Diversity, equity, and inclusion are buzzwords we hear only too often. These have been trending for a while now, yet I do not see these terms ACTUALLY represented in most events I attend as a DEI public speaker. In the real world, everybody is talking about these things, but the real-life implementation of them is what I find to be missing in most events.
Adding ‘diversity,’ ‘equity,’ and ‘inclusion’ (DEI) to your event can be challenging, especially when you are setting out to make the effort to embark on this new journey. Moving beyond talking, and actually making it happen is not an easy feat. However, it is now high time that diversity, equity, and inclusion are not treated as just showmanship, but are given a seat at the table.
I want to support you in your efforts by sharing several tips and reflections that can help you incorporate these essential concepts into your event. Let’s amplify diversity together!
1. Amplify diversity, equity & inclusion from the start
Please don’t activate performative diversity, equity & inclusion by just adding these words to your event’s landing page. Your audience will see that you’ve only changed your words and not your thoughts. More often than not, I have noticed that DEI is incorporated as an afterthought that doesn’t improve the inclusivity of the event.
Authentic, inclusive initiatives start from within. For example, make sure that your event project team is already inclusive at the event’s start. A diverse project team creates 30% less risk in execution and leads to 20% more creative input, according to a 2018 Deloitte Review. By doing this, you are opening your event to insights and potential stakeholders you would not have seen otherwise.
2. Beware of (White) Manels
Inviting mainly (white) men to speak at your event will not help your event be inclusive, especially when your organization or clients have diversity, equity, and inclusion in their mission statement and/or policy.
Know that you have a higher chance to be called out on social media when you showcase (white) manels. You can’t fix this by just adding a (white) woman as a speaker. Focus on the quality of diversity.
As an example, I’m glad to see that Director Hilary Richters, Lead Digital Ethics at the Deloitte Netherlands organization, challenged Deloitte Netherlands to commit to Deloitte’s Panel & Proposal Promise. This Promise means that Deloitte Netherlands will use the 40/40/20 rule for every proposal and each panel Deloitte is asked to join.
They are striving to build teams that consist of 40% men, 40% women, and 20% of an underrepresented group — colleagues who identify with the LGBT+ community, who have a non-Western ethnic background, or a (visible) disability.
“The Promise offers hope, dreams, and opportunities to the current and next generations. You make them feel that there is a place for them, too. Moreover, a diverse organization is more powerful, more innovative, and more interesting to work for.” — Hilary Richters.
3. Walk The Talk
Stay away from window dressing. Many companies shared their online support for #Blackout Tuesday. At the same time, many of these organizations do not have a culture that supports diversity, equity, and inclusion. Similarly, only showing your support for the LBTQ+ community during PRIDE month is not enough. Your stakeholders will see this as a performative act, and some will call you out online.
Instead, start from within, be vulnerable, be transparent in the actions you are taking to become more inclusive. Hire a DEI consultant who can hold up a mirror to your actions and support you during the planning of your event. This professional should have the proper mandate to implement changes at all levels of the organization. Otherwise, the risk of window-dressing is very high.
4. Market Your Event to Broader and More Diverse Audiences
If you are organizing an event, you have to take concrete actions to show that you believe in the power of diversity, equity, and inclusion. It sounds cliche, but your efforts will speak louder than your words. When we are thinking of events that incorporate all three concepts, we have to look at them in terms of their audiences, sponsors, participants, speakers, and stakeholders.
To reap the benefits of a more participative and enriching audience engagement, look for ways to broaden the scope of your marketing efforts.
You can do some research, perhaps an online survey to gauge the interest of racially / socioeconomically / gender-wise diverse audiences. You can extend your marketing efforts to a broader set of audiences so that the participants in your events have a richer and variegated learning experience through exchanging ideas amongst themselves.
The more people with diverse backgrounds that know about your event, the more chances it can become an inclusive event online or offline. To encourage audience participation from several socioeconomic/ ethnic backgrounds, you can introduce special discounts or group participation incentives, or even lucky draws.
So when we are talking about DEI implementation, we are looking at it from all facets. It does not apply to only one aspect of the event, and it should address all stakeholders. If you successfully attract diverse and inclusive audiences, you have the magical ingredients to amplify your event’s power of diversity.
5. Involve Your Audiences to Recommend Diverse Speakers for Your Event
Do not settle for less or mediocre. There are several events where we see filler speakers or token speakers. It is apparent that they have just been added to the event in order to tick all the boxes of diversity. It is essential to understand that this is not how it works.
To truly ensure that all the milestones, including diversity, equity, and inclusion, are achieved, you need to set bold and ambitious goals. Research has proven that one representative from a diverse viewpoint is less likely to speak up against the prevailing view than effectively delivering his/her own. Therefore it’s important to use an intersectional lens when you are inviting speakers to speak at your event.
The second step is to ask for recommendations from your audience — an audience that is diverse, as discussed earlier. Not only do they feel heard this way, but it also ensures that a culture of diversity, as well as non-traditional speakers, are included in the event.
How do you ensure that your speaker panel is genuinely diverse? By looking for people who have had real experiences in their lives and authentic stories to share, setting them apart from their social status and credentials. It is also essential for a speaker to recommend diverse speakers who may not share their views but inspire and bring something new to the table and the event.
We may not be sponsoring or speaking at an event, but we do attend events. As an attendee, we can make sure that we choose to attend events that are genuinely diverse and inclusive. This helps amplify the power of diversity as a whole.
Amplifying diversity at events cannot be covered in 5 tips, just as psychological safety cannot be guaranteed in a three-step program.
It’s a school of thought, a culture, a way of living that gradually marinates into your thought processes without being intentional. However, the first step is to start learning and recognizing the need to do so. Through the tips above, I hope to challenge you to amplify your events with DEI. I dare you to apply these tips and create real inclusive events.
About the author:
As an inclusive Workplace Wellness Advocate, Vivian Acquah advises managers on keeping their team members engaged, energized, and safe in a sustainable manner.
Vivian Acquah is making topics related to workplace wellness & DEI accessible to everyone. She provides people with the right tools, at the right time, to embrace inclusive changes. Vivian motivates people to think consciously and inspires them to take action.
This was originally posted on SpeakerHub Skillcamp.