If there was one trend that we noted across all industries in 2018, it was the courage shown by the perpetually silenced and oppressed as they fought to be heard. People of all stripes joined in the movement against systemic sexism, racism, and abuse, challenging seemingly untouchable organizations and figures. From the Oscars Red Carpet to boardrooms across the nation, big names were calling for big changes as issues received widespread attention and criticism. The first take/two newsletter of 2019 is all about diversity in events. We explore how meeting planners can be more inclusive this year, and get into the habit of planning events in which everyone can feel represented and welcome.

Men still outnumber women 2-to-1 as speakers at conferences. (click to tweet)

Organize a diversity symposium

Many of the association events we promote accept abstracts that discuss strategies for increasing inclusion in their respective industries. This legitimizes the topic and allows everyone in attendance to bring home a fresh perspective on diversity. Some examples include the “People and Communities” stream at the CIM 2019 Convention, which seeks to give a voice to all communities and actors involved in mining. The Metallurgy and Materials Society of CIM organizes “Women in STEM” projects that inspire more women to be active in this male-dominated industry. In the medical sphere, the Société Internationale d’Urologie organizes the Nurses’ Symposium that brings attention to the critical and often underappreciated role these professionals play in providing patient care.

“If we don’t look like the world, then how can we serve the world?”

Assemble a roster of diverse speakers

Having speakers that represent multiple racial and ethnic groups goes a long way towards increasing representation and diversity in events. But to foster true diversity among your speakers, look for variety in age, gender, physical ability, and experience. Make sure that diverse speakers play a large role at the event: avoid all-male panels, for instance. To understand what communities you are serving at your events, collect data on the makeup of your attendees and trace its evolution.

It happens in #MeetingsToo

40% of meeting planners believe that those involved with the meetings industry are even more at risk for sexual harassment than those in the working world at large.

We would be remiss if we did not mention the prevalence of sexual harassment in the events industry. We encourage all meeting planners to take this issue seriously and put measures in place to minimize the risk of it happening at your next event. Some of these include limiting alcohol and having staff work in pairs or in groups. When anyone comes forward with a claim, ensure to investigate the matter thoroughly. Take a stand on this issue during the pre-event stage to make it clear that your event has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment, which will increase awareness and allow delegates to feel more comfortable during the conference.

Sarah Soliman Daudin, DES, co-architect of the #MeetingsToo movement, recommends that these policies be worked into the contingency plan ahead of any event:

“Each team member should know the proper course of action should a claim arise onsite. There should be one dedicated individual from a team that takes the lead on any claims by working with the victim, contacting the organization’s attorney to open an investigation/review, speak with the person being accused, gather evidence, etc.”

Sarah, along with Courtney Stanley, owner of CS Consulting, are looking forward to continuing the #MeetingsToo movement in the future. Check out the webinar they co-hosted together to see what actionable steps organizations and individuals can take to get ahead of the issue.

Financial assistance increases diversity in events

Is the price of admission holding back delegates that lack the financial means to attend? Consider offering some assistance in the form of scholarships or special rates for delegates that come from developing countries to increase diversity. Don’t forget about students, who are the future of your industry. At the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, scholarships are awarded to students 13 years of age or older who demonstrate high ingenuity.

Fostering diversity online

The internet has given a voice to so many underrepresented groups. Social media is making it easier than ever to get a feel for their experience and directly address their concerns. When you’re preparing your deep content strategy, look beyond your industry’s big stars and create video and blog content that injects the opinions of ambassadors of change. If you come across an activist hashtag like #WomenInSTEM or #ILookLikeAUrologist, do a little digging to find the influencers with relevance and resonance in the community and reach out to them. By using an event influencer marketing platform like snöball, you can recruit your own event’s participants and give them an awesome platform to promote their presence, no matter who they are! Pledge to be at the forefront of change this year and work towards increasing diversity in your events.

Get in touch if you want to get a better sensov/ how to foster diversity in your next event.

Justin Mulfati
Justin Mulfati