10 ways to create a more inclusive event

Expert Opinion
10 ways to create a more inclusive event

Nicole WalkerArinex managing director, Nicole Walker (pictured), uses case studies to identify 10 ways the events industry can improve its inclusivity.

As event organisers, sustainability means that we often focus on environmental aspects of events, but social capital – referring to diversity, equity, access and inclusion – is another important sustainability pillar.

Diverse and inclusive events consider various aspects including age, mental and physical ability, culture, religion, gender identity and language.

1) Create a diverse managing committee 

Starting here will ensure a broad mix of opinions, ideas, and perspectives – reducing unconscious bias. Diversity could include gender, culture, qualifications and experience, age, and ability.

Set key objectives for the event around diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion. A well-planned and promoted inclusive event will attract more attendees and foster positivity

2) Plan diverse and inclusive content

To create an inclusive program, it’s important to consider the purpose of your event and its audience. Are the topics diverse enough to appeal to a range of attendees? Does the speaker line-up include different perspectives or do the criteria need to be reconsidered?

Consider different learning styles and communication. Engage audiences by including presentations, panel discussions, videos, workshops and breakout sessions, interactive posters or field trips.

Event Case Study: International Conference on the Physics of Semiconductors 2022 (ICPS)
Objective: To include more women and students in the conference.

Actions:

  • The Organising Committee comprised 50% women.
  • Gender diversity was prioritised in the speaker selection process.
  • A new equity, diversity and inclusion panel session was created.
  • A networking breakfast saw successful women in the field provide career advice.
  • Discounted student pricing was offered and grants for student attendance were provided.
  • Attending school students met keynote speakers and gained insight into science careers.

3) Maximise the registration process 

Registration is an ideal time to communicate your values and goals around inclusion. By maximising this opportunity, organisers can secure more attendees and observe their needs and expectations.

Establishing dietary and mobility requirements, accommodation needs, and gender identification in advance will help to make attendees feel welcome and reduce last-minute workarounds. Additionally, offering a variety of registration rates (i.e., student and day-only rates) make your event accessible to a broader audience.

AusPATH

The Australian Professional Association for Trans Health Conference 2022 (AusPATH)

Event Case Study: The Australian Professional Association for Trans Health Conference 2022 (AusPATH)
Objective: To improve inclusivity.

Actions:

  • Scholarships were offered for transgender locals to attend, specifically those from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and/or current students.
  • Organisers included the option to add pronouns and gender-neutral titles on name badges.
  • Organisers ensured there was gender-neutral toilet signage.
  • Organisers educated venue staff on trans inclusion and gender terms ahead of the event.
  • The local transgender community were invited to enter a conference logo design competition.

4) Partner with like-minded sponsors, exhibitors and suppliers

Consider partnering with those that represent your values or actively promote diversity and inclusion within their businesses.

In addition, event organisers can create more inclusive supply chains by utilising businesses that are local to the event.

5) Throw out the one-size-fits-all approach

Use the information gained from attendees during registration to meet their needs and preferences as much as your resources will allow – this will prevent the event design from excluding delegates.

Catering at the 14th biennial AGOSCI National Conference

Language and sign language translation can be introduced to meet attendees’ needs, along with gender-neutral toilet facilities, family services (i.e., on-site daycare), varied food options, and quiet work, study, or religious practice spaces.

Organisers may also consider virtual or hybrid options to include attendees that cannot travel to the event or require live captioning.

Event Case Study: 17th Conference of the International Association of Colloid and Interface Scientists 2022 (IACIS)
Objective: Support family life

Action: Program timings were redesigned to run from 11.00 am – 6.30 pm daily. This allowed local delegates to fulfil family responsibilities such as school drop-offs before attending – which contributed to the event’s strong attendance.

6) Prioritise accessible venues

According to the Australian Government, about 4.4 million people in Australia have a disability, including physical disabilities (such as people with mobility, vision and hearing difficulties) and people with psychiatric, intellectual and neurological disabilities and disorders.

Organisers should also think about potential barriers to participation. Here, an accessibility expert that liaises with the organiser and venues can help ensure all requirements are met – such as adapting the event program or including more frequent breaks.

Therefore, choose venues and accommodation that meet the accessibility requirements of all speakers, attendees, staff, exhibitors, and entertainers.

Event Case Study: The 14th biennial AGOSCI National Conference
Objective: To be accessible for more than 400 members with complex communication needs.

Actions:

  • Organisers undertook communication access training.
  • A code of conduct was developed to ensure a welcoming experience.
  • Changes to the conference format and floorplan removed attendance barriers.
  • Key documents were translated into easy English and conversation cards were produced.
  • Quiet rooms and change rooms were provided for stretching and time out.
  • Wider aisles and lower tables ensured access for wheelchair users.
  • Food blending stations were available in catering areas.
  • Charging stations were designed for wheelchair accessibility.

7) Cater to more than just taste

Dietary requirements are the most obvious consideration when catering events. Any dietary and allergy information must be collected from attendees during registration and taken into account.

Most venues are equipped to meet a range of dietary needs, but labelling food and beverages can also help delegates plan their food options. Additionally, be mindful of religious or cultural considerations around food and alcohol, and if there is space for eating together or privately if needed.

8) Communicate your values

Communicate your objective across all touchpoints such as the website, registration form, social media, marketing material, and media activity to foster inclusivity. Communication extends beyond words, so ensure any imagery reflects your messaging and represents your target audience.

Would the event benefit from a statement or code of conduct on inclusion that all attendees can easily understand? This could include written and video content in plain English with subtitles or translation.

Encourage two-way communication by providing easy feedback on your inclusive initiatives.

Event Case Study: The Australian Professional Association for Trans Health Conference 2022 (AusPATH)
Objective: Communicate with the local transgender community, especially LGBTQI+ Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander peoples (known as brotherboys and sistergirls).

Action: The conference homepage included a statement: “We welcome all trans (binary and non-binary) people in the community to attend, and we especially welcome Sistergirls and Brotherboys. We also welcome all doctors-in-training, and parents of trans (binary and non-binary) youth.”

9) Evaluation

Where possible, measure how the event performed against goals or objectives for inclusion, such as tracking the diversity of speakers and delegates. Seek feedback to determine what worked and what needs improving.

10) Leave a legacy

Creating your event’s legacy will ensure efforts to improve diversity, equity, access and inclusion have a long-term impact. This can relate to how the event is organised such as:

  • Making inclusive processes standard for future events or establishing diversity amongst the managing committee and invited speakers.
  • Establishing a scholarship program to ensure the event remains accessible to underrepresented groups.
  • Partnering with local institutions to undertake research
  • Running an aligned event or project involving the local community
  • Supporting a relevant charity.

In taking these steps, your event can be an educational tool for the industry to learn about diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion.

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