Constructive conferences - Highlights and helpful hints about hosting

Hosting the EAUC conference isn’t like hosting any other conference.  You know that there are going to be several hundred sustainability professionals looking at your campus over several days with a critical eye. But approached proactively, we used this to see what we do through the eyes of others, and working collaboratively across the university, used this to further build on our sustainability activity in all areas. 
In many ways hosting the 2018 EAUC conference was one of our sustainability highlights of the 2017/18 academic year for Keele in terms of sustainability. Our Conferencing and Events team had been eager to host this high profile sustainability conference for a number of years, and receiving the news that our bid had been successful was the start of a rewarding (albeit at times stressful!) journey to demonstrate Keele’s commitment to embedding sustainability in all that we do, and prove why Keele was a worthy host.
Hosting the conference provided the catalyst (and a fixed deadline) for us to carry out work on our communications, including signage in toilets and banners promoting the Sustainable Development Goals. Several things that we had discussed doing, but just not got round to. These communications have received positive feedback from colleagues and several months on are still in place and having an impact on a new set of students and will continue being installed in other buildings to reinforce the messages about our sustainability work and achievements within and beyond the University campus. These communication activities built on our ‘Root and Branch’ sustainability communication campaign launched earlier in the year, developed in partnership with the Marketing and Communications Directorate, which aimed to develop effective communications and celebrate our sustainability success stories. This communications campaign also aimed to explain the sustainability rationale behind some of the significant disruption through building and road works that were going to be caused in the development our flagship Smart Energy Network Demonstrator (SEND) project.
A further benefit of hosting the conference was the opportunity to involve members of the Keele community who would not usually engage with a sustainability-focussed conference. Although many colleagues’ roles include or link to sustainability and many choose to embed sustainability activity in their own work areas, their main role is not in sustainability, so justifying attendance at the conference would be difficult. The conference provided the opportunity for a wide range of our staff to attend sessions on diversity, careers, procurement, marketing, and wellbeing amongst others, helping us to further involve professional and academic colleagues in discussions about sustainability that they could take back and reflect on through their roles and in their teams.
The conference also provided the opportunity for a much larger number of colleagues than would normally attend the conference, to showcase their sustainability-related activity on campus through contributing to the conference programme, and providing further opportunities for Keele to show the diverse areas of progress, innovation and expertise within the university. This occurred through tours showcasing our impressive biodiversity and grounds and sustainability projects such as our Smart Energy Network Demonstrator, as well as a number of workshops on our whole-institution approach, and student-led projects supported by the Students’ Union; plus a panel chaired by the Chancellor, Jonathon Porritt, exploring innovation and research on campus. The involvement of the Keele community was not limited to staff, with student volunteers assisting delegates and the In Any Event team, gaining valuable experience and skills, as well as enjoying some of sessions.
The 2018 conference has left a lasting positive impact on Keele, from improved internal communication, positive publicity for senior management, to highlighting internally and externally the success stories and progress in embedding sustainability within the University, to demonstrating the commitment to innovative sustainable meals within the catering team (led by our fantastic Executive Chef Peter Walters).
So, in summary, hosting the annual conference will certainly add to your work load, but with a bit of effort, there are many benefits to be gained!
Delivered by EAUC