Business leaders have been forced to examine the biases and diversity within their businesses due to global protests against injustice and racism. The meetings and events industry is poised for major changes. Many event organizers ensure inclusivity is a part of every event. They choose diverse speakers and reach large audiences. Others have blind spots, which leads to too many events in which Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC), are underrepresented.
A survey of 1,000 event planners conducted by Meeting Professionals International revealed that 60% identified obstacles to inclusive event planning, including limited time and budgets and leadership support. Respondents to a survey about how the industry meets the needs of diverse groups said that ethnic minorities, non-traditional religious people, and introverts were the most underserved. Respondents agreed that diversity and inclusion training needs to be improved.
Leaders must book more minority speakers and identify racial bias to create a more inclusive environment for the industry to recover from its COVID-19 hiatus. They also need to partner with minority-owned businesses.
We must all work together to make the industry truly promote racial equality. We had conversations with experts from the Black community to compile this list. This list outlines seven ways that the industry can promote diversity inclusion, and you can start the process right away.
1. BIPOC speakers
If all your speakers are white, you’ve got a diversity problem.
2. Identify your racial bias
Ask attendees and organizers about the current state of racial prejudice at your event.
3. Diversify leadership
Diverse teams can lead to different ideas, which drives innovation. Diversity must start at the top.
4. Make sure you create a safe place for people to have difficult conversations
Your meeting or event attendees should feel free to talk about race and other sensitive topics. It would help if you created a safe environment for this to happen.
5. Support minority-owned businesses by partnering
The industry must do better in partnering with minority-owned companies, from caterers to suppliers to networking events. For a conference that will host thousands of people, it is good to partner with a local minority business.
These minority-owned businesses are hard to find. DeShields recommends contacting the city’s ethnic Chambers of Commerce or national organizations such as Minority Business Development Agency and National Minority Supplier Development Council.
6. Spend your money on philanthropy and get rid of the swag
Swag is often quite useless. Thumb drives and sunglasses that are too small end up in the trash. Donate winter coats and backpacks to schoolchildren. It can be very helpful to use your swag to help a local charity.
There are several ways you can connect with organizations for charitable contributions. I would start with a school district in whatever city you’re in because they probably already plugged into local philanthropic organizations.
7. Be fair
Many business leaders truly want to see real change. Some are only lip-service to the cause. Being genuine always wins.
Don’t just promote diversity. That’s just optics. You need to find ways to demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion, and that’s all about the actions you take—not the optics campaigns you run.