Lately across the event planning industry, we are seeing a huge (and overdue) focus on promoting diversity and inclusion during events. As conferences are ways to network, develop careers and promote ideas, it's more important than ever to create safe spaces that welcome people from all different backgrounds.
With it being such a hot topic, I thought it would be a great time to compile a list of ideas I've seen support and promote inclusion, that could leave a positive impression on attendees, that are often overlooked.
Start by building a diverse planning team:
- Diversity in your internal team is the most authentic way to show the world and your attendees, your commitment to diversity and inclusion. Additionally, having a diverse team provides different perspectives and fresh ideas.
Offer financially accessible options to attendees: Accessibility can also be economic and a major barrier for your attendees.
- Have ticket tiers, at different prices, so attendees can choose what price point works for them. An example: Is your event virtual and in-person? Give your attendees an option to pay only for the virtual component of your event to cut down on the many costs associated with traveling.
- Offer Event Scholarships by working with corporate teams looking to give back or have a way for your attendees to contribute to free tickets for people that cannot afford the price. "Don't discredit the generosity of your attendees or corporate partnerships."
Feature diverse speakers: "One of the most visible ways to show your commitment to a diverse and inclusive event."
- Do not ask your minority to specifically speak about diversity – "if they do its good. If they don't, it's probably because they have something more interesting to share."
- Encourage speakers to think about accessibility during their presentation- are they using a slide show? Make sure the slides are easy to read by using large text, high contrast colors, nothing too bright and flashing.
- Try to avoid all male panels and consider diversity among your announcers and emcees as they are a big part of your event.
- Ask speakers to avoid gendered language, discourage use of common phrases like "ladies and gentlemen" as this may be insensitive to some attendees.
Provide Inclusive Name Badges: Small changes can make a world of difference for your guests.
- Provide color coded badges to signify to others the attendee's comfort level with socializing, distancing and even their preference on being photographed.
- Use font that is easy to read.
- Have space to put their pronouns.
Focus on accessibility: Ask questions during the registration process like, "we want to ensure nothing is missed, what will make this event more accessible and enjoyable to you?"
- Provide detailed instructions about the venues' accessibility options so that your attendees know what to expect and how to prepare.
- Provide preferred seating for people with vision and mobility issues.
- Have printed copies of the presentation for people that struggle to read from the projector.
- Have breaks between sessions that allow enough time for attendees not to feel rushed. Think of how much longer it takes to travel through a large venue via wheelchair.
- Hire a sign language interpreter.
- Provide information about accessible things to do, places to go off-site and transportation services.
Have Inclusivity Options at Your Venue:
- Provide a nursing/baby care room.
- Consider Gender Neutral Bathrooms.
- Have a prayer or quiet room available.
- Print clear signage or discuss options to have venue employees readily available to assist.
Create a post-event survey to capture what worked and did not work as well: "What did we miss?"
- Let your attendees share thoughts on how you can be more inclusive moving forward.
This list is in no way comprehensive, but my hope is that it sparks a conversation within your teams on how to create welcoming and interesting events that are available to more people. As Catrice M Jackson says, "if you don't have a plan for inclusivity, your plan is to be exclusive".
Carmen Zemke, Account Executive at Turf Valley Resort