Sun Microsystems Deploys a Green Conference Strategy
Green (as in earth-friendly) seems to be the new black. All the brands are wearing it, rolling out eco-friendly tours or touting their green practices to win the hearts and minds of environmentally conscious consumers. But Sun Microsystems did oh-so-much more than just set up some recycling bins at its 12th annual conference and call itself green. It implemented eco-conscious transportation and communication solutions that creatively enhanced attendee experiences from years past.
PDF-based virtual content guides replaced paper conference books. Instead of cabs and buses, a free bike valet service enticed attendees to skip the long lines and pedal over to the conference. And conference food was donated throughout the week to reduce waste. More than four tons of paper were saved, more than 27 tons of greenhouse gases avoided and more than 170,000 gallons of water were conserved. Going green is a global initiative for Sun, but it’s also just one response to past event surveys which the brand calls its “bible” for creating richer, better attendee experiences year after year.
“All the things we do are to the benefit of our attendees, cosponsors and exhibitors,” says Wendy Yamaguma, senior director-global events at Sun Microsystems. “We hope that they recognize we take their comments very seriously when they provide us survey results and we use them to make enhancements and modifications moving forward.”
Conference veterans often say the best conversations happen in the hallways, so two-hour lunch breaks were provided each day with no overlapping sessions. In between the conference’s 225 sessions attendees could grab a beanbag, play video games, chat with peers and nosh on snacks and beverages. This year’s speaker schedule was also revamped to allow more time between presentations, creating forums for more post-presentation interaction and some wiggle room for long-winded speakers.
Despite a nine percent boost in attendees since 2005, (there were 15,000 attendees this year), registration went off without a hitch thanks to a little Java technology. I.D. cards linked to the online scheduling tool allowed for easy session validation during the registration process. This also ensured that attendees who had pre-registered for a popular session were guaranteed a seat. As a result, there were no long lines and no need to rush attendees into the opening session on time even if they had not received their credentials yet. For those who attend several conferences each year, this new use of event technology served as a clever cue that mapped back to Sun’s brand; painless registration thanks to Sun Microsystems.
Sun set out to create the must-attend event of the Java world, to increase attendee and sponsor participation and to cultivate a position of leadership in the wider developer community. The brand succeeded in moving forward by looking back and listening to past attendee insights. As a result, in 2007, attendee satisfaction rose seven percent, 97 percent of attendees said they would recommended a Sun product to a colleague and 80 percent of sponsors and exhibitors said they’d re-sign again next year.