6 ways to create an inclusive event

by | Jun 20, 2019

6 things to do to help you create an inclusive event


Do you know how to create an inclusive event?

As someone who attends a lot of events, as well as organising them, it is becoming clear that it is in increasingly important that they are as inclusive as possible. Setting up an event that welcomes everyone as well as different perspectives means your event will be more productive and successful for all participants.


Here are 6 ways to make sure you create an inclusive event


1. Inclusive access and movement

Check the event can cater for the physical abilities of all the participants. Any event should factor in the needs of the less physically able with elevator access, ramps etc. and even movement for breakout groups. One speaker was mortified when she learned that she had called upon a group to stand up and wave their arms around realising that some people were not able to perform this exercise.

create an inclusive event

2. Select diverse speakers

Have a diverse speaker list and refuse to have a “manel”. The all-male panel, or “manel”, despite being outed as dated and unacceptable, still features strongly in many events. Best practices going forward would be to include speakers that reflect diversity in terms of gender, age, LGBTQ identities, race, view-points, ability, and other underrepresented backgrounds and experiences. Be consistent in looking for panellists from the target demographic. Don’t give up and resort to the usual suspects if you encounter any difficulties. There are many online resources promoting under represented speakers.

Make sure you bring women speakers onboard as functional or sector specialists and not only to be the facilitator, speak on D & I issues or women in leadership. If you are invited to speak, check the make-up of the speaker roster and decline if there is imbalance. Recommend colleagues or network contacts to fill the gap. The more speakers that do this the better. We need to apply pressure to organisers to do a better job. Do not accept that we couldn't find any speakers. This means you are not trying hard enough.

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 3. Use inclusive language and information materials

Language use is a good way to convey a more inclusive message:

  • Avoid “gender coded” language: Words like “guys” and “ninja.” Even using words such as “ladies and gentlemen” can exclude trans and non-binary participants, so replace them with more all -encompassing terms such as “all” or “everyone”.
  • Offer closed captioning and large fonts: The ability to read, as well as listen, can help those who are non-native speakers of the language of the conference, hard of hearing or deaf. Similarly, make sure that slides are in large fonts so everyone can read them.
  • Include all pronouns: Offer participants the opportunity to identify their pronouns that include gender neutral options, such as he/him, she/her, they/them. When using pronouns as examples in presentations, alternate genders from “him”, “her” and “they”.
  • Offer translation services if applicable.

4. Create an event charter

It’s important that everyone feels that their contribution is valued. This means they need to be treated with respect and can share a point of view without fear of reprisals or judgement. Participants should unanimously agree on a set of values and norms for the event. Behaviours should be specifically mentioned and then if anyone deviates there are basic agreed rules in place. This makes it easier to remind people of their agreement. Here are some examples:

  • Follow basic inclusive etiquette - saying please or thank you, good morning and good bye.
  • Treat everyone with respect. Don’t make makes jokes or remarks related to difference whether this is race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, body size, appearance, age, migration status, nationality or country of origin.
  • Do not talk over any speaker.
  • Practise attentive listening so you are present in any conversation. Give people the space to talk without interruptions.
  • Never use an aggressive, patronising, condescending or sneering tone of voice.
  • Never multi-task when talking to someone, especially looking at a device.
  • Don’t dismiss this behaviour as “banter” and “harmless fun,” or suggest that the listener lacks a sense of humour.
  • Be mindful of being in an inclusive, multi-cultural setting and speak the language that all understand.
  • Always shine a light on your own behaviour and examine personal responsibility first.
  • Always be mindful of the importance of- non-verbal communication and the power of negative body language.
  • Check the tone of voice.
  • Establish facts before making assumptions.
  • Deal with issues privately, directly and constructively and not via gossip,

5. Have event greeters

Appoint people whose sole role is to keep an eye out for people who are on their own. This can be particularly important for introverts entering a large networking event where everyone seems  to know each other. Some may be happy to enjoy a moment of solitude, but it’s always a good idea to check.

6. Label all food

With a growing number of vegetarians, vegans and others with dietary preferences, allergies and restrictions, make sure all food is visibly labelled. It is an easy way to allow participants to make informed decisions.

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