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October 28, 2019

How should event organisers create more diverse events? Here are a few tips to keep in mind!

A recent study by Bizzabo revealed that 70% of event speakers at events across the world are male.

This is just one example of a larger challenge that the events industry faces. When it comes to diversity—both of gender and otherwise—there’s a lot of work to be done. But, there’s a lot that event organisers and event venues can start doing right now.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Diversity

Diversity is about more than just societal expectations. A diverse group of individuals from different background brings a diverse array of insights. For those in the events spaces, it also means bringing in more attendees. “You don’t want to walk into a room and of 300 people there are two women or two African-Americans,” says Audra Bohannon, senior partner for workforce performance, inclusion and diversity at Korn Ferry, Boston. “That sends a message…it seems like the organisation is not interested in people like me.”

Of course, diversity is much more than just race and ethnicity. It includes people of different ages, physical abilities, genders, education levels, and more. Fortunately, at every step of the event organisation process, there are more opportunities than ever for event organisers and event venues to promote diversity.

1. Provide Event Scholarships

Before an event even starts, more organisations are doing a better job of lowering the barriers of entry. Not all attendees are going to have the funds it takes to register for, travel to, and stay near an event. Event organisers should consider offering diversity scholarships to tap into groups that otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend. In 2016, Apple offered 350 Scholarships to students and STEM organisation members for its Worldwide Developers Conference. Out of those 350 recipients, 125 received assistance for their travel needs, as well. Remember, many event venues work with nearby hotels to offer more affordable accommodation!

2. Cast A Wider Net For Attendees

When it comes to getting attendees to your event, it’s important to look beyond your backyard. Prior attendees will definitely remain valuable when promoting future events, but aside from them who else can you reach out to?

3. Offer Flexible Event Registration Options

At the event registration screen, there are a number of opportunities to make sure that all of your attendees feel included. One trend that may help is the option of a gender neutral prefix (Mx.), in addition to the standard options of Mr., Mrs. or Ms.

4. Incorporate Sessions On Diversity

One of the best ways to make diversity front and centre at your event is to dedicate a session or panel to it. Over the past several years, diversity panels and sessions have become increasingly popular. When holding them, there are several things to keep in mind

  1. Make sure that the speakers who compose your diversity panel are actually diverse.
  2. Make sure that your panel speakers are involved with other programming, as well. Your speakers and attendees will be able to smell it if you’re subscribing to Rent-a-Minority lip service.
  3. Be deliberate with your diversity programming. Asking why diversity is important is just the beginning. How can you dive into a novel, deeper conversation?
  4. Above all, think of how you can extend the conversation outside of your conference venue’s walls and to the future. The conversations can’t just stop once the session does.
5. Feature Diverse Speakers

Today, an all-male panel can be the kiss of death for an event. In fact, there’s now a Tumblr account dedicated to documenting “all male panels, seminars, events, and various other things featuring all male experts.” The account features event images stamped with a picture of David Hasselhoff giving a thumbs up.

Most event organisers probably have bigger fears than finding their event on a satirical Tumblr profile, but these Hasselhoff stamps further illustrate the need for diversity on panels. In fact, a number of pieces have been recently published asking male speakers to boycott speaking on all-male panels. Owen Barder, Director of the Centre for Global Development Europe, has even created a public online form for individuals to pledge not to be a part of all-male panels. It currently has racked up over 1,000 names.

Again, having diversity on panels isn’t about appearances. It’s about bringing a diverse array of content to your conference space and making more of your attendees feel welcome.

6. Own Up to Mistakes

As the events industry hurdles towards a more diverse future, it’s inevitable that individuals and organisations will have room for improvement. When this happens, it’s important to own up to it. Oversights are inevitable,what’s important is recognising when improvements can be made, and implementing them as soon as possible.

Wrapping Up:

There’s a lot more to be done towards making events diverse and inclusive. As those in the events space continue to work towards inclusion we must be extremely mindful of our intentions behind it.

SOURCE: The Bizzabo Blog – Brandon Rafalson


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