Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now in Washington, DC.
The American Society for Surgery of the Hand went completely paperless for the first time at its October 2013 meeting. It was successful due to a well-thought-out plan that added an element of fun.
Imagine an association meeting where the only printed material was your name badge. That's right—no printed preliminary or onsite program books, abstract books, schedules, or expo floor maps. Think it would be hard to get your attendees to accept the new policy?
If so, keep in mind these ideas from the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. After all, the group went completely paperless—successfully—for the first time at its 68th Annual Meeting in October 2013.
Communicate early and often. ASSH began to spread the word as soon as it decided to go paperless and require attendees use a web-enabled mobile device to access all program and abstract content. It announced the change prominently on the meeting's homepage, listed it on the registration form, and mentioned it in the association's weekly member update starting six months in advance of the meeting.
Offer options. ASSH made sure its free meeting app worked on pretty much every device from iPhones to iPads to Android devices. It also had a web-based version that attendees could use on their laptops or netbooks. If attendees didn't own one of these devices, they could rent an iPad for the meeting for less than $100. Once onsite, staff were available for "tech-ups" to answer questions and help attendees master the meeting app. (ASSH also offered free WiFi throughout the convention center.)
Make it fun. To get the point across, ASSH put together a humorous video showing a hypothetical conversation between a meeting attendee and his iPhone's virtual assistant, Siri. The three-minute piece covers everything from what "paperless" means to what devices the app will work on.
ASSH says the new paperless policy saved the 2,700 attendees from collecting and lugging around at least 120 sheets of paper each. Even better: That added up to almost 20,000 pounds of carbon-dioxide savings.
Samantha Whitehorne is deputy editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC. Email:email@example.com
[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Adios, Paper."]