensure free Wi-Fi is available where QR codes are being displayed, or attendees won't be able to access the information.

Create a paperless event archive

A well designed post show website with conference highlights, key tweets, and  links to presentations and handouts is a great paperless resource for attendees after the event. If possible, keep your event site as a permanent archive so attendees can still access slides and materials years from now.

Maintain integrity

If you communicate to your attendees that you are going paperless, any paper you distribute will be noticed. Be mindful of your words and actions.

What has been your own experience?

Do you have additional suggestions? Please let us know via the comments below what you would add to the list.