Inclusion Guideline: Events
Host amazing events using this inclusive events checklist
Creating and executing inclusive events requires a dedicated attendee focus. This can initially be time consuming, but embedding D&I into your event process will build the habits necessary to host amazing, inclusive events.
Running an inclusive event means you consider every part of the humans you hope will attend. Like any product, it’s up to the creators of the event to consider different markets, use-cases, and user experiences when planning and executing events or engaging in event retrospectives.
Before planning another next event, take a look at this checklist to help build inclusion into event planning and execution.
Table of Contents
Overarching themes and event structure planning
□ Think of all accommodations through the lens of independence: what can you offer that will let the individual who needs accommodation enjoy the event without hindrance (or minimize hindrance as much as possible)?
□ When mapping out the event, leave space for clear directional signage to key rooms (bathrooms, exits, and key areas if your event has multiple elements to it like both a demo booth area and a main stage).
□ When scheduling the event, do your best to avoid major cultural holidays or religious observances that any of potential attendees celebrate. Also consider time of day to identify when your target audience is likely most available.
□ Create “ante-spaces” that offer attendees the opportunity to decompress from whatever your core event offers. For instance, in a large, loud conference, offer a quiet area.
□ Get diversity from the start: ensure your event planning committee brings a diversity of lived experiences to the table.
□ Train team members on basic mental health first aid.
□ Train event staff on all accommodations available and how to access them, same as you would train them on where bathrooms are.
□ Have a dedicated event-experience individual on hand during the event to make accommodations easy.
□ Train the team on some basic workarounds to accommodation issues they can provide if there’s an accommodation you weren’t able to provide.
□ Remind the team that if they are asked for an accommodation they can’t provide to document what it is so the team can potentially add it for the next event.
Registration and Information Collection
□ Make the application accessible, meaning easily navigable with a keyboard and functional with screen readers.
□ Only collect absolutely required identification information during the registration process and give people as much freedom to choose how they refer to themselves (write-ins over fixed multiple choice, or giving an “Other” category with a write-in).
□ If offering catering, collect dietary information during registration (kosher, gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, and further).
□ If photos will be taken at your event, disclose that in the registration or confirmation email, but note that people can opt out of being in pictures during the event.
□ Have Community Agreement/Code of Conduct. Make it clear when people register and require them to agree to it before registering.
□ If your event is expensive to attend, consider offering a scholarship program or “Pay what you can” tickets for people who cannot get their company to pay their way.
Marketing the Event
□ Communicate the following in your marketing and attendee communications:
□ Intended benefits of the event (what attendees will get out of it).
□ Style and structure of event (e.g. standing room talk, networking, sit-down conference, small-table style, or otherwise).
□ If the event is not accessible in any way, disclose which element is not and what workaround you have, if any.
□ Ensure language in your marketing communications resonates with goal audiences and is aware of subtleties such as tone of voice that may turn off a certain user you are trying to attract.
□ Have a FAQ on the bottom of your website that answers basic questions around accessibility, lodging and food (if applicable), and intended benefits/structure to your event.
□ Target underrepresented groups in paid ads or community sponsorships where you advertise your event to ensure that the message gets into different communities.
□ Ensure any videos you use in advertising have subtitles.
□ Invite speakers from diverse backgrounds to talk about their areas of expertise, not just to talk about diversity.
□ If speakers will be using slide decks, ask them to use large fonts so anyone in the room can read easily (this will change depending on the room size you have). Consider giving a standard slide deck for all presenters.
□ Ensure all speakers agree to your Community Agreements/Code of Conduct ahead of confirming them for the event.
□ Ensure diversity in any entertainment at the event, considering the types of entertainment that your target audiences may like.
□ Plan for enough mics for every speaker to use (ie if you have a five-person panel as your largest panel, plan for five mics at least).
□ Have someone typing what people say, displayed on a screen, for every stage so people with hearing difficulties can engage and you help all attendees engage more on social (they can see what was said, making it easier to quote on social media).
□ For entertainment and meals with alcohol involved, ensure non-alcoholic options are available.
□ Ensure any videos you use during the event will have subtitles. Request speakers submit subtitles with their videos if they are using any during presentations.
□ Have all sponsors agree to the Community Agreement/Code of Conduct after they commit their sponsorship (but before you officially accept it).
□ Ask sponsors to avoid specifically gendered swag or assuming every attendee’s size for things like t-shirts (if they want to bring t-shirts, have a variety of sizes available).
□ Make the intended benefit of the event clear to sponsors so they know ahead of time what they are sponsoring.
□ If sponsors ask for customizations, offer them only as far as you are still adhering to your Community Agreement/Code of Conduct and you are not diminishing the intended benefits of the event.
□ Explain any acronyms you (or your sponsors) use.
□ Explain any specific accommodations you can offer – speech to text on screen, wheelchairs on hand, etc.
□ Remind attendees of the Community Agreement/Code of Conduct.
□ If it’s an overnight event, communicate accessibility needs to relevant hotels and communicate offerings to attendees.
□ Have preferred pronoun stickers during onsite badge pickup and train desk attendees on what pronouns are. Make this optional for attendees and don’t request it during online registration. (A simple way to explain pronouns is that they are a way to let people know how to refer to you).
□ Have disclosures throughout the event noting that pictures will be taken so people are aware – note that if someone opts out using your opt-out process (see next bullet), no pictures will be published of them.
□ Offer opt-out stickers for pictures (usually brightly coloured and stuck onto an attendee badge) so that photographers know to avoid taking pictures of them or to edit them out of the finished pictures.
□ Avoid strobe lights or a lot of bright flashing lights during events and entertainment.
□ Have supplemental accessibility equipment (wheelchair, crutches, cane) on hand if possible.
□ If a longer or evening event, consider childcare options (or invite parents to bring young kids free of charge).
□ Ensure walkways stay wide enough for wheelchairs or other assistive devices/service animals.
□ Offer respite areas for service animals (or directions to where individuals can go outside).
□ Make bathrooms gender neutral or explicitly state attendees can use the bathroom they feel most comfortable using.
□ Have water stations throughout the event space.
□ Send a feedback survey that has specific inclusion-focused questions such as:
□ I felt welcome and included at this event.
□ If I needed accommodations, I was easily able to access them.
□ I felt that I could navigate the event easily and autonomously with the information provided (signage, welcome package, and maps).
□ Host a post-event retrospective where you discuss what went well, what didn’t, and ideas for next year. Inclusion should be part of the overall retrospective, but you can also have a second inclusion-focused one if a lot of issues or questions came up.
□ If you made a mistake during the event, own up to it after the fact and explain what you are doing to fix it – pick who you communicate this to based on the severity and confidentiality of the issue.
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