Challenges facing Meeting Planners committed to sustainability efforts

November 6, 2013

As the tradeshow and meetings world establish themselves in the area of sustainability, often meeting professionals feel overwhelmed and unsure about where to start or how to reduce their event’s environmental footprint.  There are new APEX/ASTM standards out now that were created to help set standards for “what is a Green Show” that sometimes get confusing and overwhelming.  With all the work a Meeting Planner  has to do to produce their shows, how can they also find time to help the environment?

“A step at a time,” advises Jeff Chase, VP of Sustainability at Freeman.  Jeff works with his clients to support their sustainability efforts, and he reports significant change over the past two years.  But, feelings of overwhelm and uncertainty about how to proceed often stop a planner from taking the first steps.

“Sometimes a tradeshow manager tries to do too much too fast, and must stop to remember, it’s best to start with small steps such as signage, and then evolve over the long term with a fuller sustainability program,” Chase says.  Signage re-use or recycling plans can be as simple as re-using certain signs that don’t change from year to year such as Registration, Information. etc.   Stop and think about each sign and if you can make it to work over multiple  events.  Or if you have some that are one time use only then find it a “second life.”

For example, a huge show of over 120,000 attendees, Consumer Electronic Show, created a “second life” program for banners to re-use the material in the making of badge holders or to be donated locally as covering for a school playground and have saved significant material from going to the landfill.  This one step has made a huge difference.

As the sustainability trend takes hold in the tradeshow industry, supplier vendor partners are increasingly called upon to create their own sustainability programs in line with their clients’ goals.  The Green Meetings Industry Council (GMIC) has a campaign going right now called “ask for it” – which simply means for Meeting Planners to just ask all their vendors to help them to look out for the environment and to follow the Green show standards.

ProShow ‘s Sustainability Program of “everyone working with everyone” to achieve success is tied to our role in the staffing business as well as to our commitment to do our part in sustainability at the same time we act as an extension of our clients’ imperatives.

At IMEX America in Las Vegas this October, we recognized and gave awards to two event staffers for their recycling, re-use efforts not only at work but also in their daily lives.  We are proud to add Linda Gallo to a team of over 15 winners recognized at various shows and meetings in 2013.


“Sustainability in our industry is here to stay, and is going to be the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for years to come,  so we all need to team up for success, ” reminds Chase. 


Jeff Chase, VP Sustainability, Freeman Co.


License to Excel in Sustainability

October 2, 2013

It takes great minds and leaders to run our companies, events and meetings. This is easy to say, but important all the same for an organization’s health and direction.  The leaders are the ones plotting the coarse to keep an organization moving forward.  One of the ways current leadership is moving forward is setting sustainability goals.  A simplified model of this is Goal-Act-Incentives to lead to success.  

The goals provide the direction for staff to act. This can be as simple as an increase in diverted landfill or reduction in energy used. This is a good start, yet this is not enough in itself because we are working with people.  The leaders need to inspire and motivate the staff to succeed. Morale is a very important part of productivity. Along with the inspiration, the leadership also needs to give the staff the leeway and permission to succeed.  They get a license to excel in sustainability.  

Here at ProShow we give our staffers direction to go out and make an impact on the sustainability front and document it. The staffers have clear direction, motivation and a will to succeed. This leads to a mindset of “I’m going to do my part and do a good job achieving it.” They are taking control and choosing to excel. Another benefit is that this mindset can be contagious for other staffers and attendees. At this point of the process the staffers are the front lines working on attaining the sustainability goals.

The staff’s efforts and impact during events is large. The large majority of staffers increase their recycling and reuse. Many of them use alternative or mass transportation.  The select few go so far as to invest in sustainability with items like installing solar panels and water saving appliances, while others from this group get involved with community activism.


The third step in the model is incentives which can be as simple as recognition or as large as a prize.  There are a number of people that enjoy and thrive on recognition.  And even those who may be a bit embarrassed by recognition, appreciate hearing they are doing a great job. Incentives are not only an end goal like a contest winner; they work very well as regular recognition and other morale boosters on the way to the goal.  We like to recognize our Sustainability Prize winners with our Sustainability water bottles and a gift card.

Sustainability is a journey and we are all in this together. When leadership gives the staffers a license to excel in sustainability, we all win.


Recharge your batteries

August 7, 2013

Personal sustainability is not about recycling products, avoiding the land fill, or working well with others.
Individualized sustainability—our self as a “resource”– comes to those who take the time to recharge.  This “resource” is you and me, the event planners and meeting professionals who keep our industry going.

It is no secret that we are very busy– minding the details, working a lot of weekends and traveling doing the work we love. If we are not careful, we can go from doing the work we love and our chosen career to the one we one we don’t want to wake up for in the morning.  How do we keep from burning out?  One answer is to recharge our batteries.

Recharging our batteries can be as simple as eating better and getting a good night’s sleep.  This helps our bodies be up to the task at hand.  While this makes for a good foundation, we still need to set aside time where we can be totally engaged in non work activities and pressures—to really recharge.  A dinner with friends or family and play time with kids are simple things that can enrich our daily lives and rejuvenate our soul.  For those of us with kids on summer break, it is a great opportunity to take a family vacation.   The summer weather is easy, and welcomes us to live and play outside.

These experiences leave us smiling and feeling good.  While some may not feel like they can afford the time to get away, the benefits are worthwhile for our attitude, performance and our soul. These benefits stay with us and reinforce who we are and how we work. Sometimes all it takes for me is to have one of my boys recalling an outing to put a smile on my face and take me away from the moment, leaving me a little happier.


Sharing an outdoor activity that you enjoy with your kids enriches your day; when I take my older son bike riding, I feel better when I see him enjoy himself, and my spirit lightens when I take the time away from the desk.  I can return renewed, ready to take on the next task.

Recharging our batteries is an important step for all of us.  It allows us to be the sustainable meetings and event professionals we are; giving our best and ready for more. With our batteries recharged we a can better serve our customers, clients and coworkers.

Customer Service and Sustainability

July 10, 2013

At the recent PCMA Education Conference, a roomful of meeting planners and professional suppliers were asked if we were in the customer service business; we all boomed, “Yes!”  Our PCMA speaker told us we are in the customer experience business; a component of that concept is customer service.

Sustainability initiatives have become an automatic in today’s meetings marketplace and defining the customer experience through such actionable steps enhances customer service as well as the guests’ takeaways and expands the learning content beyond the classroom setting.

 At American Chemical Society’s 2013 spring meeting in New Orleans, a popular networking and educational event, Sci-Mix, featured an interactive poster session, beer and popcorn networking opportunity.  At the end of this fun event, special bins were set up to handle various waste streams.  These areas were coordinated by our event staff who helped determine the proper stream for each discarded item as well as answered general meeting questions. Image

The ACS guests’ experience was enhanced by this visible and knowledgeable support staff focused on ACS sustainability commitments.

Likewise, ProShow’s sustainability program and contest within our team points to the staffers most concerned with personal sustainability practices at the same time these staffers are positively impacting the customer experience.  Demonstrating the highest level of customer service in each interaction, and living sustainable practices in plain site of our attendees, equals an integrated program, generating a positive customer experience.

Central to meetings’ sustainability initiatives is the rapid movement away from printed handouts to the use of mobile apps.  More and more meetings clients are educating their attendees pre show about the use of the app and challenging them to move past their need for paper to the focus on handheld technology. 

Rather than heads stuck in program books and/or a tradeshow floor map, attendees are interacting with other guests and experiencing the tradeshow floor in different interactive ways through the use of the show app.  Several ProShow clients are working with their guests to help them make this shift and experience how it will add depth to their on site experience.

Sometimes in the meetings world, we start at the wrong end of the issue and work toward the right end; let’s start with the customer–always the right place to start!






Behind our decisions: Core Values

June 5, 2013

This month I want to take a closer look at a key ingredient behind successful events and meetings: core values.  Core values are the fundamental beliefs of an organization, company or individual. Let’s first look at the individual core values and how it benefits us to have our core values defined and understood.


Core values give us ambition. A person without clearly defined core values has shifting direction and no sense of purpose. Their actions are often led by someone else’s core values which change depending on the influence.   By defining our own core values we get a roadmap to our actions and decisions providing the ambition to do great things.


Core values point us in the right direction. As a parent I am often telling my oldest son that more often than not, the hardest thing to do is typically the right thing to do.  My son is young and still finding his core values, so I am instilling mine in him to hold him over until he is ready to define his own.  The rest of us got a core values toolkit from our folks as well and built on it with life experience.  I remember many times in my youth going against that toolkit, and being forced to learn the hard way.  If I had learned at a younger age to follow my core values, life would have been easier, but it has been memorable and interesting. We learn to do the best we can on our own and our core values are there for us like a compass showing the way to the harbor in a storm and reinforcing that we CAN believe in ourselves.


Core values give us confidence. Now that we can trust our internal values compass, we can move ahead with confidence.  This confidence will help us succeed in life and work.


Our core values make decisions easier. When faced with a tough decision you will find that your core values will lead you on your true path.   We have all run across or know someone that has a tough time making decisions or just hates to do it.  The ones I have met have some wandering part of their life.  This is not to say that they are nomads, but have something that is frequently changing in their lives and values seem to move as well. I have had many decision making conversations with friends, family and coworkers.  Many times we overcomplicate things so that decisions become much more difficult than they need to be.  We need to step back from the decision and come at it from the angle of our core values to select the choice that is the best fit.


All of these personal core values elements translate to organizations and companies.  The group as a whole has this fundamental guiding force to base its decisions and actions. Many companies and organizations have published core values. Some have mission statements providing a broader view on their core values.


Having our core values defined and understood makes us better meeting planers, managers and event staffers contributing toward the success of meetings and events. So in the spirit of collaborating—one of mine and ProShow’s core values, here are a few more of ProShow’s Core Values:


Make a difference

Live a “can do” attitude.

Plan Strategically

Focus on the details

Have FUN!


What are your core values?  Please comment on your core values on the ProShow Facebook page

What can YOU do in your community?

May 1, 2013

There are always times in life when we decide to get involved, to jump in with both feet. As we look back at the first quarter of 2013 we have found ways to get involved in our community. Whether it is dancing for a cause, daily sustainability goals, or volunteering your time to your local schools – there is always time to make time. Here are a few examples of how we have been involved this year.

Grass Valley, CA: In March, 2013, a local march sprung up with some 100 women and girls—and a few men– in downtown Grass Valley, CA.  With love and one song to sing, our Zumba workout crew participated with a routine we had learned for the shared anthem.  All shapes, sizes, ages, ethnicities and inclinations were represented in this community effort to raise awareness about violence against women–worldwide. Being involved in a shared community effort left us feeling we’d done our part to stand up for our core belief in the rights of all people to live without violence against them.  Watch for March 8, 2014!

“Together we can End Male Violence against women and girls”


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Boulder Creek, CA: In the rural Santa Cruz Mountains, the forest and rivers are a large part of the draw for us in this area.  As it is with many rural areas we get our drinking water from the river and local reservoirs. Unfortunately there are those who take the environment for granted and we live in a temperate rain forest that can wash trash and debris from yards.  The result is a beautiful river flowing through the redwoods with trash lining its banks – yuck. The annual San Lorenzo Valley River Clean Up is a community organized event to restore this piece of nature we call home.  The SLV River Clean Up attracts individuals and families alike while preserving nature and our watershed. You will often see kids competing to fill a bag of trash bigger than their friends or siblings.  We all win with this kind of competition and it gives us hope that the next generation will find the river in better shape than we did.

St. Simons Island, GA: Out final story on a local level provides support for our youth. Fundraisers in our local schools have come along way since the traditional PTA bake sale. With our economy and many districts facing budget shortfalls and furlough days. It is important that all, teachers, parents, and students stay active in looking at more lucrative way to get involved for our children’s educational experience. For the last three years Saint Simons Elementary has raised funds from our annual Trackapalooza event. Funds from this event alone were distributed to the teachers allowing them to purchase materials needed in classrooms to enhance the learning environment for our students. It also opened the door towards funding grounds at St. Simons Elementary, allowing us to put in a new track to aide in supporting our strong desire to fight child obesity.

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ProShow’s core values of collaboration and respect for individuals and our communities come alive for us during these moments, and we were proud to participate and get involved. We all can participate; we just need to say yes!

ProShow Event Staffers Rock their “Green” Practices

April 1, 2013

The global theme for Earth Day 2013 is “The Face of Climate Change” celebrated around the globe on April 22.  Beginning in the United States in 1970, the day was originally meant to be an education focus, hence a school day was chosen for the launch, ensuring a captive audience.  Additionally, on the first Earth Day celebration in New York City’s Central Park, over 1,000,000 people joined the call for awareness!

Earth Day is now celebrated in over 100 countries, and has evolved well beyond basic awareness to a mission that inspires us to take action to enhance our planet and our lives.

This month we are celebrating the achievements of our event staffers who have excelled in sharing how they “live” sustainable practices.  Following is the winning entry in our Sustainability Contest at McDonald’s CMOR conference:

                “I use cereal boxes to wrap gifts, and as I get white t-shirts on various shows I tie dye or paint them, using for casual wear.  They’re fun to wear and a great way to re-use clothing.” Evelyn Wallin, Las Vegas, March, 2013.


And, take a look at the beaming face of our recent Sustainability Contest winner at HIMSS, New Orleans, March, 2013:     

In this month, and every month ongoing, we encourage each of us to take simple, even small steps, to enrich our planet and our lives.


Count the Many Ways YOU can Contribute

March 6, 2013

Over time the issue and goal of improved sustainability onsite has taken hold in the meetings world.  One of the ways ProShow can participate with our meetings clients, staffing partners and colleagues is to broaden our goals as well, committing to an environmentally responsible meeting.  We are reaching out to our event staffers to also commit to these goals while on site.

We have put together some quick tips for the event staffers to contribute to these goals as well.

Start a recycling system. It’s good to identify on site where you can recycle your materials and encourage others to do the same.

Switch to reusable lunch bags. This means you can spend less on disposable bags and reduce waste on site.

Bring your own refillable water bottle on site. There are often easily accessible filling stations.

Start a carpool, use public transportation, ride a bike or walk. It’s good exercise for you; it makes you more aware of the environment and creates less pollution.

As time passes and relationships strengthen, you can often find yourself counting the ways you have grown and deepened with your partnerships—sustainability initiatives is one of those ways.  Whether it is the first meeting or tenth meeting, we must continually try to improve, offer support and creative solutions so we can gain greater mutual success.

04 mar - ProShow on site at HIMSS, New Orleans. Our sustainability award winner.



Sustainability Starts at Home

February 7, 2013

Happy New Year and welcome back!  2013 is shaping up to be a great year.

Many of us in the meetings and events industry have been working with, planning or hearing about sustainability initiatives.  Meetings and conventions can be very wasteful, sending a lot of material to landfill. There are a lot of fantastic programs and use of recyclable materials out there to lessen the impact, but in the end it is the people who make the biggest difference.  For some shows like Greenbuild, this comes more naturally as their attendees are all eco-minded and want to make a difference.  For other shows this is a bigger hurdle to overcome but, sustainability starts at home with good habits of recycling and reuse.

All of us know that our good habits were gained through repetition, maybe some of our bad ones too.   As a parent I often feel like a broken record reinforcing good habits in my boys with the knowledge that some day it will eventually stick and hopefully soon. When we as adults want to develop better habits and practices it again takes repetition before it feels like just another thing we do naturally. That is our goal to have the best practice and good habits be second nature so much so that it feels right to be wearing it, and becomes who we are.

So where do we start? We start with the simple things. Bring your reusable coffee cup and water bottle from home.  I like using my travel mug at home; it keeps my coffee hot longer and feels good in my hand.  It has now become almost a comfort item when I am on the road and I am not going through coffee cups daily.  My new water bottle is a collapsible style that holds plenty of water and then packs flat.  These new water bottles are so cool that our management team all uses them and we are giving them out as prizes for the staffers.


As National Event Staffing and Management specialists we spend a lot of time focusing on our staffers.  This is also where we have our biggest opportunity to make a sustainability impact.  We developed our Sustainability Prize program as an incentive program and a way to recognize our staffers making the biggest impact.  The biggest result of the Sustainability Prize program is that all of our staffers while trying to win are walking the talk, participating and interacting with the attendees.  Don’t forget that these staffers didn’t just become more eco or sustainability conscious when they get to the convention center; they have been practicing it at home.

When we bring our sustainability habits to our various roles in the meetings and events workplace, we are able to make a difference.  Whether our role is large or small, we all have a voice and are in a position to make an impact.  

ProShow Sustainability…everyone working together

December 5, 2012

ProShow’s core statement of how we envision ourselves participating in the sustainability movement serves as an extension of who we are/what we do in the meetings industry.  We are the people experts, the trainers and the managers of event staff, serving our customers with staffing management tools, practices and procedures that contribute to their meetings’ successes.

While we don’t claim deep technical knowledge on the topic of sustainability or services in the dedicated sustainability industry, we can integrate our human resources systems with an eye to these critical meeting goals.  All of our clients are working toward improved sustainability practices for their meetings.

What we are doing…at Greenbuild, 2012, we set a minimum participation in our Sustainability Contest, and our three winners stood tall in their “green” practices.   We will continue with that approach and introduce our contest to all ProShow clients in 2013, sharing our collapsible water bottles with our clients, our managers, our partners, and award our contest winners with them!


In this small, but tangible way, ProShow is taking a stand in the sustainability effort, and reminding ourselves and the many hundreds of event staffers with whom we work in Tier 1 cities in a year’s time, the importance of incorporating “green” practices into their daily lives.  One more way we can make a difference!