You thought your check-in process was smooth as butter — until one of your friends told you that she and her friends feel intimidated coming through your doors. As a result, they frequent your venue less often.
Today, diversity and inclusion are top-of-mind concerns for all kinds of event creators. Whether you’re in charge of a giant recurring festival or a tiny one-time pop-up, you want as many people as possible to enjoy it. And you certainly don’t want anyone to feel excluded.
Even seemingly small things, like who staffs your security, can have a major impact on your attendee experience — whether you are aware of it or not.
Here are a few considerations to keep in mind as you’re planning your next event.
1. Set an intention for your event
Let people know the steps you are taking — and why.
“It’s all about intent,” says Jorge Portillo, Co-founder of the outdoor daytime soul music dance party Hard French. “Saying you’re an inclusive event is a winning strategy. Let’s put it this way — you’re not going to lose any people by saying it.”
Simply saying “I want this to be more inclusive and diverse event” is not enough, of course. But it’s a good foundation for your planning. When you have a rock-solid intention to become inclusive and diverse, you can lean into those mandates to drive your event planning and reshape your brand.
2. Offer a more diverse experience
If your goal is truly to foster diversity, you need to look to your lineup first, not your audience.
“I once worked with a concert venue that complained their audiences all looked the same,” says Maasha Kah, Eventbrite’s Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion. “And when I looked at their lineup, it was easy to see why.”
With the help of the local tourism board, this venue realized that Asian tourists made up a huge regional demographic. By scheduling more Asian-focused concerts, the venue saw a huge uptick in sales. Kah recalls. “It’s that type of creative thinking that any kind of event or venue should lean into.”
3. Look to metrics to help diversify your event
As you declare your intent and start to make changes to your event, think about benchmarks to strive toward. For instance, if your business event featured a panel of 10 male speakers last year, take a step back — is this really what you want your event to look like?
“Look around your table. What does it look like right now? How do you want it to look?” These are questions posed by Kah. Creating diversity mandates will move your speakers, performers, and eventually your event audience toward equal representation.
4. Reach out to diverse groups of people via influencers
Having more diversity in your staff and speakers can also have a powerful effect on your audience. Wellness festival Wanderlust relies heavily on its teachers for grassroots social-media marketing support, so more diverse teachers reach more diverse audiences online. These on-the-ground influencers share socially with their own niche markets, and when those people come to events, it makes for a more diverse crowd.
5. Make a point to partner with brands and sponsors that represent your event’s values
Staff, vendors, sponsors, and partner brands also influence the diversity of your event.
Go beyond basic non-discriminatory hiring practices and consider hiring disabled people or people from multiple cultures. Make an effort to invite organizations with a focus on equality and anti-bias. Go the extra mile to source non-normative vendors.
With any partner you work with, scrutinize your relationship closely to ensure your values are in alignment. Kah has this advice to avoid these rude awakenings: “Always go into sponsorship meetings with parameters in mind. Ask them about their own practices around inclusivity and diversity.”
6. Create an equitable, inviting space at your event
Wanderlust is also thoughtful about providing access to the event space for people who are differently-abled. The physical layout is accessible for wheelchairs, with clear mapping and friendly signage that signals “you are welcome here.”
People also look for subtle cues about whether they’re truly welcome. Signage presents another opportunity to take a stand about inclusivity. It can be as simple as posting signs that declare “We’re an inclusive event. Discrimination will not be tolerated here.”
There are a lot of subtleties and nuances to cultivating an inclusive event brand. Many of the everyday decisions event creators make can ultimately influence how diverse and inclusive your event becomes.
If you’re interested in diving a little deeper into diversity and inclusion practices at your event, download the free guide Making Your Events More Inclusive and Diverse.