I once read that a typical trade show can generate the equivalent of 170 trees worth of paper waste. If you think of the number of trade shows held in the UK each year, we’re getting into unimaginably high numbers.

So why and where is all this paper being used? I can’t remember the last time I went to a conference or trade show and remarked upon how excellent the brochure was. I attend these events because I value the content of the show itself, I want to be educated, join debates, network and increase my knowledge of the topic in question.

I am not saying that brochures aren’t useful, they can be informative and help to direct attendees to where they need to go, or suggest what they might like to see. Of course they are not designed to be kept for a long time and treasured, but with a lifespan of only one or two days, is it really worth the time, money and environmental cost to produce such a product?

Event apps are by no means a new creation, but they have still not achieved the prominence that they deserve within the conference and trade show circuit. Perhaps this is because they are designed to accompany a brochure, rather than act as a replacement. If delegates have all the information handed to them in a brochure at the door, then intrinsically they are less inclined to download an app.   

Yet, having an electronic copy is cheaper, environmentally friendly and a more up-to-date way of getting information to your audience. It is up to organisers to have enough confidence to recognise that the brochure is an outdated method of communicating with visitors, many of whom will have tablets, notebooks, smart phones and sometimes even all three.

Whether organisers choose to gradually limit the number of copies they have printed, or whether they simply choose not to have any printed at all, once and for all we should bid farewell to the conference brochure and move conferencing into the 21st century.