Words You Should Stop Using in the Events Industry — and Everywhere: Part Two

June 28, 2023

Daria Knupp

Daria Knupp is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at A2Z Events by Personify. Knupp has spent most of her career in the association world handling content creation and digital marketing and recently decided to take that expertise to the events industry. She is currently working on obtaining her CEM designation and is an active member of IAEE.

As the world becomes increasingly aware of the power of language and its potential to perpetuate biases and stereotypes, we must examine the words we use daily. This is especially important in the events industry, where we have an obligation to create inclusive and welcoming environments for all attendees, exhibitors, partners and more.

In part two of our series, we’ll explore additional words and phrases that are common in the events industry but have negative historical connotations or promote exclusivity. From the insensitive use of “manhours” to the problematic term “grandfathered-in,” let’s dive into how our language can shape our attitudes and actions and how we can make a positive change.

Grandfathered In 

“Grandfathered in” is a word commonly used in conferences and events to refer to policies, prices or processes exempted from new rules, regulations or standards. However, the word has negative historical connotations because it originated from the Jim Crow era when laws aimed at excluding African Americans from voting were passed in several states. The term originated from a clause that allowed whites to bypass voting restrictions such as literacy tests if they or their male ancestors were allowed to vote before 1867. Using this term in today’s day and age is insensitive and offensive. 

Consider: exempt, pre-existing, legacy or vested instead.

Manhours 

It is high time that we discard the term “manhours” from our vocabulary. While it may have been an acceptable term in the past, it is now outdated and insensitive. Many event services are charged by the hour. By referring to work hours as “manhours,” we are perpetuating the notion that men are the only ones who contribute to the workforce. This is simply not true.

Consider: work hours, labor hours or person hours instead. 

No Can Do

This phrase may seem harmless and even a bit playful, but the origin of “no can do” is deeply rooted in the history of discrimination and exclusion toward Chinese immigrants in the U.S. during the 19th century. At the time, Chinese immigrants were subject to harsh working conditions and faced many obstacles when seeking time off or requesting accommodations. This phrase, which was a way to mock the way immigrants spoke English, was often used by non-Chinese supervisors to dismiss the requests and concerns of those immigrants who were working on railroad projects during the California Gold Rush.

Consider: “Unfortunately, that’s not possible” or “I’m unable to make that happen.”

Tone-Deaf

The term “tone-deaf” is actually a condition that affects a person’s ability to identify and distinguish between musical tones. While the origins of “tone-deaf” may lie in a medical condition, the term has taken on a broader cultural meaning over time. It is now commonly used to describe someone who may unintentionally offend or hurt others with their lack of sensitivity or awareness toward social issues or cultural differences. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the medical condition of amusia is a separate issue from insensitivity and that the term “tone-deaf” should not be used to stigmatize or marginalize those with amusia.

Consider: insensitive, lacking empathy or unaware instead. 

Long Time, No See

With many events only happening once a year, it’s fascinating how seemingly harmless and warm greetings can often have roots in derogatory origins. “Long time, no see” is another perfect example of such a greeting. During the 19th century, as mentioned earlier, Chinese immigrants were often the victims of discrimination and faced a hostile environment in America. Their language and way of speaking were mocked, and many phrases and expressions from their language were co-opted into English for ridicule. “Long time, no see” was one such phrase that originated from the Chinese phrase "好久不见" (hǎo jiǔ bù jiàn). 

Consider: “It’s been a while,” “Nice to see you” or “How have you been?”

Non-White

Sometimes used in event registration forms as an easy way to differentiate people based on skin color, using the term “non-white” is problematic for several reasons. First, it implies that whiteness is the default or norm, which can alienate people of color. Second, it lumps all people who aren’t white into one category, ignoring the diversity and cultural differences within communities that are not white. Instead of using this term, it’s better to be specific about someone’s racial or ethnic identity if necessary. 

Consider: person of color, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) or diverse instead.

Differently-abled 

While this description may seem politically correct, it perpetuates negative stereotypes about people with disabilities. It implies that individuals with disabilities are “less than” or require special treatment rather than being seen as capable individuals who may have different needs.

Consider: people with disabilities or individuals with diverse abilities instead.

Blindspot/Turn a Blind Eye

It is easy to see how event organizers can use these while discussing aspects of their event. However, it can also be a metaphor for a person’s inability to see their biases or prejudices. This term is considered offensive to individuals with physical impairments and may have a literal “blindspot” in their vision. Additionally, it perpetuates the harmful stereotype that individuals who are blind or visually impaired are less capable or intelligent. 

Consider: hidden area, obscured zone or narrow focus instead.

Normal 

This word may seem safe, but it can be quite exclusionary. Using “normal” to describe something implies that anything different is abnormal or inferior, and this can be hurtful to those who don’t fit into societal norms or expectations. Moreover, the idea of a universal “normal” is a fallacy. Diversity is the norm! 

Consider: common, typical or standard instead.

Does That Make Sense? 

As event professionals, we often use the phrase “Does that make sense?” to ensure everyone is on the same page. However, this phrase can be condescending or dismissive of someone’s intelligence. It is increasingly important to use language that is both inclusive and respectful. 

Consider: “Do you have any questions or thoughts on this?” or “Is there anything I can clarify for you?” 

In conclusion, our words have the power to uplift and include or to marginalize and exclude. As event professionals, we must be conscious of the language we use and its impact on our colleagues, attendees and guests. By choosing more inclusive and sensitive language, we can foster a culture of diversity, equality and collaboration — at events and beyond.


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Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact