Inclusivity In Event Planning

April 13, 2022

Sohini Mitra

Sohini Mitra is Vice President of Account Management at Impact XM, a leading experiential marketing agency. An industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience, she has spent her career fostering team development and empowering her staff to exceed client expectations on a daily basis. From her humble start in association management through her recent triumphs at experiential marketing agencies, Mitra possesses a thirst for knowledge, training and listening.

Let’s play a game. Close your eyes. I am going to say a word. Tell me the first thing that pops into your head. "Inclusivity." Go! 

Oddly enough, for many people, the first thing that pops into their minds when thinking about inclusivity is race or ethnicity. Maybe that’s because of the current state of the world, but as an event industry professional, I want you to expand your horizons and think of all the different categories like gender, language, religion, ability, sexual orientation and more. The list is endless. If we start to engage with a variety of people, the events we plan can touch more lives and help spread our messages to a larger audience.

How events can be more inclusive.

There are a few different things you can do when planning your event to make them more inclusive. The first would be to lead by example. Curate a team of diverse individuals who can bring their experiences to the table and help shape the event. Having a variety of voices when crafting an experience allows for a more authentic environment that simply can’t be faked. Your attendees will be able to sniff out an imposter. Other ideas can include having diverse speakers, vendors, and sponsors at your event.

How to promote diversity and inclusion at events.

Depending on the scope, you can offer a variety of culinary experiences, panels and sessions with various speakers, or select a venue that is accessible which can include variable costs of admission, ADA compliance or convenience to public transportation. It’s important to remember that to promote diversity and inclusion at the event, you need to make sure you are focusing on it pre- and post-event, as well.

How inclusive language during pre-event promotion can impact an event’s turnout.

Communication is key. When prospective attendees can see the steps you are taking to create an inclusive environment, it reinforces the true message. Be sure to keep imagery and iconography in mind when designing your event. Representation matters, so look to create promotional items such as websites, digital advertising, social media posts, mailers and more with artwork that is inclusive and diverse.  

How events can be more accessible.

I think a key takeaway from the pandemic has been the rise of virtual or hybrid events. Many times, travel costs, time away from family and work or health concerns can keep interested attendees away from events. Allowing people to attend specific sessions remotely, offering tiered pricing for different registrations levels, and making sure venues are catering to a variety of disabilities helps open the event to a larger demographic. The more people who can attend while still being in their comfort zone means more people will be able to internalize your messages.

How the digital divide plays an active part in limiting event participation for virtual and/or hybrid events.

I’ll point out another aspect of our society that the pandemic illuminated: the digital divide. So many people take the internet and electronic devices for granted. When the pandemic shut down the schools, many kids were initially excited about the prospect of staying home and being on their laptops or tablets. But the sad truth is that many people don’t have access to high-speed internet or dependable devices, and it’s not just limited to students. Not having reliable internet service or equipment means a lot of the workforce is missing out on amazing content they cannot access. This is a problem that affects both rural and urban communities alike.

At the end of the day, it’s better for our organizations and businesses to invite all people to be a part of the journey. The more diverse and inclusive companies can be, the more it allows for light to shine on more and more stories and experiences. And don’t get discouraged if you haven’t been following some of these best practices, you can still start making a difference today. I remember watching Saturday morning cartoons as a kid and I still remember the tag line, “The More You Know,” where every week you learned something new. That’s what diversity and inclusion can do for us long after we finished that bowl of sugary cereal while dreaming of being a superhero saving humanity. 

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