You might have stumbled across accounts like ‘Congrats, you have an all male panel!’ or received the feedback from your latest event, “the speaker diversity was lacking.” Either way, there has been added pressure on event planners to increase the level of diversity at these events and conferences. While 78% of event planners are women, the majority of C-suite decision-makers are men.
Curating the perfect speaker line-up for an event organizer is extremely important. That line-up must be just as diverse as the audience you want to attract. A 2019 study found that 64% of participants considered speaker diversity a necessity, but only 46% agreed that they were able to achieve it. With DEI a top priority, how do we improve diversity in events?
Diversity shouldn’t be just another buzzword at your event. It should be integrated into your event for success. Here are some of our tips to increase diversity at your next event.
Tips For Increasing Diversity At Your Next Event
1. Prioritize DEI From The Start
Far too often, DEI is thought of as an afterthought. Don’t add a diversity statement to your events website or reach out to a DEI speaker a week before the event. It’s not genuine, and it doesn’t show a commitment. Incorporate DEI into each aspect of your event, from planning to execution.
2. Feature Diverse Speakers
A diverse lineup of speakers is probably the easiest way to show that you are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. There is no reason why your event should lack diversity among its speakers. It’s not hard to find talented minority speakers. Once you have a diverse lineup of speakers, you should keep a few things in mind.
Don’t tokenize. Having one panel hosted by minorities while the rest of your sessions/panels are hosted by white men is not okay. You should do better, and you can do better.
Don’t assume. Just because they are a minority does not mean they speak on DEI. If they do, that is great - you should have at least one DEI speaker, but if they don’t, it’s because that’s not their expertise.
Don’t forget. Diversity among the announcers is just as important as diversity among the speakers.
It’s simple. Attendees want to see themselves represented in your speaker lineup.
3. Reframe The Way You Think About Experts
When we think of experts, we tend to think of those who hold professional degrees, which are disproportionately earned by white people (53%). Reframe how you think about experts to include professional experience, personal experience, community presence, etc. If you have a panel where everyone has their Master’s in Education, try to find someone who has the expertise, but can bring a new perspective.
4. Include Economically Accessible Ticket Options
Events can be quite expensive, especially if the attendee is paying without their company's assistance. Create options for people who want to attend your event, but might not have the financial means to do so.
Group discounts: A group of 10 wants to attend? Why not give them a discount!
Multiple ticket options: Offering different types of tickets for access to certain tracks or exclusive sessions/networking events gives attendees options to choose which ticket they can afford.
Hybrid event: Virtual tickets are cheaper and give those who could not get the time off or have other responsibilities the chance to attend.
5. Broaden Your Reach
If you want to increase the diversity of your events, diverse audiences need to be aware of your event. That means expanding your marketing and outreach efforts to new markets. Do your research, reach out to associations, expand your network, and make real connections. Diversity, equity and inclusion implementation takes action.
6. Hire A Professional
Bringing in an outside DEI consultant brings advice, best practices, and experience to the conference. If you aren’t sure where to start or just need support, reaching out to someone who has the skills will elevate your conference.
7. Add A DEI Speaker To Your Line Up
Diversity and inclusion speakers draw on their personal experiences, discuss ways to cultivate inclusive cultures and build the business case for DEI. While DEI has become a top priority, it often falls on the shoulders of HR and takes a backseat to the other initiatives they are busy with. Diversity speakers help change the perspective of DEI. It isn’t another HR initiative; it’s a business issue.
8. The Little Details Matter
Food, logistics, the date of the events, etc., these details may not seem like they matter when it comes to DEI but trust us, they do. Do you have food options for dietary restrictions? Is the event space accessible? Do the dates of your event fall on any religious holidays you might not know about? A simple question on the registration form or a Google search will make a huge difference. These small details will help attract a more diverse audience and make them feel welcomed.
Diversifying your events is not easy; one person can not do it alone. Get support and start thinking about how you can integrate diversity, equity and inclusion into each part of the event planning process. And remember, DEI is not something that will happen overnight. It takes time and work.