Environment and Conferences

This is not directed at any specific conference, those with conferences coming up please don’t take offence.  Many large conferences occur in the collaboration field each year.  The majority of those conferences are hosted in the United States.  For me, anyone else a significant distance awat we have to fly.  For many conferences that will mean that around 20% or more of attendees are flying across the Atlantic from Europe.  Lets assume there are about 100,000 delegates each year for just collaborative conferences and there are 20,000 people traveling across the Atlantic from Europe (and more flying internally within the United States).  Each of those passengers leaves an environmental footprint, most notably they’ll use there annual carbon allowance in one such trans-Atlantic trip.  Well I killed mine last year with 2 trans-atlantic journeys.

Specifically for conferences and to assist with both environmental footprint and fiscal restrictions surrounding travel I’d like to suggest the following.  Large events generally have overflow rooms where the session is broadcast.  Would it not be possible where such facilities exist for a “virtual conference” to also take place where the same media content is streamed to web based fee paying subscribers?  Could conferences be regionalised to allow multi-venue conferences to take place so that speaker and delegate journey lengths are minimsed to their nearest regional centre?

Many will argue that face to face is key, and I do agree with that.  I also feel that in the short to medium term the environmental impact of travelling will be penalised more and more (both in environmental taxes and increased fuel costs) to a point that conference organisers will in future need to consider these impacts and ways to mitigate them without numbers falling.

For now this appears not to be an issue, most conferences in the collaborative arena are seeing increased attendances as companies rightly recognise the importance of collaboration.  However we all need to consider how our actions at home, at work, and at an enterprise level and especially surrounding travel impact the world we live in.



  1. As someone who no longer travels internationally, I could not agree more. I typically just buy the DVD’s which I get a few months late. However I have noticed that I still find them very useful because it’s rare that we actually need to know a lot of conference content when we attend and a few months later is almost always just fine. As for the networking benefits I have found I make just as many useful contacts via my blog as I did at conferences.


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