We’re all talking about logistics, planning, and attendee experience, yet we tend to forget about one of the most important challenges when running an event. Inclusivity is neither a trend nor a fad. On the contrary, it ensures an equal, nondiscriminatory attitude toward all attendees and celebrates our human diversity. So let’s take the time to talk about inclusivity at events.
2020 is almost knocking at the door, meaning that we’re becoming more and more aware and respectful of the differences that make us human.
Over the years, we have observed an important civil movement advocating for equality and an all-inclusive approach regarding people or groups who were previously discriminated against.
This healthy and much-necessary movement hasn’t bypassed the events industry; rather, it only reinforced the need for inclusive events.
As author Andrew Sheivachman highlights, “Meetings and events should reflect the wider world, not just the insular sphere of corporate executives. Planners, though, need better education to create experiences that welcome a more diverse set of attendee.”
On the other hand, according to The State of Inclusion in Meetings & Events, sponsored by Meeting Professionals International, “There is more focus on diversity and inclusion now than there was 10 years ago.”
Yet the same report shows that “Meeting professionals say the groups best-served by the event industry are male and extroverted attendees. They say introverted attendees are least-served.”
Obviously, this doesn’t show the general state of the industry or describe the experiences of different attendee groups (such as older attendees, female attendees, LGBTQ attendees, guests with disabilities, guests of ethnic minorities, etc.).
What this report shows, however, is that we still have a long way to go until we can reach total inclusivity. But this doesn’t mean we can’t improve starting today.
Here’s a set of recommendations you may want to follow to design an all-inclusive event where everyone feels welcomed:
Be careful when using gender pronouns
Let’s think about your invitation emails. You probably use the pronouns Mr., Mrs., and Miss (or Ms.) when you address your emails, without actually knowing how the invitees identify themselves.
Obviously, the majority will identify as male and female, yet chances are you’ll be leaving out everyone in between, and then you run the risk of making someone feel left out.
That’s why you should be cautious when using gender pronouns.
To avoid this issue altogether, you can simply address someone as “Dear plus [name]” or as “Friend.”
Also, before the event, you may want to study the non-binary gender pronouns and see the variations for they and we.
You may need them when introducing a speaker, for example, or when talking about an attendee. Knowing how to use these pronouns correctly will show your respect for your guests, attendees, or even your team.
Make sure people will be able to identify themselves
As Andrew Sheivachman indicates in a different Skift article, “We’ve all been to events where you’re surrounded by besuited white dudes who already seem to know each other.
Not only do events like this not reflect the wider world, but a lack of diversity leads to a more stagnant and insular experience.”
This is especially relevant if your speakers are representatives of just one group. For example, having only male speakers at your event might be a problem, because your female attendees might feel they are not represented adequately.
So make sure to select a more diverse panel so that your attendees feel well represented.
Recognize that some attendees’ might have disabilities
Have you ever thought about how a deaf attendee experiences your event? Always think about those who have disabilities.
In the case of deaf attendees, you could provide a sign language translator who’d be present during all the panel sessions.
Don’t forget about attendees with mobility issues: When choosing a venue, always walk the possible routes to different areas, imagining you’re in a wheelchair. Check if there are ramps or elevators, accessible bathrooms, etc.
Also, evaluate if these attendees will need someone’s assistance to navigate the space.
Don’t limit the catering options
With people have so many different dietary preferences these days, having only one type of catering might be seen as offensive. Imagine having no vegan or gluten-free options?
This is not only sad for guests who won’t be able to enjoy any food during the event, but also it’s a bit disrespectful.
Be sure to offer a wide range of options on your menu, such as dairy-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, vegetarian, vegan, nonalcoholic drinks, etc.
Also, it’s important to know your attendees’ dietary needs and preferences beforehand, so make sure to ask about them in your registration form. Take care of your guests.
Being inclusive is challenging. It’s not always possible to be aware of all the sensitive topics and understand the perspectives of those who are slightly different from you.
However, empathizing and doing everything you can to make everyone feel welcome at your event is a very promising start. So what about your next event? Will it be inclusive?