The EAIE Conference and Exhibition is the largest international higher education conference in Europe and the second largest in the world. Such a large and visible occasion provided the opportunity to showcase the close co-operation between the client – the EAIE – and the hosting venue – Messukeskus Helsinki – to build a more sustainable event.
“Working at a conference venue, you encounter many different clients with many different needs, interests and deciding factors. Sustainability is getting without a doubt more and more attention from various event organizers. But sustainability is a mammoth project, which you can look at from many angles and which sparks as many opinions as solutions”, Paula Blomster states.
A perfect opportunity to make a real case study came along with the EAIE (European Association for International Education), a client that strives to make a real difference. The EAIE confirmed their international conference at Messukeskus Helsinki already in 2015. During our encounters at different industry events, we found that the EAIE was working towards making their event more sustainable, setting new green goals to be reached annually.
With the assistance of Fiona Pelham, the green hearts of the EAIE and Messukeskus Helsinki were united. We took the EAIE Conference with 6000+ attendees organized in Messukeskus in September 2019 as a showcase to execute a more sustainable event. We joined forces under the motto “a shared problem is half a problem – or a way to find a solution!”.
The EAIE Conference in Finland was taken as the focus for ISO 20121 workshops, run by Fiona Pelham. Sabrina Nielebock from the EAIE and staff from different departments of Messukeskus Helsinki joined these interactive workshops. It was amazing how quickly it became clear, that we share the same concerns. ”During the series of workshops we defined our main objectives and approaches. We noticed that we are looking exactly for the same things and could use this to tackle our objectives together for this event, but also for the events in the future."
The workshops were an excellent way to embark on a year-long journey of planning. People from all Messukeskus departments joined the sessions. This made it easier for us to ensure that projects were followed through and that we would be working towards one common goal: a more sustainable event. It was thrilling to see how empowered and excited everybody attending the workshops were. It gave new energy for the project planning. Our plan now is to share our experience working together with people in the industry and inspire them to organize and execute more sustainable events.
The EAIE Conference and Exhibition in Helsinki was unique thanks to the close collaboration of event organizers and event venue. From the beginning, the efforts and ideas of the EAIE to create a more sustainable event aligned with the goals of the venue. Our close cooperation allowed for initiatives to be carried out in its entirety - from planning to execution - and allowed both parties to try and test new ways of working to see what would be most beneficial for future events. This fruitful experience has shown us that client-supplier cooperation is crucial to success, especially when tackling overarching issues like sustainability or security. We found that being open and disclosing options and costs honestly has brought us further – generating results we are very proud of. We stand strong together.
"I thought it was such a unique way of working, as everybody had the same mind-set and presented sustainable alternatives or at least made you aware of your options. As a young professional, as for many other people in the field, sustainability is very important and in an ideal world would be the deciding factor for everything". Having the client and departments so heavily involved in the project, we were able to move a huge step forward and stayed motivated throughout. From the EAIE's perspective “it was a great success, as everything was very transparent".
Paula Blomster, Congress Manager at Messukeskus Helsinki, Expo and Convention Centre
Sabrina Nielebock, Senior Events Coordinator at EAIE (European Association for International Education)
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