Diversity & Inclusion in events: 6 strategies to improve event planning

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Posted on March 17, 2021

Find out how you can integrate diversity and inclusion in your events planning.


Sadly, many events are still lagging behind in terms of diversity. According to a study by EventMB, 35 to 40 percent of the events didn’t have any Black speaker in their panels in 2020.

The lack of representation and inclusion of diverse communities is depriving events of valuable insights, perspectives, and experiences. Events professionals need to make sure all the voices are heard, and everyone feels welcome regardless of their identity and status.

When you think about diversity and inclusion, don´t limit yourself to a single characteristic such as race or ethnicity. Consider the full breadth of diversity including gender, race, ethnicity, language, class, sexual orientation, ability, religion, etc.

Crucially, ensuring diversity and inclusion in events is not confined to expressing anti-discrimination statements but involves putting specific policies in place. 

Consider how to bring diversity policies into every single step of the event planning. It´s not only about how you showcase diversity externally but about power in the decision-making process internally.

In that light, we outline here some strategies to help you improve diversity and inclusion in your events planning.

At first, you should reflect on your organization and event team. Having diverse voices and perspectives within your company and your team is a must.  

Look at your company´s values: is diversity and inclusion among them?

And, urge your HR department to institute policies promoting diversity in the workplace and addressing discrimination. For instance, a training program to prevent discrimination, hiring policies that actively recruit minorities, or representation goals in the workforce. 

Also, creating employee resource groups (ERGs) focused on diversity has been an increasingly adopted approach. 

Then, diversity and inclusion should be front and center of your events planning team. Diversity and inclusion start behind the scenes, whereby the people making important event planning decisions are diverse.

Having a team that brings together different backgrounds, perspectives, and networks will contribute to a richer and less one-sided event.

Indeed, the more diverse your team is, the more diversity you will find in the partners, suppliers, speakers, and content topics featured at the event.  

Additionally, a diverse team will be more in tune with cultural sensitivities to account for. A team member could bring up timing conflicts with religious or cultural celebrations that you might not have considered.

Diverse speakers

Hire Diverse speakers

As the most outward-facing aspect of your event, speakers are key to your commitment to diversity and inclusion. An audience that does not feel represented is not likely to come back to your events. 

So, your speakers’ lineup should be as diverse as the audience your event is reaching. In practice, ensure an adequate balance in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, religion, age, and other characteristics.

Alongside making your audience feel included and welcomed, a diverse lineup will contribute to richer conversations, sessions, and events.

Inclusive event content

Program Inclusive Event Content

Importantly, you should create content that speaks to a diverse community. When devising your event programming, chose topics that resonate and directly impact the communities you are talking to. 

For instance, if your event covers leadership in the advertising industry, consider including sessions discussing the barriers women or minority ethnic groups face to attain leadership positions. 

Otherwise, you could host an event focused on diversity and inclusion within your industry. A great example of this type of event is “Representation Matters”, a racial equality summit held by Salesforce and Deloitte. In 2020, the event was held in a weeklong virtual format and aimed to inspire, empower, and elevate the most underrepresented communities in tech.

Inclusive materials

Promote using inclusive materials 

Then, keep in mind being inclusive in all your promotional materials. Place your diverse speakers and content at the forefront of your event website and social media posts. 

In that sense, putting together a focus group including people from different backgrounds could prove a good option to examine your marketing materials with an inclusive lens. 

Importantly, educate against sexist, racist, homophobic, or transphobic language. In that regard, you could distribute guides to inclusive language among your team, speakers, and attendees. 

If any discriminatory behavior arises before, during, or after the event, make sure to call it out. Clearly state the actions you will take and the consequences this behavior will entail.

Above all, it is always important to clarify that your event is an inclusive space and that you will not tolerate any discriminatory behavior. 

Diverse partnerships

Leverage partnerships

Building partnerships can effectively bring to life your diversity commitment and objectives.

When you survey potential partners, research in-depth whether they implement diversity and inclusion policies and whether women and people from ethnic minorities are in positions of power within the organizations. 

Added to that, seek out organizations that actively support, fund, and participate in anti-racist and equal rights movements.  

And, when you research event suppliers or agencies, look out for organizations that qualify as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE). This certification is given to a business that is at least 51% owned, operated, capitalized, and controlled by a citizen of an ethnic minority (MBE). 

These partnerships can empower your event to be more inclusive and to more effectively reach underrepresented communities. 

Diversity and inclusion events targets

Set diversity targets and measure your progress

Crucially, you should measure your progress with regards to diversity and inclusion, setting yourself targets, and holding yourself accountable. It is not solely about discussing diversity as a topic within your events, but about reflecting this principle in how you plan and organize events. 

For example, are you hitting your target quota of women within your event panels? How many of your event partners are minority business enterprises? What was your NPS among underrepresented audience groups? 

In that line, post-event surveys can also help include the audience. Be open to honest feedback from attendees, asking them whether they felt included and what can be improved in the next editions. 

In summary, it is essential to get a clear understanding of what efforts are making your events more inclusive and what elements you have disregarded. Your attendees are the best asset to get that understanding, as they can explain if and how they felt included and welcomed.

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