Karen Kotowski, CAE, CMP, CEO of the Events Industry Council, says there is a growing awareness about the effect events have on communities. Here she talks about how to ensure that impact is handled responsibly.
Events have the potential to provide a lasting impact for the organisations that plan and own them, the participants who attend them, and the communities that host them. This potential is realised when events are intentionally designed to drive business value, to enhance the participant experience, and to engage the community economically, socially, and environmentally. A focus on this “legacy” helps us to make sure this impact is a responsible one.
Many organisations are championing the way toward a greater focus on legacy in our industry through programming or community action. We can improve by considering our impact at every stage of event planning — from setting goals and objectives, procurement practices, event design, and content creation, to implementation, and evaluation. As with achieving any goal, setting measurable objectives is a key success factor.
To start, identify specific areas that will have an impact, and set goals for these. Examples could include adding a meaningful community service project, supporting local businesses, launching a mentoring programme, or addressing an environmental issue during a multi-day conference.
Collaboration between groups and the community should be top of mind. This will help to make sure that the legacy efforts are addressing community needs and that they leverage the skills and resources of the host organisation.
On our website we have a short how-to-guide for designing community service projects that recommends incorporating five criteria: Is it meaningful in the long term; does it align with the organisation’s objectives; does it leverage the organisation’s unique skills; does it address destination-specific issues; and does it engage participants?
As an industry, we’re moving away from the idea of events being limited by time and place. We’re extending learning and connecting to year-round opportunities available anywhere and anytime through technology and additional touchpoints. This strengthens the return on investment for events and also the number of individuals able to benefit from event content.
The same holds for our impact on communities and the environment. Legacy-focused decisions that build workforce capacity, support thriving economies, and encourage safe and sustainable communities are all essential aspects of our long-term success.