As we see more pictures of in-person events, we too feel the pressure to “go back” to pre-pandemic conferences. Even more so, we feel the urge to institutionalize our event policy before we unlearn the lessons of the ongoing COVID pandemic. Our manifesto, theory of change, code of conduct, and work on ecological sustainability already created the spirit for this event policy, so what we share here is a logical next step for us.
Our event policy shows we will not be going back to the way things were pre-pandemic. After all, the pandemic changed things. It also highlighted how exclusionary in-person events can be — which does not fit with how we want to create change.
We are sharing our event policy as a blog for accountability, for inspiration, and because it’s the logical place for us to publicly document our journey. When we revisit it, we will share an update. When we learn, we will share our lessons.
For clarity: We consider any gathering of people inside or outside our offices an event. The summary of the event policy for easy reference:
- We will be running all our events virtually by default.
- Local in-person events are permitted when a clear added value is documented.
- Everywhere we can go in 8 hours with public transport is considered local.
- In-person events only happen with the consent of attendees.
- Hybrid events are organized as virtual first.
- The event policy applies to both internal and external events
We will run events virtually by default - how we do this is open for experimentation. What new formats can we use? What can we do to increase production value? This is an opportunity instead of a limitation, so let’s get creative!
We will invest in evolving our own virtual events and how we show up at virtual events. We want to go beyond the standard Zoom webinar and make virtual organizing at least as joyful and inspiring as offline organizing. Livestreams, asynchronous events, all is on the table. We are inspired by events such as the Open Publishing Festival that showcase a different kind of virtual event.
In-person? Local for locals
Synchronous in-person events allow for more things to be taken care of (e.g., food) such that attendees can focus on the topic and goals of the gathering. Examples of in-person events could be strategy sessions, workshop sessions, podcast recordings, and more.
The added value of the event itself and the added value of the in-person element must be separated and documented. If there is no clear added value of the in-person element, we will revert to virtual for the event. This helps drive intentional design of our events.
Allowing local events however also leads to the question: What do we mean by “local”?
It seems straightforward to say the United States is not local to Germany. Is the Netherlands local to Germany? It might be if it is on either side of the border and a ten minute walk, but is it still local when we consider Amsterdam-Berlin?
We define local as the area we can reach within one workday (eight hours +/- 30 minutes) by public transport (does not include air travel). For Berlin, that means that Amsterdam is local. For Amsterdam, it means both London and Paris are local. This also means that if public transport improves, what is considered local may be subject to change. Our definition of local applies to all invited guests.
When an in-person event takes place, we must take into account that people have all kinds of considerations (e.g., health, family care duties) they are under no obligation to disclose.
If there is a clearly defined group of attendees (e.g., team retreat), everyone must be provided with the option to consent to the in-person event during planning. In case somebody objects (no grounds need to be given), the in-person event cannot be permitted. This is a proactive manner to assess whether this event should take place in-person.
If there is a non-defined group of attendees (e.g., conference) whom cannot be asked for consent during planning, attendees must be asked whether they consent to the in-person event during registration. This helps retrospectively evaluate whether this event should have taken place in-person.
We may do hybrid events, which will include a virtual and local in-person component. Hybrid events will be organized as virtual first. This means that the in-person attendees will be a part of the virtual audience, instead of the virtual attendees a part of the in-person audience.
For hybrid events, this means that there have to be assurances for AV quality for these two audiences to interact. Note that hybrid events can be highly varied: A virtual event with two invited people in-person is already considered a hybrid event.
Applies internally and externally
Our event policy applies to both the events we organize internally (e.g., team retreats) and those organized externally (e.g., conferences we may attend or set up). Our team retreats can only be considered to be in-person if the team composition allows for it. Vice versa, we will only attend conferences that fit within this event policy, which depends on team composition as well.
Our event policy helps us focus on how we want to meet in today’s world. It also helps us imagine how we can meet in tomorrow’s world.
We will have to say no to some events we would d like to say yes to, but that also means we can wholeheartedly say yes to others. We cannot justify jetsetting around the world at the expense of people and the planet - and this event policy is another step to be more intentional about our business and our events.
Do you have feedback? Send us an email about the event policy or leave a comment below. We value feedback that we can consider as input for our revisions in the future.