“I find it a waste of time to attend a conference where I won’t learn from a wide variety of expertise, views, and experiences”.
(Ruchika Tulshyan, author “The Diversity Advantage: Fixing Gender Inequality in the Workplace”)
Why should we be more inclusive?
Isn’t it interesting how times change. Once upon a time, not so long ago, an events manager would be seeking ways to make their event more exclusive, but these days we know that exclusivity doesn’t work for the majority of the public.
Inclusion, the act of considering the needs of others in a shared group or structure, allows us all to win. Inclusion allows diversity and diversity allows us to view the broader spectrum of human kind. Once we see the full spectrum of humanity, we can begin to understand, accept and integrate with that humanity.
Nobody wants to feel left out or excluded and nobody wants to feel like someone else has more value or importance than them. If you are running an event, you will attract a larger audience if you include more types of people. This leads to greater brand exposure, yes, but it also improves your brand perception because Inclusion is an important, contemporary and incendiary topic that successful brands embrace and navigate skillfully.
Furthermore, greater exposure is likely to create more leads, more sales, and more revenue. So, include Inclusion in your event, for them, for you, for your business.
How can I make my event more inclusive?
The way to make your event more inclusive is to consider what many types of peoples’ needs are, to cater to those needs, and to minimize any negative impact your event may accidentally have on those people.
The success of an inclusive event lies in the experience of the attendees, so here are some practical elements of an event that can cause stumbling blocks, and some suggestions on how to fix them:
1. Employ a diverse Planning Team
Accessibility is a huge part of any event so that many more people can be included. Including as many people as possible in your event means making people feel welcome. Inviting guests from different racial, cultural, economic and social backgrounds will enrich the whole experience immensely at the same time as maximizing the exposure of your event to the people that really live in your community.
The best place to start is with your events team. Having a range of people input ideas for your event will ensure that the event appeals to a broader range of people. The more perspectives working on a common project and its challenges, the more ways you will have to find solutions. This is done by employing a diverse range of people from different cultures, abilities, backgrounds and genders.
2. Select and create an accessible location
The location of the event should be accessible to all. If your event is difficult to access, less people will visit. The word accessibility has far reaching implications for an event. An event manager should consider physical, intellectual, cultural and financial accessibilities.
Create an event that is physically accessible
The location needs to be reachable by public transport, have plenty of parking, the event should be clearly signposted in the top 3 languages used in the area as well as braille, and it should be stewarded throughout the building on route to the event space.
The event should have unobstructed wheelchair and support animal access and have restrooms that have disabled access, family and baby change facilities and gender neutral spaces, so that all people can use all the facilities.
3. Create an event that is intellectually accessible
In order to allow all people to enjoy your event, you would also allow people to attend who might need some everyday help. This can be done by using every-day, non-technical language in your advertising, event literature, signage and code of conduct.
Intellectual accessibility also means allowing space for helpers and support people to visit and even stay nearby and ensuring they are catered for in seating and facilities.
Stewards will also be a vital cog in your accessibility machine, because they can answer any questions for those who might need to know how to get to a place in the event. Your stewards should have a basic understanding of the needs of differently-abled guests, viewing guests as individuals, not just the disability.
4. Create an event that is culturally accessible
Culture is at the heart of identity and is, therefore, viscerally important to many people. For this reason it is important to consider cultural expressions when creating an inclusive event. It is important to ensure all food and is culturally appropriate, considering halal, vegan and intolerance requirements, as well as cuisine types.
Setting the date
Another vitally important aspect of cultural Inclusion is to hold the event on a date that isn’t in any religious calendar; there are significant dates that you may not be aware of, but this can be fixed with a little Googling.
Cultural Inclusion can starts visually and goes much deeper. For example, if you are using pictures of people in your advertising, select people that represent the industry, subject of the event, local demographic and intended market. Using diverse people in your photographic advertising will show who you are reaching out to.
Be culturally aware
Be aware of cultural customs in greetings, politeness and social etiquette. It’s ok to make mistakes, but if you and your team can show a genuine awareness of multiple cultures in the way you interact with your guests, you will show that you really mean business when it comes to diversity.
Avoiding gendering your event
In addition to the restrooms mentioned above, refer to people as a whole, rather than segregating according to traditional genders, and consider the dress code – a black tie event may be insensitive to people who do not consider themselves traditionally male or female.
5. Speak the right language
Language is a massive include and excluder. Understanding the event almost entirely relies on verbal and written language. To this end, include multiple languages in your event signage, advertising (if possible), literature and spoken word.
Employing stewards and staff who can speak foreign languages or Auslan will go a long way to making your guests feel welcome, included and oriented.
Use signers, interpreters, linguists and braille to really push your messages home. Having a T-loop available will also help those who are hard of hearing.
6. Ask questions
A good idea is to get your guests to fill out a form, so they can express their preferred pronouns, their food requirements and any specific needs they would like addressed. This is especially important for any person living with a disability, as they might benefit from some help in reaching and enjoying the event. A fantastic way to improve going forward is to ask guests to fill out a post-event survey, to establish what has worked well and what hasn’t.
The key thing is to be aware that we are all different and be open to suggestion, change and constructive criticism.
7. Be authentic
Further than this though, rather than just trying to be inclusive and diverse because it’s the ‘done’ thing, live and breathe Inclusion throughout your planning. Doing this will reap enormous personal, professional and commercial rewards in the long run. There are many more ways to make your event more inclusive than we have space here to discuss, but we have boiled down the main points for you to consider. Have a look around the web and see what other Inclusion aspects you can add to your event.
If you want to learn more about ways in which differently abled people and elderly people can benefit from a more inclusive world, visit ConnectAbility, and NDIS funded Support Network of people who are driven to help those who might need an extra helping hand. Check out the services they offer and see how you can integrate some of these elements in your event planning.