The delegate bag is dead

I have been thinking about this for a while now and I have realised that I am slightly obsessed with this issue so need to blog about it! It all started when we took the radical decision at JISC Comms HQ to throw all caution to the wind…and ditch the delegate bag! I know…crazy! No free bag, filled with goodies!  Shock horror! But I think it is the best work-related decision I have contributed to in a long time.

First and foremost, a huge weight has been lifted from our shoulders. Let’s face it: choosing, designing graphics for, ordering, taking delivery of and stuffing 800 delegate bags is quite frankly a royal pain  in the you know what. Not to mention inserting a line in your budget for the damn things, which means you then have to try and find a company with a marketing budget that they are stuggling to spend (hah!), to give you a few grand and in exchange you wack their logo on the bag. And why did we subject ourselves to this yearly excrutiatingly uncomfortable sensation in one’s posterieur? Just so we have something to put all the delegate bag inserts that exhibitors with marketing budgets to squander have sent to us. Hum! Pause, rewind, re-play, watch more closely. Something isn’t quite…right? What are we missing?

Ping! Its all a waste of so many people’s time and money! Ah, thats it!……But more to the point, and there is a point people – amidst the ranting – the impact that delegate bags have on the environment is, in my personal view, outrageous, un-necessary and completely avoidable. Once we at JISC Comms HQ  realised the atrocities we were causing to the environment with our delegate bag fetishes, it was easy! Get rid! We don’t need it. Let’s free the delegate! They can run, skip and jump around the venue as much as their hearts content, free from half-empty laptop style bags or those cotton/hessian ‘the green choice’ shopping bags, flapping against their bodies. I am not convinced the ‘shopper delegate bag” is a good look for many of the delegates that attend our events anyway, on a slight tangent..yes for carrying your shopping home in, no for carrying your laptop or whatever around in, trying to look intellectual and intelligent. I will never forget at JISC08 seeing the now retired Chair of JISC wandering around in a sharp suit, post-plenary presentation, with the blue hessian shopper we had handed out to delegates that year, slung over his shoulder looking like he had just sneaked out to Sainsburys to get a few bits and bobs that he forgot to get in the weekly shop. So yes, JISC have been guilty of stuffing all these types of bags into delegates hands along with their delegate badge.

What do your delegates need when they arrive at a conference? A name badge so other people can identify them, the programme with details of what is going on, when and where and thats about it, more or less. Delegate list? With 750 – 800 people, thats one hell of a delegate list..and a serious amount of paper. Stick it online beforehand and they can do with it what they wish.

What about all those delegate inserts I hear you say? Well despite the fact that they were annoying, I have to admit they are a nice little earner, requiring minimum effort. So rather than lose out on the income I decided to try something new and offer electronic ads that are included in a rolling presentation with info about the conference throughout the day on the plasma screens that happen to be all around the venue. Will let you know how this goes down! I will stick my neck out though and say that I think they will be more effective than delegate bag inserts, because the first thing that delegates do when they get their bag is rifle through everything, get the event guide and ditch everything else that isn’t a freebie. Electronic ads, sneakily inserted inbetween slides with key information about the conference on the day, will surely get more delegate’s attention? Well, we shall see!

So folks, we don’t need a delegate bag! And neither do you!

What all this will mean for the delegate bag manufacturer is another question. With the combination of the 2009 credit crunch well and truly inflicting it’s crunch, the increasing importance of greener events and events 2.0, diversification and adaptation to the changing demands of event organisers will be key to survival.

As I gaze into my crystal ball, I see those delegates at events all around the world, running and skipping around, free from flapping delegate bags. Clutching their iphones and mini-event guides printed on recycled paper. Ah the future is bright, the future is..delegate bag free!

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