PITTSBURGH – This week, our company marks an important and very exciting milestone.
The Edge is a blog about conferences and content, not a promotional page for The Conference Publishers. But this is a moment when we’re generating industry news. And it has everything to do with the power of face-to-face meetings, the transcendent importance of onsite content, and the green principles on which this firm was launched 25 years ago this fall.
While we’re onsite in Pittsburgh this week, we are joining with the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC)—not only to capture content from the 2009 Greening the Hospitality Industry Conference, but to begin building an integrated Green Meetings Portal that brings together the best knowledge from a dozen or more meetings, whenever they occur, across North America or around the world. The site is expected to go live by the end of March.
To our knowledge, the Portal is the first of its kind, and it couldn’t be launching at a better time.
With the whole rationale for face-to-face meetings under attack, the Portal will deliver powerful evidence that conference participants meet for a reason, that the knowledge they share has life and value beyond the closing plenary.
At a moment when cash-strapped organizations need to wring every ounce of impact out of every single meeting, the Portal will demonstrate an effective way of continuing the onsite dialogue for weeks or months beyond the closing plenary.
As host organizations scramble to cope with dramatic drops in conference attendance, the Portal concept holds the key to building online communities around onsite content, providing a foundation for sharing knowledge and a new opportunity for sponsorship and revenue generation.
With meetings as a whole taking a hit for perceived excesses in the incentive side of the business, the Portal returns content to what some of us see as its rightful place, at the centre of the decision to hold a meeting.
And as an online collection of onsite content, the Green Meetings Portal points to one way of combining the strengths of live and virtual learning.
I’m proud enough to see the launch of a concept that my company pioneered four long years ago. But on a personal level, by becoming our partner for this inaugural website, GMIC has helped me write the next chapter of a story that goes back more than three decades.
Like most people in our industry, I chose meetings as a second career. My first serious job was with a monthly newspaper, Canadian Renewable Energy News, which was a quarter-century ahead of today’s concerns about carbon footprints, fuel costs, peak oil, and energy security. But when I think a bit farther back, to the experience that led me to a 3½-year run as a renewable energy journalist, I find my way to . . . a conference.
It took place at York University in Toronto in November 1977. Its title was Science and the Politics of the Environment. It was organized by a campus group with an interest in environmental research, with support from Ideas, a thoughtful and superbly thought-provoking radio show that can still be heard on our public broadcasting network, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The mounted poster for the conference still graces a basement wall at home, its distinctly 70s tones out of sight for Karen and Rachel, but in a spot where I can’t miss it when I sit at my desk.
That conference tilted my perspective, shaped my career, changed my life, and served as a cornerstone for the sustainability principles that have guided our company’s development. And now, nearly 32 years and several shifts in technology later, we’re joining with GMIC to launch a project that could have much the same impact: for meeting professionals, for client organizations and, I hope, for an entire industry.
There are moments when it’s a privilege of a lifetime to be onsite at a particular conference, at a particular time and place. In Pittsburgh this week, I’m having one of those moments.