In South Africa, we should all know about the importance of creating diverse events – in this respect we are a little ahead of the international market who only now seem to be waking up to this idea. However, knowing we should and doing are sometimes two different things, so it’s worth taking a quick look at the various ways you can make sure your events are inclusive.
Build up a diverse team
Your staff bring a range of perspectives, ideas and opinions to the table. However, if all your staff are young white females, for example, they are likely to share a number of similar views. A more diverse team, on the other hand, will have more diverse views – which is a huge benefit for you as an event planner, as you gain a far broader insight into the whole population, including your potential event attendees. Plus, greater diversity in a team has also been shown to inspire greater creativity and flexibility.
A few examples in how a diverse team can benefit you:
- Experienced staff have a lot of know-how, but can get stuck in their ways. Having some younger team members will ensure fresh and challenging ideas are put forward – while the experienced staff will probably be able to ensure the good ideas are implemented effectively.
- If you have staff with disabilities, they’ll be more likely to notice if a venue or event design is not accessible.
- Staff from different religions will remember religious dates so you won’t plan your events then, which could deter some people from attending.
Invite a diverse audience
This should seem obvious, but if you want certain people to attend your event, you need to invite them and/or target them in your marketing. Do your research to find out how to reach them, and then make sure your messaging is inclusive. For example, don’t only feature men in all the photos in your event marketing (unless it is an event for and about men exclusively).
You could also consider offering a limited number of discounted or free tickets to under-represented people to attend your event. SaaStr hosts annual Software as a Service conferences around the world. At their February 2018 event, they had a diversity and inclusion programme which set aside 200 VIP tickets for less represented founders and executives. This helped them to increase the number of women attending their typically male-dominated event.
Create a programme that has representative speakers
This should also be obvious, but it bears mention: find and invite speakers (and MCs, entertainers, etc.) who represent a broad range of demographics. Just as having a diverse team is a strength to your business, having diverse speakers will benefit your event by bringing in varying perspectives and voices.
Admittedly this can be challenging, because many high profile speakers are a select few who have historically received a lot of opportunities. But luckily you have great resources at your disposal to help you cast your search net wide. Most notably: social media. Do searches on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter; ask your followers and fans for recommendations; and watch YouTube videos to assess possible candidates. If you find someone but they cannot make it to your event, ask them for recommendations and tap into their networks.
It’s all about inclusivity
Once you have attracted a diverse audience to your event, you need to make sure everyone feels welcomed and provided to. Universal access should automatically be catered for, both in your venue choice and event design. If you are expecting a multi-lingual audience, you will need to plan for interpreters. Other needs – such as dietary requirements and special requests – should be asked for during the registration process. (This is where your diverse staff will be able to help you anticipate other possible considerations.)
Creating diverse events does take a little extra attention and effort initially, but after a while it should all naturally fall into place.