10 factors to consider to set up inclusive events
As we move into the holiday season here are ten factors your organisation should consider to set up inclusive events.
As we move into the holiday season many event organisers are already planning a function for their employees. Maybe you are also thinking of a private party or event. To make sure that everyone will feel welcome and included, it’s a good idea to pay attention to some of the factors that may be a concern to different demographics which could deter them from attending. This means that everyone will have a good time.
The best way to do this is to ask people via an anonymous company poll. It’s also worthwhile to make a note of any resistance you observe so you can defuse a situation before it becomes an issue.
To set up inclusive events in your company try taking these things into account:
1. Guestlist: The most important consideration is to be intentional about your invitees. In a corporate setting make sure that everyone is invited and intentionally include anyone who might feel marginalised. Seek them out and emphasise how much you hope they will join you.
2. Type of event: We all have biases around what is fun and what isn’t. Generally, we think that everyone likes the same things as we do. Is that true should be your first question! Engage more marginalised groups in your inquiries to find out what people like to do. In many male-dominated organisations in Europe and North America, events can be centred on sport (golf, racing, polo, rugby, football) and alcohol. It’s important to mix those up.
3. Venue: This will include accessibility and the type of place you are proposing. Senior, white male executives could feel at ease in a 5-star hotel or a golf club. But not everyone will. Make sure that there are facilities for anyone who may be less physically able (ramps, wheelchair seating, disabled bathrooms etc.) The location should be easily accessible by public transport or taxi service. Not everyone has a car or can drive. Better yet, arrange transport, especially for women travelling on their own from evening functions. You should also consider the dress code. Once again inclusive events should be accessible to all, and a black-tie dress code can make it difficult for many.
4. Timing: Some groups may have difficulties coming at certain times because of childcare or other caregiver responsibilities. Quite often for parties that run late, people report men being able to stay until the end and women choose or have to leave early. Part of this may be issues around getting home safely. See the point about transport. There may also be single parents who have to get up early in the morning or a late finish may incur additional babysitting costs. If any woman who wants to, and can stay late and the issue is with a partner – that may be the time for them to have the “honey we need to talk” conversation with their nearest and dearest.
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5. Dietary requirements: It is always best to establish upfront any specific preferences or needs and cater accordingly. A simple note will be suffice;
6. Cost: Astonishingly some organisations do ask employees to pay for themselves. This should generally be a no, but for small businesses perhaps this is the only way colleagues can get together. Offer affordable options, with maybe even a pot-luck arrangement.
7. Partners or not?: This is always tricky so it’s important to get precise feedback on this topic. Some people don’t want to go to events without their partners. Others are single and some don’t want to declare a relationship. This is where a pulse survey can be really effective.
8. Alcohol or not? Increasing numbers do not drink alcohol, so always make sure that their needs are catered for. It is also important to create an atmosphere of moderation. Non-drinkers report being intimidated when they see people drinking excessively and becoming rowdy. Any holiday events serving alcohol should be balanced by other events at different times of the year which don’t. Above all make sure that everyone travels safely home.
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9. Introverts: for many introverts or those who are neuro-diverse the idea of a big party full of boisterous crowds fills them with dread. Make sure you have a “meet and greet” team which can help those who may not be comfortable in a big party, settle in with smaller groups. The “meeters and greeters” should walk them to a group and wait until they see them appear to be at ease. If in doubt ask. Have a quieter seating area where people can go to escape the hubbub – especially in a large party.
10. Watch the side lines: while it’s important to have quiet space, keep an eye on things. Get your meet and greet team to check that no one is left alone and is checked on discreetly and included in the festivities. Minority groups or women can often be side-lined in events that are dominated by an “in-group.” Whether High School or the office, there are still “cool” groups which unintentionally exclude others as like-minded colleagues drift together.
Being intentionally inclusive to appeal to a wide range of people with different preferences and needs is part of the rich tapestry of a diverse organisation. Make sure your event is both fun and inclusive. Have a great holiday season!
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