Last October’s inaugural Sport Positive Summit turned out to be an engaging, innovative and, it says here, must-attend addition to the Green-Sports forum lineup. This was no mean feat since the Summit was 100 percent remote after having been postponed twice due to the COVID pandemic.
With the Delta variant sadly still running rampant in many corners of the globe, Sport Positive Summit II, which takes place September 28-29, will again be all-remote.
GreenSportsBlog spoke with Claire Poole, the Summit’s driving force, about what she and her team are planning for an encore.
GreenSportsBlog: Claire, I spoke to a lot of people after last year’s Sport Positive Summit and the reaction was uniformly positive. That was not easy to do, given its virtual and global nature. What did you hear from attendees? What did they like the most?
Claire Poole: Well Lew, people attend summits like ours for two reasons: Content and networking. I heard one main comment on each. On content: People LOVED that we featured live discussions and not presentations, that they could ask questions…
GSB: I agree! The interactivity made it seem more intimate and less remote.
Claire: I’m glad you felt that way. On networking, they also loved the Brella platform that allowed for the almost seamless interactivity, especially networking. During COVID, being able to make real connections was seen as a big plus!
GSB: Oh, I’ve become a big Brella-booster since Sport Positive Summit I! Since then, I get very disappointed anytime I attend a virtual summit and the organizers are not using Brella. What did attendees tell you that could’ve gone better?
Claire: The main bit of constructive criticism we received was that we had too many sessions going on at once, the schedule was too condensed. And it’s true, we did have six or seven meetings going on at the same time. Now, our agenda was made up with an in-person event in mind, we had made promises to presenters and attendees about what they would hear, and then of course there were time zone issues. All of this made it difficult to change the schedule even though we shifted to all-virtual and even though we postponed from March 2020 to October.
GSB: Sounds like attendees had a case of FOMO — Fear of Missing Out!
Claire: That’s it, even though attendees could re-watch the content for three months after the Summit — and many did! So, this year, we’ll only have two concurrent sessions, so that means fewer sessions overall – but somehow, we still have over 70 speakers!
Another thing commenters told me was that group networking would be nice, in addition to the one-on-one connections that they said went really well. So, we worked with Brella and will have group networking sessions with up to 12 people in them that will be curated by interest and/or experience. For example, we’ll have groups like “My Organization Is New to Green-Sports; We’re Just Getting Started”, “Sports Activations at COP 26”, “Venues”, “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” and more. We’ll have multiple windows, and we can change on Day 2 based on what we see works and what doesn’t on Day 1.
You know, Lew…even though I’d much prefer us to be in-person this year, connecting people for networking is easier to do virtually in some respects, owing to that flexibility.
GSB: That makes sense, especially with Brella. What can attendees look forward to content-wise this year? And how specifically will climate change be treated one month out from COP 26 in Scotland?
Claire: Our overall theme is always how we can increase ambition and action on climate change through sport. We will delve into these issues broadly, owing to the global nature of our audience and the many facets surrounding climate. We will offer many themes and programs, some that will be more tailored to beginners and others will appeal to veterans.
Another theme for us is to look at sport and climate through fresh eyes and perspectives. It’s very easy to do the same thing year on year. For us, 75 percent of our speakers will be different than in Year 1.
And we’re doing our best to refresh the sessions versus 2020. For example, our session on health — last year, it naturally focused on COVID. This year, we’re having having our speaker, Dr Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum the head of climate and health at World Health Organization (WHO) – an organization we’ve heard a lot from over the last year and a half – talk about the impacts of climate change on human health through the lens of sport.
Mainstreaming of media coverage of the sports-climate intersection will be another new topic this year…
GSB: Amen, Claire. AMEN!!!
Claire: Thanks, Lew. We’ll have speakers from ESPN, Sky Sports, and BBC Sport there.
And we’re looking at facilities management in a slightly different way, offering a session for people who work in that area to discuss how they can make an impact on a venue’s climate impacts, even if communications is not part of their job.
GSB: All of these sessions sound really interesting. Turning to the COP 26 global climate conference, it will be taking place a little more than a month after the Summit and in the same country, up in Glasgow. What do you have planned around what many experts say is the most monumental COP since the 2015 version that resulted in the Paris Climate Agreement?
Claire: COP26 will certainly be a theme in the group networking, and we are honored to have the Right Honorable Alok Sharma, the President of COP 26, as a speaker on Day 2.
GSB: Sounds like you have COP 26 covered. What will the role of athletes be at the Summit? And how will young people figure in the proceedings?
Claire: Athletes will have a big role. And we’re bringing in new voices as compared to prior Summits. Athletes you know from EcoAthletes like beach volleyballers Jeremy Casebeer and Claudia Galindo, Paralympic sailor Alexandra Rickham, football (soccer) goalkeeper Arianna Criscione and Seyi Smith, who is an Olympian in both athletics and bobsledding, will all share their perspectives and experiences.
On young people, we’ve been working on that for quite a while. I get contacted so frequently on LinkedIn by young people, looking for climate-sports and green-sports career advice. So, we created something specifically for those aged 18-30 years old, our Next Gen Summit. Sessions will take place for a couple of hours each day, at times that don’t overlap with the main Summit. We’ll tackle what we think are big topics like “How Sports Drives Societal Change”, “Sustainability Through Grassroots Sports”, “Climate Justice and Sports”, and “The Role of Athletes”. Our speakers will be younger and relatable. Since this age group generally doesn’t have as much disposable income, we’re making the Next Gen Summit free for 18–30-year-olds.
GSB: I suspect Next Gen will be a hit. Looking at the speaker list, you’ve got some really big names on the docket…
Claire: We are excited that, in addition to COP President Sharma, Sport Positive Summit will also feature luminaries like former F1 driver Nico Rosberg, Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, the chief scientist at The Nature Conservancy…
GSB: …and climate communicator extraordinaire!
Claire: Exactly! Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will also address the Summit. These household name speakers help push the envelope of what we’re doing and draws more people into the climate-sports conversation.
GSB: How many people are you expecting to attend Sport Positive this year? And how can people register?
Claire: We expect to draw more people than in 2020. Last year we had around 550 attendees; this year we project about 750 to join us.
If readers have not yet signed up and want to do so, all they have to do is visit sportpositivesummit.com and click on REGISTER.
GSB: GreenSportsBlog looks forward to being at Sport Positive Summit and to reporting on it.
GreenSportsBlog readers can get a discount to Sport Positive Summit by using the discount code GSB21.