Diversity and inclusion spans much farther than promoting diverse speakers and having vegan catering options at the lunch table. If there is anything the COVID-19 pandemic taught us (besides washing your hands), it’s that we want to strive to be together. The rise of virtual event technology has made inclusion for some easier. Diversity and inclusion should be less about checking the box on your marketing materials and more about how we can make the industry better.
Let’s look at a few ways we can ensure a diverse and inclusive environment for our attendees and other event profs.
Diversity in Events
Speakers & Audience Diversity:
In 2020, Forbes conducted a survey that found that, globally, nearly two-thirds of speakers were still men. Panels, on the other hand, seem to be a space where event planners allow for more diversity on stage. In EventMB’s 2020 research, they found 99% of panels included at least one female speaker. That number drops to 86% for BIPOC representation and only 67% included Black speakers. Shockingly, still, 35-40% of events did not have one Black speaker.
In a research paper conducted by Meetings & Incentive Travel at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in April of 2020, M&IT discovered that out of 600+ attendees to a global conferencing network, 82% of respondents were white.
Why does this matter? There are a lot of reasons, truly, but equality on stage, even just for events, helps us to combat unconscious bias in the workplace. When you increase exposure to currently underrepresented groups and counter stereotypes, you allow for new outlooks, ideas, and innovation to flourish, thus changing the eventing game. Your speaker line-up should be as diverse as your audience is reaching, and with the rise of virtual events, your audience just got a lot bigger!
The more diverse your internal team is, the more diversity you will be able to find in partners, speakers, topics, and suppliers, as well.
With a community of speakers from different backgrounds, your session topics should reflect this.
Leadership sessions, for example, can be complemented by offering sessions presented on how to break down ceilings and barriers for women in the workplace.
Accessibility in Events
Accessibility ranges from socio-economic status, religious status, political status, temporary, and permanent disabilities. For some accessibility concerns, they can be met and rectified by having translations available in your event tech, like with Wordly. This creates a sense of community among your global audience. With virtual events now more accessible than ever, your English-speaking presenter can communicate directly with their Japanese-speaking audience member, and vice-versa, directly through the event platform.
Everyone wants to go back to live events – this is no secret, but it’s hard to deny how accessible virtual and hybrid events are for your global audience. They’re easier on companies’ wallets, as well. No longer do you need to factor in food stipends, hotel and travel costs, PLUS the hefty price of an entrance ticket. Often, most sessions are available for a reasonable fee to more attendees than ever before. This means that your event has the potential to reach 100% more professionals!
Accessibility for live events includes, but is not limited to, ensuring ramps are available for use, having translated menus and brochures available, closed captions, assisted listening devices, or sign-language translators on stage with the speakers, safety procedures for disease control, and more. Most venues now also have prayer rooms available for religious services and private rooms available for new mothers. For live and hybrid events, accessibility can be determined before the event by asking your attendees non-invasive questions and providing a point of contact when they get on-site or into the virtual platform who can assist them. Ensure all attendees have the same access by having resources available for them at the venue, no matter if they disclose before attending. These are just a few steps in the right direction of accessibility and inclusivity.
Education on Accessibility and Diversity
Arguably, the most important aspect of an inclusive event starts with your team. Your presenters, speakers, moderators, and support staff should be made aware of your commitment to inclusivity and diversity, as well as proper ways to assist. Speakers can help by keeping accessibility in mind, including offering their presentations to watch after the live session. As the host, submitting a checklist to your speakers in advance to help them create an engaging environment. Ask the presenters if they’d be comfortable with printing out slides for attendees if they ask, and to avoid using small print on their presentations. Have team members on site who can help with these items, too. For example, train the moderator to repeat the question during live Q&A sessions either live and hybrid or virtual.
Diversity and inclusion add to the entire event industry. When more professionals have access, can engage with the event, and have a safe space to offer opinions, experiences, and insights, the industry grows to its fullest potential. As event profs, we should do everything in our power to make events accessible and available to everyone.
To learn more about what MeetingPlay + Aventri can offer, schedule a demo today and let us help you bring your event to your global communities.