As Stephen Covey said, “Strength lies in differences, not similarities.”
Embracing diversity is a critical step for business to grow and as a company in the communications business working with global organisations, we feel we have a real opportunity to support and advise our clients in how to cultivate diverse event environments.
Why is it so important?
Equality of opportunity should be available to all. Diversity is good for business; bringing new ideas, challenging established ways of working and appealing to broader customer bases. A diverse team of people will be able to solve problems faster.
So how can we make our events more inclusive?
Here are some thoughts:
Cast a wider net for attendees
The participants are usually the largest group and they will probably remember their experience at the event based on the interactions they have with each other. The more diverse the audience, the more comfortable everyone will feel when they find themselves within it.
A diverse staff team
The organisation team for the event should be as diverse as the people attending. It may sound obvious but they need to make everyone feel welcome.
Ensure everyone is represented
By featuring speakers and panellists and developing a programme that represents a diverse range of backgrounds, identities and opinions, everyone in the audience will feel that they belong.
Change the format
Shake things up a bit, include more workshops, interactive and collaborative activities. Create safe spaces for people to express, share and debate their ideas.
Use inclusive language
Avoid idioms and jargon, as these do not always translate well to other cultures; avoid gendered terms such as “guys”. Include a range of pronouns, alternating genders. Offer flexible event registration options making sure all attendees feel included, for example include the option of a gender-neutral prefix in addition to standard options. The badge printing service should be able to print characters from other languages.
Ensure that signage and presentations are displayed so that everyone can read them and that there is access to content for deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
Ensure there are private spaces for people to use for religious observance, to administer medication or as a quiet space for people to take a break from networking.
Carry out a site visit to ensure the nuts and bolts of physical accessibility are catered for in the venue itself and in terms of transport. Have a nominated member of staff as a point of contact for attendees prior to the event to answer any questions and ensure there are different ways that people can contact them.
Provide facilities for live streaming and/or filming the event so that people who can’t attend on the day can still participate or access the content after the event. This will also help widen and diversify the audience.
Promote greater inclusivity in Q&A sessions by providing a means to raise and answer questions (anonymously or not) through an app such as Slido. Post-event feedback can be hugely valuable in listening to our audience, finding out how to improve their experience for next time. Collecting comments from participants will lead to more diverse events in the future.