Inclusion, Diversity & Accessibility Within The Events Industry

Posted by Sophia Duplin

 

In this blog post we will cover:

Addressing Racism and Inequality in the Events Industry 

 

Racism & inequality is apparent in all of our socio-economic systems and structures, and the events industry is no exception - especially when it comes to professional events for corporates and associations. Representation within business, to begin with, displays statistics of stark inequality:

 



Industry participation by gender, sex and race groups graph

 

 

LGBTQ+ women and men by management level graphs



It is no surprise that representation of diverse populations in the corporate and professional events is any better. Black individuals represent less than 1% of the leadership roles for companies that focus on delivering events. 

 

Miatta David Johnson, president, co-founder and CEO of MVD Inc - an event production and media relations firm - speaks about diversity within the events industry, “Racial diversity is not only crucial but essential in the event, meetings, and experiential marketing space - from the vendors you choose to work with to the executives that fill your C-suite down to your staff. Events are about human connection. These gatherings are direct to consumer, and the event experience should reflect the world we live in. Black firms have the capacity and duality to speak to all audiences.” 

 

Another events professional, Anika D. Grant, founder and CEO of Idlewild Experiential, a New York-based company focusing on live events, shares some words on diversity and racism within the events industry, “As an industry, we are doing a disservice to our clients by not seeking out racial diversity in vendors we choose, staff we hire and venues we choose to activate within. We have the ability to diversify this ecosystem, even if our clients are not demanding it. Racial diversity is crucial because, without it, our industry is missing out on the innovative approaches and perspectives that vendors from different racial backgrounds can bring.”



Going Virtual 

We believe everyone should have access to the enriching content, networking opportunities and learning experiences that come along with attending any event, in-person or virtual, especially audiences that have not traditionally had equitable opportunities. 

 

After Covid-19 forced abrupt changes to large-scale gatherings, the world has been pleasantly surprised by some of the benefits of going virtual.  There are several reasons why virtual and hybrid events are here to stay, one of them being increased inclusion, diversity and accessibility. 

 

But what happens when your organization can only afford to send its top executives? Or you have a disability and traveling to and attending an event is not practical? Or you don’t have the capital to afford an event ticket and travel costs? Or you live in a different country and it is not reasonable to travel internationally just to attend the event?

 

Going virtual can help to solve these problems. 

 

When choosing between in-person or virtual when organizing an event, consider the benefits of increased diversity, inclusion and accessibility of delivering on an online platform - we’ve outlined some reasons below why this is the case. 

 

Access for International and Distanced Audiences

Potential audience members who live far distances from the location of your event would likely run into many hindrances to attending. Hefty costs of travel and lodging, whether that be domestic or international, would unquestionably have to be justified. Organizations and individuals likely do not have an overflowing budget to send their employees to events in far away locations and for days at a time. 

 

But that does not mean that attending those events would not provide surmountable value to those individuals and the organizations that they are a part of. By delivering your event on an online platform, you are able to charge similar, if not a bit cheaper, prices for the cost of a ticket, without requiring your attendees pay any extra costs for travel and lodging. This can dramatically reduce the cost of attending for your audience members. 

 

Audiences are able to log in to these events no matter where in the world they are working and living. Organizations no longer have to worry about an employee being absent for a week at a time, account for lost productivity during travel time or pay for additional expenses. 

 

Virtual event organizers will likely see an uptick in the international and distanced audiences that will now be registering for and attending their event. They will see increased diversity of the demographics, perspectives and experiences of their attendees, creating a richer intellectual environment for everyone who is attending. 

 

Harvard Business Review assesses recent medical conferences that had been delivered online due to Covid-19 social distancing restrictions: “Participants at both IMAST and the SRS Annual Meeting included many who might have had difficulty attending an in-person meeting because of geographic or financial constraints, among them residents, fellows, and surgeons from developing countries.”



Interactive Features Assist with Language Barriers

Not only does going virtual improve the ability for diverse audiences to register and attend the event, utilizing an online platform might improve the quality of the experience itself for those attendees. 

 

Virtual platforms will have interactive features like chat rooms, Q&A, live polling, etc. Attendees who are participating in the event using their second or third language may find assistance in utilizing these features.

 

In the same HBR article, it is explained that “learners may in fact be more engaged than they might have been at an in-person meeting because of the available interactive chat and Q&A functions. In years past, younger surgeons and those with language barriers have often been more reluctant than others to come to the microphone in a large auditorium, but this year they frequently engaged in the online discussion during presentations.”

 

Going virtual is also great for hearing-impaired and international attendees because of CART features. CART & Closed Captioning will give a visual aid for those who may not be able to auditorily digest content and information. 

 

People who historically wouldn’t be able to attend expensive and time-consuming events now have access to networking and eLearning opportunities to advance themselves personally and professionally. Read: Best Practices for Making Your Virtual Event and Listing More Inclusive. 

 

Online platforms can empower people with language barriers, disabilities or who might just be shy to be a part of the conversation and participate fully in the event. These individuals can find increased opportunities to engage by certain virtual functionalities that break down some barriers in allowing them to grow, learn and expand their network. 



Virtual Event Tickets Are Often More Affordable

Event organizers who go virtual will often have a huge shift in what their budget looks like. Although a quality and capable virtual event software will still cost a sizable amount of money, organizers will see significantly reduced costs in venue, catering, security and amenities they would traditionally have to pay for. 

 

Event organizers often see a reallocation of funds when going virtual. They will be able to afford higher caliber speakers - and also ones that come from all over the world. They will also likely be able to sell more tickets and lock down a larger audience because of the great accessibility of a virtual experience. 

 

Less costs + more tickets sold = larger profit margins. By scaling the event and reducing costs, event organizers are able to cut ticket prices while still maintaining to break even or even increase their profits. 

 

By selling more affordable ticket prices, you are increasing the accessibility for audience members who might not have had the capital to attend. Part-time workers, low-income individuals, budding entrepreneurs and even retirees might be able to now join your event. Going virtual allows you to increase accessibility and expand opportunities to these communities without affecting your bottom line. 

 

Making Your Event More Diverse and Inclusive 

Understanding the current state of diversity and representation within the industry is merely the first step. Awareness and pledges of commitment only go so far in actually making positive change. Here are some actionable steps you can take to making your event more diverse and inclusive:

 

  • Start With a Diverse Organizing Committee - An essential way to ensure that diverse opinions and perspectives are represented throughout the entirety of your event is to put individuals from BIPOC communities in decision-making and leadership roles. 
  • Curate Speakers Appropriately - Your speakers are “the face of your event or webinar,” and if you want to show that you are committed to diversity and inclusion, start at the top of the funnel with who you choose to deliver prominent messages and keynote speeches.
  • Choose a Virtual Events Platform that is Browser-Based - Not all potential attendees will have the same access to technology. If you want to ensure accessibility to all of your attendees, it is wise to choose an event platform that does not require any plug-ins, downloads or extensions, as they are not always compatible with all operating systems.
  • Ensure your Registration Page Has the Right Message - When creating a registration page for your event, you want to make sure that you are using inclusive language and rhetoric that will be sure to make all audiences feel as though they are welcomed to your event. Make sure to add additional resources and bits of information about services, like CART accessibility, that you are incorporating. 

 

While these actions are necessary to ensure a diverse and inclusive event, we want to note that you should be careful to avoid tokenism when committing to these actions. Tokenism, by definition, means “the policy or practice of making only a symbolic effort.” Essentially, you must avoid hiring a few black, LGBTQ+, or other minority group individuals and checking “diversity” off of your list. Approaching diversity and inclusion needs to be taken with a holistic and honest approach. You must continue to audit your organization and ask for feedback from diverse communities. 

 

We hope that event organizers find success with what going virtual can do to lower barriers of access to events and create learning and networking opportunities that are not so unattainable and exclusive as they have traditionally been. 

 

We are by no means asserting that virtual events will solve the issue of racism and non-inclusivity within our systems and corporate structures, but we do hope that it will help in creating more equitable opportunities for people all over the world and in every rank and position to have access to professional development, networking, learning and growth opportunities. 

 

BizBash recently put together this list of resources to promote diversity and anti-racism in the event industry: 

 

Associations

The National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals

African American Marketing Association

National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators & Developers 

International Association of Hispanic Meeting Professionals

The National Society of Black Wedding and Event Professionals: In June 2020, a group of event pros introduced a national directory of event planners, designers, photographers, florists, stationers, caterers, DJs, makeup artists, entertainers, pastry chefs, rental companies, educations, and more. The society, which launches soon, is accepting membership applications now. 

National Events Council: Launched in August 2020, the National Events Council is an organization providing advocacy, research, awareness, and support to BIPOC Business Professionals operating within the event industry.

 

Education and Resources

Black-Owned Resources for Experiential & Live Events Industry: a continuously updating Google Doc created by Anika Grant of Idlewild Experiential

Diversity Check-In Template: This form letter is meant to ensure racial diversity in industry panels, workshops, styled shoots, and similar events. The Black Table: This is a platform for Black event professionals, which recently released a statement on how the event industry, brands, and decision-makers can support Black event professionals.

Ethos West Collective: Launched in June, the collective highlights West Coast-based Black professionals in the wedding and event space.

Brides: The publication has pulled together a list of over 100 Black-owned wedding businesses to support, from planners to photographers to floral designers. 

JuneBug Weddings: The wedding-planning resource created a list of 200 Black wedding pros to follow on Instagram.

AdAge: An updating list of how various brands are responding to racial injustice


 

Topics: Accessibility & Social Impact, Event Planning, Virtual Events, Virtual Events: Best Practices

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