How to Make Sure Your Event is Diverse and Inclusive

When it comes to creating an experience that professionals remember, there’s nothing like a well-thought-out event. Attendees can use this opportunity to create new connections, learn something unique and build a stronger passion through shared interests. There’s so much that goes into hosting the perfect event, but one of the most important components to consider is inclusivity. Along with all the other elements that must be managed, maintaining diversity throughout is paramount. It may seem like a large task to tackle, but even just changing a few things is a great place to start.

How to Create Goals Centered around Inclusivity
In order to achieve success, it’s important to create goals centered around inclusivity. Focus on several important ones, to begin with, and then continue to strive towards a more diverse space. They can pair with other goals, but the goals should be incorporated into all aspects of the event. There are some main objectives we can utilize to achieve inclusivity. Let’s look at each a little more thoroughly:
  • Communication: When ensuring that everyone’s needs are covered, it’s important to have an open line of communication. This should not only be between the internal team but should also extend to those who are attending the event. Everyone should feel comfortable communicating their requirements and identities to the hosts, and the hosts should make it clear what avenues are available. For example, if the event space is a private, quiet space for breastfeeding mothers, this amenity should be communicated to the guests. You can provide a much better experience when the team who is putting together the event speaks freely, but professionally, in order to achieve the best possible result.
  • Create Priorities: Decide what your event’s priorities are and work from there. Consider gender equality throughout the speaker lineup and ensure that there are diverse voices on the event’s planning board. This can help shine a light on priorities that may not have come up otherwise. Once you have set the most important goals, it can be easier to achieve them. Set them in order of priority, and it is important to write them down and make them known to everyone involved in the event.
  • Inclusive Behaviors: It’s one thing to say you’re working towards a more inclusive space, but action is more important. Before, during and after the event, be sure to create a diverse and inclusive atmosphere through behavior. For example, give attendees the option to set their pronouns or say them when introducing themselves. This normalizes this kind of conduct and can make interactions easier for everyone and every identity. From sexual orientation to mental health inclusion, inclusive behavior is extremely valuable.
  • Be Open: Just as with anything, your team must be open to learning from past experiences. Instead of panicking when something doesn’t go well or your team brings up a piece of feedback, take it seriously moving forward. Creating an inclusive and diverse environment requires information from the community. The main goal should be for things to go well, of course, but be open to learning from the team and those attending the environment. For example, provide an employee resource group for support.
  • Be Aware of Unconscious Bias: According to the University of California San Francisco, unconscious biases “are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness.” It can be hard to unlearn some of these stereotypes or thoughts you may not even know you have, but being aware of them is a great first step. That’s also why it’s so important to have a planning team, diverse employees and leadership to guide the way to equity when planning an event.
How to measure inclusion and diversity
It can be difficult to test how inclusive your event is, whether it’s a reoccurring event or a new one. Keep in mind that the world is always shifting and changing, and so should your diversity plan. Let’s take a look at setting some best practices that you can use to measure the success of your meeting, as far as inclusion and diversity go:
  1. Set and Define Your Metrics:
    There are several simple metrics you can use to determine inclusivity. Keep numbers on gender identity, race, educational attainment, age or disability. These are just a few examples, and there are many different options that you could choose to focus on. For example, you could measure the amount of women speakers you invite compared to previous years.
  2. Establish a Baseline
    As with any measurement, you need to establish a starting point. Take note of what the industry benchmarks are, or keep previously collected metrics. This will be helpful when moving towards a more inclusive and diverse event space.
  3. Assign Responsibility
    Every member of the event planning team should know their professional responsibilities when it comes to ensuring diversity and inclusion. This way, you can congratulate them for their contributions or remind them to work a little harder next time.
  4. Track Progress
    There are quite a few ways for your team to track progress. This can be anything from attendee surveys, a box ticked when someone signs up, or verbal feedback. The data should be tracked, compared and analyzed.
While supporting individual differences may not seem very mathematical, there is always a way to track and analyze data. This can help your team in their goals moving forward and could even be a point of pride when you see the event become a more inclusive workplace. It can also be a method of measuring your company’s overall diversity initiative. After the event is over, be sure to report your findings. If the meeting is to be recurring, your team can compare the previous dataset to hopefully find improvements or areas to pay more attention to.

Demonstrating Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion
As previously mentioned, it’s important to demonstrate your event’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. The value your organization brings to the table for attendees can be seen through the actions taken.

There are many ways to bring your team’s commitment to the forefront and ensure that participants feel the impact in a positive way. Attendees should not only hear about the event’s dedication but feel it throughout their time at the meeting. Here are some of the best ways to showcase devotion to this goal:
  • Note the speaker lineup: Most professional events have keynote speakers — people who are tasked with sharing their stories, information or knowledge with the audience. This is a great way to showcase a variety of viewpoints through diverse talent. If the entire lineup has a similar background, there are likely attendees who will feel like they can’t relate to the speaker. In addition, exposing participants to diverse perspectives and concepts can elevate your event to a new level.
  • Accessibility: It’s important to ensure accessibility in all aspects of your event. From making the meeting areas wheelchair accessible to providing interpreters, the meeting should not block anyone from getting the most out of their time. Each person should feel included and comfortable, especially when it comes to disability inclusion. This can start by choosing a venue that is already handicap accessible, and working from there. For example, be sure that you hire sign language interpreters and ensure that videos have closed captions. These are just a few examples of how to create a more accessible venue and event.
  • Health and Wellness: Keep in mind that many people are prioritizing their health and safety more than ever. Even as in-person events become more popular again, attendees are likely to note the event’s commitment to health. To this end, create policies that make the environment more health-conscious. For example, some events ask their attendees what they are comfortable with and note that on their name tags. In addition, have hand sanitizer stations and be mindful of the vaccination requirements of the area where the event is being held.
  • Use Diverse Suppliers: Even aside from the speakers and team members, the vendors should also be diverse. For example, you can hire minority-owned businesses to cater the event and strive for supplier diversity. This would support this kind of business while creating an even more inclusive environment for attendees.

Working together to create a more diverse and inclusive space takes effort from the entire team. It may even take time to achieve success. Often, parameters of inclusivity change over time as the culture develops. Everything from gender diversity, racial equity and empowering people from different backgrounds should be considered. Your event will become a more positive experience, fostering creativity and learning for all. When people feel more comfortable, they are likely to participate to the best of their ability.

Regardless of their identity or background, the participants should leave your event feeling excited and ready to take on what comes next. A more inclusive space can breed inspiration and excitement, which should be the ultimate goal of your event. To learn more about how to host a successful and inclusive event or meeting, reach out to the professionals at JTB.