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You’re Virtually There

Remote access truly puts the green in San Francisco meeting

By Sandra Eagle

Two Canadian event planners, unable to physically attend the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC) 2014 conference in San Francisco, decided to participate electronically. Shawna McKinley, director of sustainability at MeetGreen, based in Vancouver, and Sandra Wood, CMP, manager, annual meeting at the Canadian Medical Association, based in Ottawa, Ont., communicated via Twitter and Google Hangouts and accessed four different sessions in San Francisco.

Fast facilitation

The GMIC conference utilized a live moderator—a virtual MC—who assisted discussions with participants via Google Hangouts, took live video tours of the exhibits for attendees and facilitated remote involvement by being their voice on-site. Virtual attendees could watch plenary sessions and interact via Twitter. There was also a Google Doc where virtual attendees could submit comments. Both McKinley and Wood took in live-streamed general sessions and participated in discussions. Wood asked the moderator for a tour of the exhibits so she could talk with suppliers via live streaming.

McKinley says it was a big plus to be able to take in some of the GMIC conference virtually, given it was not possible for her to travel to the event this year. “I think providing a remote option and promoting hybrid formats helps demonstrate lower-carbon ways to connect that align well with GMIC’s mandate. I did enjoy the selected sessions that were live streamed and was grateful for our virtual host’s effort to get us remote folks involved in not just watching, but providing input too, through Goggle Docs and Hangouts.”

Remotely inspired
For Wood, the experience has deepened her resolve to expand the chat room she set up for the Canadian Medical Association this year. “The virtual meeting space is a great and progressive thing to do. We have three staff currently taking the courses to work towards their Digital Event Specialist (DES) credentials and I will start the course this year. We are serious about virtual, it allows for greater access and reach. For associations who are all about influencing and creating communities, this is a natural fit.”

Google Hangouts
For the uninitiated, Google Hangouts is a free tool to conference up to 10 people at a time. Calls placed in Canada and the US are free. The participants share a screen and can write on documents all at the same time. The docs live offline and you can store them on Google Drive.

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