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All seats at the table: Ensuring inclusivity at your events

In the era of global communication and a diverse demographic tapestry, the importance of creating inclusive events cannot be understated. Events are more than just physical or virtual gatherings. They are opportunities for knowledge sharing, networking, and fostering unity among varied groups of people.

The Inclusive Event - What Does it Look Like?

When an event is termed 'inclusive', it means everyone, irrespective of their background, physical ability, neurodiversity, or cultural significance, is not only invited but is also ensured an enriching experience. This necessitates meticulous planning, thorough research, and most importantly, empathy.

To truly value each attendee's experience, organisers need to ask: are our events designed in a way that everyone can attend, enjoy, and extract value from? Is anyone left feeling excluded or side-lined?

Before we dive into the ten actionable steps to ensure inclusivity, let's consider three pivotal insights:

1. Inclusion strategy: Just like any significant initiative, creating inclusive events starts with a strategy. If you don't have one, the subsequent steps become aimless.

2. Understanding exclusion: It's essential to recognise patterns of exclusion. Who isn't attending, and more importantly, why? This requires gathering data, seeking feedback, and being willing to address uncomfortable truths.

3. A holistic approach to inclusivity: While it's critical to address the needs of disabled and/or neurodiverse individuals, inclusivity doesn't stop there. Ensuring racial and cultural inclusivity - right from speaker line-ups to scheduling considering significant cultural dates.

10 Steps Towards an Inclusive Event

Let's delve into ten actionable tips to help you run truly inclusive events:

1. Develop an inclusion strategy

If you don't have an inclusion strategy, it's time to create one. This roadmap will guide all your decisions, ensuring that every aspect of your event prioritises accessibility and diversity. Having a strategy in place communicates that you prioritise and value inclusivity. This accessible events checklist might help with that.

2. Seek feedback and gather data

Identify who might be excluded from your events and understand why. Utilise feedback forms, and post-event surveys, and engage in direct conversations where possible, to deeply understand your attendees' needs, preferences, and experiences. By actively listening, you can pinpoint areas of improvement and act accordingly.

3. Remember: inclusion is holistic

While ensuring access for disabled and/or neurodiverse individuals is essential, it's equally important to factor in racial and cultural inclusivity. This can be influenced by various factors, including your speaker line-up, the event's time and date, and even specific cultural traditions or festival days.

4. Make marketing accessible

This means ensuring that your promotional materials, advertisements, and outreach efforts are designed in a way that everyone, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, can understand, access, and engage with them. Your event could be the most inclusive in the world, but it's all for nothing if your marketing isn't accessible. Check out this Accessible Marketing Guide by Unlimited for best practices.

5. Accessible venues are a must

Ensure that the venue is wheelchair accessible and provides facilities for individuals with disabilities. A location central to public transportation can also be a significant benefit!

6. Provide clear information

Attendees should know in advance about the accessibility features available. This includes information about venue access, sign language interpreters, or any other provisions you've made.

7. Consider diverse needs

According to a report by Neuk Collective, neurodivergent artists in Scotland often face barriers, such as lack of access to quiet spaces or overwhelming workloads. Factor in these considerations to ensure all attendees feel comfortable.

8. Offer flexible participation options

Not everyone can attend in person. Offering virtual attendance options or providing recordings can make your event more inclusive for those who might have travel constraints or other barriers.

9. Cultivate a respectful environment

All attendees, speakers, and staff should be briefed about the importance of a respectful and inclusive environment. This includes understanding different cultural norms, being patient, and using inclusive language.

10. Continuously learn and adapt

Inclusivity doesn't end with the event - the post-event phase is a golden opportunity to gather feedback, understand the hits and misses, and prepare for future initiatives. Continuous improvement is the hallmark of successful, inclusive events!

In the end, planning an inclusive event is not just about ticking boxes; it's about understanding, empathy, and the willingness to make everyone feel seen and heard.

It benefits not only those who previously felt excluded but also enriches the entire event, bringing in a wealth of diverse perspectives and experiences.

The broader impact of inclusive events:

Beyond the immediate scope of your event, inclusivity has broader societal and economic implications. Inclusive events serve as microcosms of the world we aspire to build – a world where everyone, regardless of their differences, has an equal platform to voice their ideas, showcase their talents, and contribute to collective progress.

Economically, inclusive events can reach wider audiences, tap into varied consumer bases, and spur innovative ideas that arise from diverse perspectives. Socially, they set precedents, showing other organisers and industries that inclusivity isn't just a moral imperative but a pragmatic one.

When we create spaces where diverse groups can converge, interact, and share their experiences, we're not only enriching the event itself but also contributing to a broader societal movement towards genuine equality and understanding. By recognising and acting upon the broader implications of our choices as event organisers, we're taking active steps towards a more inclusive and equitable future!

We must be constantly learning and adapting to the changing needs of our diverse audiences. By actively researching, seeking feedback and being open to change, we can ensure that our events truly resonate with everyone, creating an environment of acceptance, collaboration, and shared growth. Unlimited’s guide on running accessible events is a great place to start and offers lots of valuable insights on the topics covered in this blog.

With these points in mind, do you feel your organisation has an effective events inclusion strategy? If not, or if you're looking to host an event and need guidance on making it as inclusive as possible, please consider contacting us for help. You can also explore more insights on our blog page.

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