Before laptop computers were commonplace, before tablets were even a glimmer in Steve Jobs’ eye, event planners and managers carried around massive event binders full of printed documents and spreadsheets as well as tons of notes regarding each and every event.
These event planning binders were the event “bible” for each event and contained all of the vital details regarding the event, including proposals, vendor bids, invoices, meeting notes, contact lists, timelines, schedules, budgets, table layouts, seating arrangements and guest lists. If you went to any meeting without the event binder, you were basically flying blind because it contained all your reference materials.
Nowadays you see fewer of these big event binders, which makes it all the more amazing when you spot someone lugging one around. And although I must admit I’m a bit of a luddite in a few ways (like I still prefer to buy music CDs instead of purchasing downloadable music … compressed music files just don’t sound the same to my ears), I’m still puzzled why so many people still insist on using event planning binders when there are so many better paperless event binder alternatives available … and so many drawbacks to relying on a printed event binder for the success of your event.
Based on conversations with hundreds of event planners and mangers over the last 5 years, we have compiled the six biggest reasons why the event planners we spoke with have rejected the event binder … and why you should follow their lead.
NOTE – In the past, many conference / meeting attendees were often provided with conference binders / meeting binders that came with meeting schedules and materials; the reasons below for replacing event planning binders easily apply to conference binders and meeting binders, too (which are quickly being replaced by event apps and other technologies).
So here are the 6 reasons why the event binder is dead …
#1 – Because losing your binder would be an unmitigated disaster.
For event professionals, the hundreds or thousands of details they need to track for every event are as precious as gold and as vital as blood, and the thought of losing all of them is enough to drive any event pro to drink heavily.
Just imagine trying to rebuild all those documents; revisit all those decisions; regather all those quotes and receipts; get those contracts resigned; and retrack down all those items? Eeeesh. It’s really an impossible task, and in the meantime you are spending your valuable time rebuilding your event documentation when you should be planning the event itself. And heaven forbid if you lose it in the weeks leading up to an event.
The Solution – Store all your details on a backed-up computer or, better yet, with a cloud-based application or service that backs up your information automatically.
#2 – Because finding specific details in a paper binder takes way too much time.
If you are lucky, it may take a minute or two to page through dozens or hundreds of physical pages to hunt down a specific detail or item. If you aren’t so lucky, it may take much, much longer. This is always frustrating, and if you are doing it in front of a client or team member, it could also be embarrassing. (Granted, using binder tabs could make this slightly easier, but you still have to dig for details among a mass of paper.)
The Solution – Compare this manual process to having details a few clicks away on your computer or tablet and it’s a no-brainer which method is easier and faster for pulling up data that you need to view.
#3 – Because updating information is clunky at best.
Once you find the piece of data you are looking for, do you cross out the old, now-inaccurate information and write the new data on the piece of paper in your binder? Or are you constantly updating spreadsheets and documents and having to print them out and replace them?
Either way, changing details isn’t exactly straightforward or time-saving. And, every event planner knows that event details are constantly changing and evolving, so you are always referring back to your data set to modify information.
The Solution – Electronic data is so much easier to find, change and modify, when you are using event software or spreadsheets.
#4 – Because event binders = lots of dead trees, wastewater and a big carbon footprint.
Typically event professionals who use event planning binders go through many reams of paper over the course of a year. With that said, here some sobering numbers on what it takes to produce paper:
- It requires one tree to create 16 2/3 reams of paper.
- It takes 11,1 kWh34 of energy to produce 1 ton of paper. (Same amount of used by an average household over 10 months.)
- It requires more than 3 gallons of water to make a single sheet of paper.
As the events industry makes great strides in other areas to reduce its carbon footprint, event planning binders filled with paper run counter to this conservation effort. And when you consider how much additional paper is wasted during this process on account of printing errors or disposing of outdated binder pages – estimates run from 6 to 15 pages a day – then maintaining event binders is decidedly a very dirty practice, environmentally speaking. But if you are in favor of more ugly landfills and bleak, clearcut forests, well then, who are we to stop you?
#5 – Because a heavy, unwieldy event binder is a pain in the ass to tote around.
Which would you prefer carrying around – massively heavy binders or an iPad/laptop? And especially if you are walking around a crowded conference all day long for several days? I guess you could look at this as getting some additional exercise (binder curls anyone?) but personally I’d rather go for a nice, quiet run or go to the gym than get all sweaty lugging a big binder around a meeting.
Conversely, you probably already have a laptop, tablet or smartphone, and those tools are so much easier to tote around and access your event data. It’s super convenient, and again, if your data is stored in the cloud, you can access it on multiple devices.
#6 – Because your prospects, clients and peers will think you are a dinosaur if you carry them.
Image may not be everything in event planning and management, but in many cases it’s close. Image is most certainly an important factor in both event design as well as in the way event professionals present themselves, and nobody in this business wants to appear outdated or behind the times.
So when you see someone toting around a binder stuffed with papers and slogging through it to find details, you don’t get a picture of someone who is “of the moment” or at the cutting edge of the industry. Juxtapose that to an event professional who is pulling up details quickly and effortlessly on their laptop or tablet and you can understand why people are more likely to hire and work with the tech savvy event manager. It may not be fair, but it’s the truth.
At the end of the day, you must decide what systems and techniques will make you more efficient and productive as well as present you as a competent event professional. But every year, more and more event pros are choosing to replace the event binder with computers, tablets and online software and applications, and for all the relevant reasons listed above. And whether you like it or not, this trend will continue as better alternatives present themselves.