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A Natural Way to Network at “Our” Conference

“Did you go there on vacation?” “I rode on that bike ride for breast cancer too.” “Oh, you went to that meeting too?” Walking around the conference halls, with your favorite tote bag over your shoulder is like carrying a mini-billboard about some special part of your life. Such questions are easy conversation starters. It’s about increased approachability amongst strangers. As when walking your dog, you’re more likely to talk with others walking theirs. One thing leads to another, as you walk into the next session together.

This clever way to reduce the waste generated at meetings also helps attendees get to know each other. MeetingsNet blogger, Sue Pelletier got the tip from Nancy J. Wilson’s blog, Pretentious Musings of a Green Meeting Planner.

Per Wilson, “One of the newest green meeting practices is asking participants to bring their own conference bag instead of a sponsor supplying one. It makes sense, we all have so many. Before you say your participants would find this ‘tacky’ or ‘cheap’, hear me out.

Because, what is actually happening is participants are showing up with bags:

• From an earlier conference.
• From organizations they belong to in their personal lives.
• Imprinted with personal messages such as “Ask me about…”
• Bags From their favorite vacation spot.”

Just as Richard Florida asks, Who’s Your City?, meeting attendees who bring their own bag, can ask each other, “Who’s your bag?” to get to know each other. Next? Name tags. (Reuse them.)
Conference participants: here’s another way to recycle – and do good.

About nine years ago I started bringing home from the conferences where I spoke the inevitable mugs, tee shirts, pens and, of course, conference tote bags. I collect them from six other nearby speakers and take them up to a well-run non-profit here in Marin County.

Once I saw one of “my” tee shirts on a young, pregnant Vietnamese woman (2005 in Orlando ~ American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons) and another time I glimpsed a man carrying two shovels, with a very full tote bag over his shoulder (Intel inside, We Meet Our Goals, 2004). I told a friend, with a quicker mind than mine, about these two sightings and he responded, “Too bad we couldn’t switch the shirt and the bag.”

As well, consider bringing home those extra hotel soaps and shampoos (oh, you do, eh?) and donating them to your favorite non-profit. Maybe to help the homeless, or for a womens’ shelter.

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