Presenting the Conference Survival Kit

In a conversation about a week ago, we were talking about conferences and footprints and environmental impact. It’s a topic that crops up again and again in the ELT Footprint group and in conversations that are going on around the edges of the group. In this particular conversation, the idea of a “conference survival kit” was suggested.  This would be a kind of zero waste kit, enabling conference-goers to reject one-use plastic and paper and reduce their footprint as much as possible in terms of generating waste (which in turn of course means generating less carbon both in the production of the one-use items we’re rejecting and in the subsequent waste-management processes).
Conference Survival Kit

So I collected together my own conference survival kit, based on what I took with me for the last IATEFL conference, for a quick pic. And this is what I came up with: 

  1. My “Mary Poppins” bag which is huge and carries everything plus my laptop and chargers.
  2. A battered old steel water bottle.
  3. A re-usable coffee cup (a Christmas present from a few years ago, made from bamboo and has a silicon top)
  4. A small pot of dried fruit (nuts, cranberries, raisins) – you never know when you’ll need to snack!
  5. Bees wax wraps for bringing snacks from home – fruit, sandwiches etc
  6. A notebook (I always have one on the go and it goes everywhere with me)
  7. Pencil (plus sharpener hidden away in the recesses of the bag somewhere)

I realized, as I brought everything together, that this is also my day-to-day teacher’s survival kit, the stuff that goes with me whenever I leave the house to give classes or run workshops. Yours is probably very similar.  And it made me think about the alternatives we’ve been discussing for promotional materials in conferences, things like reusable bottles and cups and recycled paper and pens and pencils. And I was wondering, do we actually need that stuff?  What if we’ve already got all the re-usable kit?  The day-to-day “survival” hardware?  Is there anything that conference sponsors can give us that would be genuinely useful – and not wasteful?

Maybe, for people who prefer not to have a Mary Poppins size handbag, it would be useful to have a re-usable cup and bottle. And maybe at the end of the event these could be returned and reused?  Maybe it is useful to get a notebook and pencil.  If so, maybe one small, notebook made from recycled paper is enough. Maybe a pencil and not a plastic pen?  Maybe let people choose what they want – take a cup, a bottle, a notebook, a pencil if you need it.  The same goes for the conference bag and the hard copy of the programme.  These could all be there, if you need them, but you could just as easily bring your own.  And the suggestion was that, really, we all could (and maybe should?).

And so it made me think that maybe there are other things (or services) that sponsors could offer that would give their brand visibility and, at the same time, be genuinely useful for delegates.  I started to think about what I might need or appreciate as a conference-goer.  Here are a couple of things, but I’m sure there are so many more:

  1. a recharging station for phones and laptops with comfortable seats (This could be something sponsors are responsible for. They do it at the IATEFL conference and it’s really useful. The same space could also be used for sharing a few samples of materials and catalogues etc.)
  2. water fountains, or jugs of water, easily available and visible (I guess this could be “branded”,  maybe sponsored by various different sponsors at different points throughout the venue)
  3. fresh fruit that’s easy to pick up and go (Innovate ELT do this wonderfully at their conference) – things like apples or mandarins (I guess the fruit baskets could have the sponsors names on them)

And then I ran out of ideas and inspiration, and that’s what I’m  turning to you.  There must be so many things that sponsors can do (without supplying unnecessary “stuff” that just gets binned after a quick glance) that will make the conference experience more positive, memorable, enjoyable.   Please share your ideas here in the comments, or over on the Facebook group.

And if you have a photo of your own conference survival kit – please share!

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