Conference Matters 142

We publish about the organisation of meaningful events. Meetings that matter. Our goal is to add value to the work of organisers, clients, suppliers, facilitators and sponsors of conferences.

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Interview Managing Director of the Dutch Heart Foundation 'Conferences should distract you for a while'


Expert Panel Will AI negatively affect human interaction? Is AI teaching individuals how



to engage with one another in real life, or did smartphones already set this in motion?

Interview Antoinette Barnard, Head of Sales & Alliances at Rabobank 'Through events we really know what's happening in the market'

Conferences Navigating pharmaceutical advertising at medical events The regulatory landscape surrounding pharmaceutical advertising is complex.


Mobility Europe by train A blessing or a curse.


Sustainability Green hushing Transformational Media Professor Bianca Harms: 'When it comes to sustainability at a conference, it's important to talk the talk as well as walk the walk'


Branded content Antwerp, a city that transforms events into experiences Antwerp is a city where history meets innovation

Branded content Where the river meets the city

A transparent and open location with a changing view over the IJ river that bisects Amsterdam on one side and one of the most popular European city centres on the other.



Interview Neurodivergents are a cure for groupthink How businesses and governments can better factor in neurodivergents, people whose brains work slightly differently than most.

ROI & Partnership Living founder lives We make the difference because we're also living founder lives. As a result, we have a special bond with our audience. 44


Interview The Power of Doing I'm proud that I dared to go ahead and invest'


Colofon Conference Matters

Summer 2024, volume 34, issue 142 Circulation: 4.500 copies


Marcel den Hoed


Natasha Cloutier (Oh La La) TEXX International Communications BV

Editor in Chief:

Edwin Nunnink


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Marketing & Traffic: Tommy van Kampen


Dionne Annink, Evelien Baks, Sven Bossu, Erik-Jan Ginjaar, Bas Hakker, Judith Munster, Suzanna Timmer


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are we?

It feels like a collective identity crisis within the Meetings industry. During the EU Dialogue in Brussels on 17 April last, sector representatives met with European Commission representatives and peers from the logistics sector. To use the most outdated and at the same time most vague term available, are ‘we’ the MICE sector? An abbreviation intended to clarify that not only Meetings but also Incentive travel, Conferences and Exhibitions are involved. Anyone unfamiliar with the abbreviation – which is almost everyone outside the (events) sector – naturally thinks in terms of small, hairy animals with a pointy nose and long thin tail. Or are we simply referring to a segment within tourism, as assumed by many policy-makers? After all, guests and participants in the meetings are in fact business tourists who spend money on flights and train tickets, hotel rooms, taxis and restaurants, and are therefore a good fit within the existing statistics. This is a major source of frustration for representatives of ‘they who initiate and facilitate meetings’. Such meetings offer far greater value, when we factor in the transfer of knowledge and inspiration in an impactful manner and the engendering of new contacts and networks between people, which in turn lead to (accelera ted) innovation. This not only results in much higher – immeasurable – economic value, but at the same time opens the door to yet another designation: the impact industry. We are in fact a sector within every other sector, was another suggestion. The binding factor within each ecosystem. Representatives from other sectors fail to understand why so much energy needs to be invested in gaining acknowledgement as an independent, main industry. Surely it is more effective to collaborate with other sectors on specific issues, such as the logistics sector when it comes to transport and sustainability policy within the EU? The naming discussion is actually already old news. In agreement with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the choice fell on the Meetings industry, back in 2006. And now to simply await the acknowledgement of the unparalleled added value of this industry.

Edwin Nunnink Editor-in-Chief Conference Matters



Hans Snijder, 60, has been active in the Dutch broadcasting landscape for a large part of his career, where he worked for NOS, VARA and NTR. He has also served as chairman of the super visory board of broadcaster AvroTros. From 2009 to 2017, he was Editor-in-chief of the Leeuwarden Courant, which was honoured with a number of European Newspaper Awards during that period. And as interim managing director, he was involved in the transformation into the NDC Media Group. In 2017, he entered the medical sector as Director of Media & Communications at the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Onco logy. Five years later, he became the new Mana ging Director of the Dutch Heart Foundation. In this position, he sits on the supervisory board of the Dutch CardioVascular Alliance and is a board member of the European Heart Network (EHN).


'The valorisation and implementation of challenge

cardiovascular research

are still quite a

The Dutch Heart Foundation is the most important financing partner within the Dutch cardio- vascular field. According to Managing Director Hans Snijder, the Foundation depends entirely on gifts and donations, which means they must be able to properly justify their expenses to donors. The Foundation’s top priorities are early detection, diversity and creating a healthy environment.

By Edwin Nunnink. Photo Serge Ligtenberg

Cardiovascular field “In the Dutch cardiovascular field, we’re talking about 24 involved partners who are also part of the Dutch CardioVascular Alliance, the DCVA,” Snijder explains. “We’re the most important driving force within this network organisa tion. We support individual research projects, which are increasingly carried out in consortia in which several partners collaborate. Other research funders are also involved, such as ZonMw (Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development) and NWO (Dutch Research Council).” Seven top priorities The Dutch Heart Foundation has established seven top priorities as pillars of its new Heart

As the managing director, Snijder emphasises that he’s not a cardiologist or researcher and that the Foundation also doesn’t organise conferences. Even when the world’s largest conference of cardiology professionals, the annual conference of the European Society of Cardiology, visited Amsterdam again last year, the Dutch Heart Foundation did not play an organising role, but it did host a partnership of comparable internatio nal foundations in the slipstream. However, the Foundation’s logo could be seen in many places during the conference. The results of Dutch research that were presented were often financed, or at least co-financed, by the Dutch Heart Foundation.



complaints such as shortness of breath and fati gue. Some 500,000 people in the Netherlands suffer from some form of heart failure, which is a fatal disease. Half of people die within five years of the first hospital admission due to heart failure. “It’s an underestimated problem, and that means that tackling heart failure is a high priority for us,” explains Snijder. And last but not least, the Dutch Heart Foun dation faces the daunting task of putting the results of all the high-quality research carried out in the Netherlands into practice. “It’s abso lutely one of our priorities that the results of cardiovascular research reach patients. The valo risation and its implementation are still quite a challenge,” Snijder emphasises. The Foundation’s guiding role Working groups have been created around the above-mentioned themes, which include doc tors, scientists, policymakers, and patients. “You could say that the Dutch Heart Foundation has a guiding role in contributing to what our mission is in the cardiovascular world, namely a healthy heart for everyone, now and in the future.” Although the Dutch Heart Foundation’s focus is on the Netherlands, it is also part of two inter national partnerships. There is the Global Car diovascular Research Funders Forum (GCRFF), a partnership of 12 major international funders of cardiovascular research. And then there is the European Heart Network (EHN), of which Snijder is a board member. In addition, research is initi ated jointly with institutions such as the British Heart Foundation or Germany’s DZHK. Supported by donors As Snijder points out, the Dutch Heart Founda tion does not organise conferences or profile itself doing so. Apart from the fact that there are organisations that are already doing this well, this also results from the financing of the Dutch

and Vascular Agenda, which is part of its strategy to measurably improve heart health by 2030. “It’s a necessity, knowing that six out of ten hospital admissions are related to cardio- vascular disease. There are currently 1.7 million Dutch people, or about 10 percent of the population, with cardiovascular disease. If we don’t take action, this number is expected to rise to one million more in ten years. With these kinds of figures, you sometimes forget what personal suffering lies behind these enormous numbers. That’s close to our hearts,” says Snijder. “Researchers and scientists now agree that three of those six hospital admissions can be prevented or postponed by creating an environ ment in which healthy living is easy,” Snijder adds. “To put it bluntly, we eat and drink too much, and we don’t exercise enough. This makes prevention a top priority, and it’s important that you not only look at the individual but also at the influence of the environment.” “The price and availability policy of smoking, the number one cause of death related to cardio vascular problems, is a good example of this. Increasing the price and decreasing availability have been effective in reducing smoking. We’re

working on this together with the Lungfonds and the KWF Dutch Cancer Society. On April 1, the price of a pack of cigarettes increased signifi cantly again, with cigarettes no longer being sold in supermarkets.” Warn faster Another priority is to warn faster. “Since it’s also crucial to discover cardiovascular problems in time, a lot of the research is increasingly aimed at preventing the worse.” According to Snijder, diversity is another pillar on the agenda. “In cardiovascular diseases, we are increasingly taking into account differences between people, between men and women, rich and poor, and the fact that we’re dealing with a society that we now call bi-cultural.” The next step is a custom treatment. “The development is towards personalised medicine, and a lot of research still needs to be done,” says Snijder. Heart failure is underestimated A condition that has additional priority in research is heart failure, in which the heart can not pump enough blood and results in serious

‘CONFERENCES SHOULD DISTRACT YOU FOR A WHILE’ This year, exceptionally, the Dutch Heart Foundation is organising a conference. This summer, it will receive fellow members of the European Heart Network in Amsterdam. Then about 50 people from around the world who are involved in similar organisations to the Dutch Heart Foundation will come together. Snijder believes that it is important that the conference get people out of their daily work and thought patterns. “There must also be room for personal stories. For example, we have a highly regarded cardiologist on the programme who was a heart patient himself and talks about it. We have a number of break-out sessions in which you discuss with each other in smaller groups. And we do speed dating sessions where you can quickly exchange information about your specialty and what projects you’re working on.” I also asked a leading journalist to outline the European setting, as the congress takes place on the eve of the European elections. It’s important that you get out of your own bubble for a while, which is my view on conferences. You need to be distracted for a while by taking note of perspectives that are less common in your daily work.”


'We prefer to put our donors' money into research'

And it turns out that these capital funds, private individuals and companies really appreciate that we give them the opportunity to get in touch with the researchers. This way, they really get a feel for the people working on the research,” Snijder explains. Broader profile The activities that the Dutch Heart Foundation organises are aimed at the population. “It’s impor tant for us to profile ourselves more broadly. For example, it’s not easy for many agencies to make contact with socially difficult neighbourhoods in the Netherlands. We’re working on this in two ways. We did a campaign around Ramadan with influencers from the younger generation, who are part of this culture. What are good recipes? What should you think about in terms of nutrition when Ramadan starts? That campaign had a wide reach in that niche, because that’s how you have to approach it. The same applies to our collaboration with the Nouri Foundation (on behalf of the Ajax footbal ler who suffered cardiac arrest at a young age). Together with the Nouri Foundation, we ensure that in every city where there’s a professional

Heart Foundation itself, he says. All income con sists of gifts and donations.

“Live vs virtual. There’s a dilemma, especially when it comes to international knowledge exchange,” says Snijder. He acknowledges that the networking aspect of meetings is very important, but on the other hand, you must be able to justify it to yourself from the point of view of sustainability and climate objectives. “For example, my head of research didn’t go to Toronto for an important one-day meeting because we decided that you could not justify it. On the other hand, 50 members of the European Heart Network will come to Amsterdam at the end of May for a conference we’re hosting. The goal is to meet each other. I don’t believe in this kind of conference, where a whole group of participants are in the room and then a number of people are watching online on their screen. Of course, you can also work with break-outs, a technique still being developed. However, I think it will mainly be the choice between online or physically together.” Six-minute zones Something remarkable was accomplished with the AEDs, due to the Dutch Heart Foundation’s efforts and donations. The Netherlands is the only country in the world to have an infrastruc ture that is called ‘the six-minute zone’. “You could say that there’s a defibrillator on almost every street corner. And around it, there’s a very fine-meshed network of citizen care providers. If you were to suffer a cardiac arrest in the Nether lands, you can in principle get help within six minutes,” says Snijder. football organisation, AEDs are also installed in the more problematic neighbourhoods. We also combine this with resuscitation training.”

“Honestly, we’re not the collection vehicle of the cardiology community. We’re a social health fund. I must be able to justify every euro we spend. Pro moting ourselves on a large international stage, such as the ESC Congress, for example, does not fit our profile. It’s not us, but the researchers and cardiologists who are in the spotlight, who present their research that could not have taken place if they were not supported by a consortium or a grant from the Dutch Heart Foundation.” Talented researchers “We prefer to put our donors’ money into rese arch. It often involves real, innovative research. And every year we award Dekker grants to young researchers to give their ground-breaking rese arch a big push.” This year, 14 talented researchers received Dekker grants for their promising cardiovascular disease research. To date, a total of 5.6 million euros has been awarded. “For many years now, we’ve also been inviting the larger financing part ners of the Dekker grants to the awards meeting.

DUTCH CARDIOVASCULAR ALLIANCE Supporters of the Dutch cardiovascular field work together through the Dutch CardioVascular Alliance (DCVA). The Dutch Heart Foundation is one of the 24 partners. The collaborating partners create consortiums based on the alliance’s priority points of interest. A DCVA consortium is characterised by a collaboration between several research institutes and public and private organisations that create a national network around a specific cardiovascular theme. At least one of the consortium partners is the alliance’s formal financial partner. The con sortium actively contributes to the alliance in terms of allocating time and efforts to valorisation, implementation, talent development, and data infrastructure.

Examples of consortia are Check@Home, Big Data & Health, Clinical Trails and Covid-19 Initiatives.



the greenest choice in every aspect

How to make

could become greener with more than 1,200 trees planted in Rotterdam,” says Klerkx. “The trees were not placed randomly, but put in places that had a link with the conference. For exam ple, two school playgrounds were transformed into ‘blue-green’ play areas with lots of plants and natural play attributes. Research shows that green playgrounds are better for deaf and hearing-impaired children than concrete play grounds. A green playground not only offers a better experience, but the acoustics are also much better.” In addition, the initiators wanted to create more awareness of the challenges that deaf people face and, therefore, of the importance of coch lear implants. In this context, a free pop-up exhi bition with photos of children with a cochlear implant (CI) was realised during the conference in the centre of Rotterdam under the name Super HEARoes. The photos were taken by a photograp her who is also a (CI) user. Vegetarian catering According to Klerkx, catering can also result in substantial ecological gains. That is why the organisers consciously opted for sustainably and locally produced dishes. Close attention was also paid to food waste; no single-use plastic was used, and participants were given refillable bottles of tap water. “In many cultures, meat is an important part of the meal,” Klerkx adds. “Yet the ESPCI organisers dared to put together a completely vegetarian

bureau Rotterdam Partners to pitch to the scien tists of Radboud UMC and Erasmus MC Sophia Children’s Hospital,” says Pepijn Klerkx, director of Congress Care. “It was their express wish to realise the greenest possible conference. I told them that the greenest congress is a virtual one. We can also do this, but that was not their intention in this case. The next best idea was to make the greenest possible choice in every aspect. And that’s what we did. We examined every part of the conference: Is this green? Could it be even greener? The result is a conference where we have kept the footprint as small as possible.” Legacy “We notice that it’s becoming increasingly popu lar for both organisers and destinations of scien tific conferences to leave a positive and lasting impression or legacy in the city or region where the conference takes place,” says Klerkx. “And that’s exactly what we have done here. In colla boration with Rotterdam Partners and other sta keholders, we created a beautiful ‘round’ whole, where all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place and where everything was connected.” Of all parts of a conference, air travel has the greatest negative impact on the environment. That is why this conference actively focused on encouraging train travel. To compensate for air travel, 10 euros from each participant’s registra tion fee went to a tree project. “Thanks to the ESPCI conference, Rotterdam

According to Pepijn Klerkx, director of the medi cal conference bureau Congress Care, a green conference is a contradiction in terms. How ever, organising a conference that is as green as possible can be done. The organisers of the biennial international medi cal conference, ESPCI (European Symposium on Pediatric Cochlear Implantation), wanted a conference that was as sustainable as possible. From start to finish, Congress Care was involved in making this a reality. Around 1,500 ENT specialists and surgeons regularly attend this biennial conference on cochlear implants. A cochlear implant is a hearing prosthesis that enables hearing-impaired and sometimes even deaf children to hear again. Last year, the organisation of the conference was in the hands of medical scientists from the Radboud UMC in Nijmegen and the Erasmus MC Sophia Children’s Hospital in Rotterdam, assis ted by IAPCO-certified Professional Congress Organiser Congress Care. The conference took place from May 31 to June 3, 2023, in the De Doelen ICC conference centre in Rotterdam. Can it be greener? Founded in 1997, Congress Care specialises in organising international medical-scientific meet ings anywhere in the world. Every year, the Den Bosch conference bureau organises 70 to 80 meetings with 100 to 2,000 participants. “Four years ago, we were invited by convention By Judith Munster


against the green benchmark. That makes our work - working together towards the congress, or the apotheosis- even more satisfying than it already was.”

reusable materials. We also wonder what could be built using the materials that are left behind. How about creating bicycle bags using banners? This is how we measure every aspect of a confe rence, from concept development to evaluation,

menu. They had good reasons to do so, which they had clearly communicated to the partici pants beforehand. The aim was to impress the participants so much with the quality and vari ety of the vegetarian dishes that even the most seasoned meat eaters would be inspired to eat vegetarian meals more often. The culinary bitterballen made from oyster mushrooms grown on coffee grounds was one of the conference’s successes. Of course, such special dishes not only taste good but also help start great conversations.” Apotheosis For Congress Care, the ESPCI conference was not the first and certainly not the last green conference. “It has inspired us to always look for green options together with our clients. Take the trade fairs at our conferences, for exam ple. Nowadays, we ask stand builders to use

AN INSPIRATIONAL MESSAGE FROM THE ESPCI ORGANISERS TO THE PARTICIPANTS: “Green is the colour of our conference, mainly because we want this to be the greenest and most sustainable conference on hearing to this day. The ESPCI is the largest conference on cochlear implants for children, which means it has a huge impact on the environment. The large number of international professionals flying to the conference emits an extraordinary amount of CO2 into our atmosphere. As the executive committee of ESPCI 2023, we recognise the burden imposed on our environment and are proud to take the first steps towards a more sustainable conference. Our efforts in short: raise awareness on green and sustainable healthcare throughout the entire conference by emphasising personal efforts; promotion of public transportation; free use of public transportation; CO2 compensation through tree planting; locally sourced catering; two inspiring green key-note speakers; multiple sessions on sustainable and green healthcare.”




advertising at medical events Navigating pharmaceutical

The regulatory landscape surrounding pharmaceutical advertising is complex, requiring meticulous attention to detail and strict adherence to guidelines to maintain ethical standards and safeguard against undue influence. By navigating these regulations conscientiously, stakeholders can uphold the integrity of healthcare practices and ensure transparency in industry interactions.

sing for the company itself (‘corporate adverti sing’) may be directed at the general public.

Events with mixed audiences Events attended by both healthcare professio nals and non-healthcare professionals necessi tate meticulous planning to prevent inadvertent exposure to PO-medicine advertising. Clear demarcation between areas where such adver tising is permitted and restricted is essential. Badges should indicate whether a participant is a healthcare professional or a non-healthcare professional. Detailed agreements between pharmaceutical companies and event organizers are crucial to ensure compliance and avoid unin tentional breaches. Please note that the ban on public advertising does not apply to the attending employees of pharmaceutical companies, the conference orga nisers, the conference venue and the catering. Large-scale international conferences Exceptional circumstances, such as large-scale international medical conferences primarily tar geting healthcare professionals, may present challenges in completely isolating non-healthcare professionals from prescription-only product advertising. To avoid unproportionally hindering the organization of scientific events, large-scale international conferences, the organization does not have to take additional measures to prevent non-healthcare professionals from being exposed to advertising for PO-medicines in case of large scale international conferences (see inset). In the case of a conference that (also) specifi cally targets non-healthcare professionals, the

Text Dionne Annink, Foundation for the Code for Pharmaceutical Advertising (CGR)

advertisements. The rationale here is that this group of non-healthcare professionals is not well-positioned to judge pharmaceutical adverti sing on its merits, due to a lack of education on this topic. These rules apply to everyone, which means that organizers of medical events need to take the measures within their power to ensure that no undue pharmaceutical advertising takes place. Pharmaceutical advertising covers everything that can be considered promoting a specific PO-medicine and has persuasive character. Infor mation on prescription-only medicines which is directed at non-healthcare professionals is per mitted. Advertising for the company itself (‘cor porate advertising’) is also allowed, as this is not considered advertising a specific PO-medicine. The ban on advertising PO-medicines to the public encompasses various mediums, such as showing the product name at stands (product stands), programme booklets, folders, scienti fic presentations, video messages and apps. Non-healthcare professionals may not be expo sed to such advertising claims. Indirect advertising to the general public for pres cription-only medicinal products is not permitted either. This is the case if a company advertises for an administration device (such as an injection pen or inhaler) which is used only in combination with certain prescription-only products. Adverti

Organizers of medical events facilitate inter actions between healthcare professionals and pharmaceutical companies during scientific conferences or refresher trainings. These inter actions are valuable for the dissemination of knowledge from healthcare professionals to pharmaceutical companies and vice versa. In both the Netherlands and beyond its borders, stringent regulations govern pharmaceutical advertising and financial relations between healthcare professionals and these companies. The aim is to maintain ethical standards and prevent undue influence on healthcare profes sionals. These rules extend to various aspects, including events sponsored or organized by phar maceutical companies. Let's delve into the intri cacies of these regulations, exploring the Dutch Code of Conduct for Pharmaceutical Advertising (CGR) and its implications for medical events. Advertising Restrictions Pharmaceutical advertising is tightly regulated in the European Union. Pharmaceutical companies are allowed to advertise their prescription-only medicinal products (PO-medicines) to health care professionals that are licensed to prescribe or supply such PO-medicines. Conversely, it is strictly prohibited to target the general public or healthcare professionals who are not licensed to prescribe or supply PO-medicines with such


with regard to both advertising for PO-medici nes and hospitality. If the initiator engages an external conference organisation to organise the event, it is important that clear agreements are made about the responsibilities between these parties. Pharmaceutical companies that are represen ted at an event with a stand have the primary responsibility to ensure that non-healthcare professionals are not exposed to advertising for PO-medicines. The hospitality offered by the company from the stand directly, such as meals and drinks, will, moreover, have to remain limited to what is ‘strictly necessary’ for participating in the event. A pharmaceutical company will likely require information in advance about the programme of the event, the speakers, the budget, etc. in order to check in advance whether its sponso ring satisfies the legal requirements. It will also request a final settlement after the event has been held. For more information on this topic, we refer you to the website of the CGR, Under the following circumstances, we speak of large-scale international conferences: • The event primarily targets healthcare professionals; • Large groups of speakers and participants from countries other than the Netherlands are attending the conference; • Participation is open only to healthcare professionals and other healthcare providers (professional representatives of patient organisations are deemed to belong to the latter group), but not to non-professional target groups, such as patients; • The majority of the participants are healthcare professionals (and so are authorised to prescribe or supply prescription-only medicinal products).

tional and social activities themselves. Detailed budgeting and transparent reporting are impe rative to monitor compliance and ensure ethical conduct. Healthcare Transparency Register The Dutch Healthcare Transparency Register serves as a vital tool for disclosing financial rela tionships between pharmaceutical companies, healthcare professionals, and patient organiza tions. Financial transactions exceeding a spe cified threshold trigger mandatory reporting, fostering transparency and accountability within the healthcare sector. Additionally, healthcare professionals that contribute to an event as a speaker need to disclose their ties with pharma ceutical companies to their public. Responsibilities and Enforcement Event organizers bear the primary responsibility for ensuring compliance with advertising regula tions. This means that the pharmaceutical com panies must be informed about the participating target groups and that organisational measures must be taken for non-healthcare professionals,

promotional claims made during this conference will be deemed to be directed at non-healthcare professionals, resulting in a violation of the ban on pharmaceutical advertising to the public. In these circumstances conference organisers must take additional measures to prevent expo sing non-healthcare professionals to advertising for PO-medicines. Event sponsoring guidelines Pharmaceutical industry sponsorship of events must adhere to strict guidelines regarding pro gram content, venue selection, and financial contributions in order to avoid unduly influen cing healthcare professionals. The focus should remain on scientific content, with a suitable venue (not too luxurious) and hospitality costs kept within reasonable bounds (participant’s travel expenses, meals, accommodation costs and registration fees). The speakers’ fees must be reasonable in relation to the services they provide: the CGR sets maximum hourly rates for healthcare professionals based on their educati onal background. Healthcare professionals need to pay for recrea



'Unfortunately, there's still a lot of green hushing'

When it comes to sustainability at a confe rence, it’s important to talk the talk as well as walk the walk. For fear of being portrayed as a greenwasher, organisers are sometimes reluc tant to talk about sustainability, notes Transfor mational Media Professor Bianca Harms. Bianca Harms, PhD, is a Professor of Transforma tional Media at the NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences. Her research focuses on how organisations, brands and policymakers can use content and media in a way that creates value for organisations, consumers and society. This also applies to the development of sustainable com munication at conferences and events. By Suzanna Timmer What are the most effective methods to increase awareness and involvement around the theme of sustainability? “That’s a complex question. Overall, we ultima tely aim to increase awareness and engagement on sustainability topics to promote behavioural

change. Thanks to decades of research, we now have numerous insights, models and theories at our disposal that explain our behaviour. Exhibiting sustainable behaviour is ultimately influenced by many different environmental factors surroun ding consumers, such as motivations, resistance and unconscious decision-making processes. In our research into sustainable behaviour, we often use the COM-B model, which states that people only exhibit desired behaviour if they have the capability (knowledge and skills), opportunity (external factors such as social and physical environment) and motivation to do so. However, there’s no universal method or strategy to achieve awareness, involvement or behaviou ral change. Each specific behavioural context and target group needs a different approach, which requires in-depth knowledge. We want to gain as much insight as possible into the target groups so that we can provide good advice about effective interventions. Sometimes, the target group lacks knowledge, while in other cases, the

re’s considerable resistance. It’s essential to press the right buttons. This also means that it’s impossible to develop generic methods. As I often say, it’s not one-size-fits-all.” And specifically looking at conferences and events? “First of all, the purpose of the conference or event is to create awareness and involvement in sustainability. Is it about communicating the sustainable story of the event itself or promo ting sustainable behaviour before, during or after


'It's essential to press the right buttons'

tical about general statements such as ‘we aim to be carbon neutral by 2030’, which is why it’s effective to communicate infographics and monitor information on your platforms, for instance. Due to the risk of being portrayed as green washers, conference and event organisers are sometimes reluctant to communicate about sustainability, even when proper steps are being taken in this area. This is also called ‘green hushing’.

event. For example, at music festivals, in addition to travel and transport, the high energy require ments and waste flows also have a major impact on the environment. To prevent the risk of greenwash effects, it’s important to communicate honestly and trans parently about what you do, especially about what still needs to be done, as well as have internal processes in place. It’s a ‘show, don’t only tell’ principle. It’s important to be specific. The public is scep

the event, for example, by reducing the impact of the event through travel choices, consumption and waste flows? These goals require a targeted approach.” What if an event wanted to communicate externally that it’s sustainable? “First of all, it would be necessary to carefully investigate whether you have a right to speak. There’s a lot of discussion about this, especially at international events, in part because of how much travel is involved in participating in the



' Events are increasingly becoming ground for sustainable innovation'

host, we’ve now opted for a vegetarian default option, explaining our choice on the registration page. We also provide the option to specifically indicate if people want meat with their din ners. The idea behind this is that you can take the public and the organisation step by step through this process and that the switch to fully plant-based catering becomes an option at the next conference. Of course, it’s also an option to make a sta tement as a sustainable event and present yourself firmly as a frontrunner on this theme, where you can even set an activist tone. This must be a conscious decision with well thought out consequences. Events are increasingly becoming a breeding ground for sustainable innovation, in part due to initiatives from Innofest, for example. Today, there are countless examples of events where innovative and sustainable solutions are deve loped and tested together with the public. As an organiser, it’s important to closely monitor what’s happening in this area, including at other events and conferences. Let your colleagues inspire you.” “This depends on the type of event, partner ship and sponsors. First and foremost, it’s indeed important that you choose to work with parties that have the same core values. Additionally, it’s essential to clearly communi cate your sustainability vision and objectives with the stakeholders of the event or confe rence. If you want to make certain aspects of the event or conference more sustainable and can How can you collaborate with partners and sponsors to communicate a steady message about sustainability?

lity, you would need to ensure that every aspect of the organisation is organised as sustainably as possible.” As an organiser, how can you encourage participants to actively contribute to sustainability goals before, during and after the event? “Providing clear and convincing information is an important element. Make sure that there’s clear and positive communication before and during the event about how to keep your foot print as low as possible as a participant. Provide information through your platforms about the most sustainable ways of travelling and, for example, encourage the use of bicycles. And facilitate it, too. During the event, it’s essential to inform and communicate about all the ways in which parti cipants can or should contribute to a more sus tainable event. It not only creates awareness but also offers perspectives for action. Fortunately, a lot is now possible to make events more sus tainable at the front-end, to name just a few: waste separation, digital communication instead of print, recycling points, reusable products, etc. It is also good to explain why you’ve made certain sustainable choices when setting up the event, especially if they can cause resistance. For example, when opting for plant-based catering, explain why in a way that suits the target group and the tone of voice of the event.” Are there specific approaches or activities that you find effective? “At the conference we hosted, a completely plant-based menu unfortunately turned out to be a bridge too far for the association. As a

And it’s very unfortunate. Firstly, we know from research that sustainable events appeal to peo ple who are already very involved in sustainability. But also because it increases the public’s aware ness and understanding of sustainability topics. In addition, communicating about sustainable aspects can positively spill over to other events. The dance festival DGTL is a good example of this. If you can send information about inno- vative sustainability initiatives into the world, it can also have positive brand effects because it generates publicity.” Should sustainability be a separate theme, or is it more effective as an integral part? “This depends entirely on the type of event. There are events that focus on sustainability or tend to have a large carbon footprint, and events that mainly look at making existing activities more sustainable. The type of event, focus and objectives play a role in this choice. Treating sustainability as an integral part of all sessions and streams emphasises its impor tance and embeds it in all aspects of the con ference. However, this isn’t always relevant or feasible. We’re organising a scientific conference (the European Media Management Association con ference) in June with a broad main theme that is separate from sustainability. Integrating sustai nability into all sessions or streams isn’t possible or even desirable. But if sustainability is the main theme, integration in all sessions is self-evident. In addition to embedding sustainability content in programmes, I believe that every event should carefully investigate how the organisation and implementation can be as sustainable as possible. For events that focus on sustainabi


a breeding

find expertise through collaboration with partners, working with sponsors and partners can be highly beneficial. For example, choosing sustainable caterers who can advise you on the most sustainable choices, preventing waste, and using local food. Working together and communicating with your audience from your own perspective can be valuable. For instance, letting the catering staff communicate during the event and informing people via menus or by requesting feedback from the participants. We know from scientific research that you can ‘nudge’ participants towards more sustainable behaviour. This can be done by promoting the plant-based options as a ‘daily menu’ or placing them as the first option on the menu, as regards nutrition. You can also communicate about the results of the sustainable initiatives after an event, which amplifies the message and encou rages awareness and involvement.” Does a conference automatically include a local activity related to sustainability, or is this ultimately just greenwashing? “As an organiser, you must realise the impact of the event on the immediate environment, both positive and negative. Not only the positive due to the economic added value for the environ ment, but also the negative, such as damage and nuisance. Organisers should do their best to minimise this. For example, research shows that events can be an important factor in local sustainable deve lopment by involving the local community in decisions and participation. If the local activity is well thought out, carefully integrated into the programme and focused on tangible, positive

At the scientific conferences she attends, Bianca Harms notices a big difference in the extent to which the event is organized sustainably. “There are still many conservative events where little extra effort is made to be sustainable, which means there is traditional catering, a lot of printing and goody bags, even when sustainability is on the program.”

ween potential sponsors and partners in the area of sustainability is also carefully examined, even if it could be financially disadvantageous. However, people are still reluctant to commu nicate about sustainability. The festivals claim that this is mainly because there’s already so much to communicate to the audience. Yet the fear of being labelled a greenwasher is also a rea son for not communicating about sustainability initiatives. 'Providing clear and convincing information is an important element'

impact, it can be a powerful tool to promote sustainable practices and increase engagement with the local community. But if such an activity is only superficial and seems mainly intended to create a sustainable image without real involvement or impact, then it can definitely lean towards greenwashing.” “It varies. A while ago, I attended an international conference on sustainable food. Unfortunately, the lavish catering hardly had any plant-based options available, while most people wanted vegetarian and plant-based food. Most of the buffet remained untouched. Many participants were dissatisfied, precisely because this devia ted so much from the theme of the conference. I moderated a panel earlier this year during the Eurosonic Noorderslag conference with dele gates from European music festivals about sustainability and the communication around it, where a lot is already happening in this area. For example, festivals often collaborate with other festivals by sharing and reusing materials, coordinating line-ups to minimise the travel of artists and crews, and implementing sustainable initiatives during the festivals. The match bet What is your own experience with this theme at conferences?



RAI Amsterdam

again named

'Best International Venue'

various dietary preferences. The impact on CO2 emissions is becoming increasingly important and, with the new Single Use Plastic legislation coming into force in the Netherlands at the start of 2024, the RAI is now a disposable-free venue. Drinks are served in hard cups and food on mela mine bowls and plates. This has a significant impact on waste management and the challenge we now face is reminding visitors not to throw away the reusables.” Felix says that RAI Amsterdam sees it as its duty to provide organisers with peace of mind. ‘We welcome the chance to brainstorm with clients, assessing their needs and translating them into a custom proposal. And in doing so we introduce them to our Heartwarming concept, reflecting the fact that food and beverages are playing an increasingly important role in the success of an event. RAI Amsterdam has been around for over a century so our broad expertise enables us to translate client wishes into an applicable food experience in any format.” Vertical greenhouse Innovation in the vegan kitchen has made rapid progress over the past decade and RAI Amster dam is keen to stay ahead of the curve. “We’re no longer excited about a hummus wrap and prefer not to use meat substitutes,” explains Mulder. “There are so many other ways to create a balanced vegetable-based dish. Think of pieces of mushroom for texture or a deliciously crispy slice of roasted celeriac as a burger. People who

The annual Exhibition News Awards - the ‘Oscars of the live communication sector’ – have once again hailed RAI Amsterdam as the Best International Venue. Jury members were particularly impressed with the RAI’s “excellent green credentials and great local community engagement.” This prestigious award is a testament to the hard work of all RAI Amsterdam employees who have been committed to ensuring sustainability in the broadest sense of the word for years. As Executive Chef Food & Beverage, Rientz Mulder is responsible for the catering at conferences and events. He explains why food and beverages play a major role in making conferences more sustainable. “Large companies like ours can have a huge impact by making conscious choices with regards to food and beverages. For instance, we by Judith Munster

started our ‘Heartwarming Amsterdam project in 2010, aimed to use as many local producers and suppliers as possible and add value to the Amsterdam region. We recently enhanced our sustainable options even further by offering a fully plant-based F&B assortment. The standard menu is now entirely plant-based at some events as we see more and more event organisers requesting this. We also try to encourage those organisers who are still unsure to take such an approach and it often requires only a gentle prod. Offering a plant-based F&B assortment means you serve visitors very tasty dishes, reduce your CO2 footprint and inspire people with a compelling story.” The right combination “Organisers are primarily looking for a menu that is healthy, comforting and delicious,” says Senior Product Manager F&B Jacqueline Felix. “They require a range of options which also cater to

DIVERSITY RAI Amsterdam is making significant strides in the area of diversity and inclusion, with our new policy being officially ratified on 8 March, International Women’s Day. “As an employee I am proud that this issue is so high on our agenda,” says PR & Communications Manager Katelijn Wilhelmy. “It’s reassuring that the RAI is a place where everyone can be themselves, regardless of age, gender, background, religion or sexual orientation. It is of course easy to say something like that, but we don’t stop there. We have our own diversity & inclusion ambassadors, will soon implement a zero-tolerance policy on discrimination, and organise various events on the theme such as the 2024 Leader Day and Diversity Week. We also measure the impact of our activities at various times. All this and more means the RAI is committed to a future that is beneficial not only for organisers and visitors but also for our neighbours, employees, stakeholders and the city of Amsterdam and its residents. Together, we are making RAI Amsterdam a hospitable and inclusive place where everyone feels at home.”


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