Do you ever feel like you can’t get your events strategy right? Ever feel like you don't have the answers on how to make an event inclusive and still deliver an experience that is fun AND helps your team connect?
- You dream up with a post-work event, but does that exclude the parents at the company?
- You decide on an event at a bar, but an event too focused on drinking is not about actually creating connections (and what about people who don’t drink?).
- Mani-pedi? Nah, definitely not gender neutral.
- Cooking class? But not everyone likes to cook.
Is it even possible to appease everyone?
I recently attended an event hosted by The Muse, focused on what companies are doing right to create more diverse and inclusive experiences. This inspired an important conversation on my team about how we can apply these learnings to a company’s event’s strategy. Here’s what we learned and are putting into practice.
Top 3 takeaways to make your events more inclusive:
1) Sometimes people just need to be asked to dance.
Toby Hervey, CEO and Co-Founder of Bravely, reminded us of the memorable quote: “Diversity is inviting someone to the party. Inclusion means asking that person to dance.” Sometimes all it takes to be more inclusive is going out of your way to ask if someone wants to join in on the fun.
2) Ask your employees what events they want.
To emphasize this point, I’m going to share a story from the panelists. It goes like this:
One of the panelists shared a story about how her company recently redesigned their office. The good news is the the architect included a nursing mothers room in the redesign; the bad news is they didn’t ask women want they needed or wanted included in the nursing room. In the initial drawings (designed by all men), women felt like the rooms didn’t represent their actual needs and were hardly usable. Women’s voices weren’t sought in the planning for this, and no one even thought to ask the right questions.
Fast forward a few weeks later, and this feedback was shared with the architects. When asked, women voiced their opinions: they asked for chargers in the room so that they can bring their computers while nursing, they requested a washing station so they didn’t have to wash their personal items in public, and they requested comfortable seating areas so they can feel at home. After listening to what women wanted, these details and more were all added to the final plans. Six months after this workplace learning, this company has been named one of the best places in the world for working mothers.
The learning from this is clear: You don’t know until you ask.
You wouldn’t launch a new technology product without talking to your core consumer, would you? Translate this to your events strategy. Ask people from underrepresented groups what type of events they want the company to offer. What would make them participate or attend? Ask for opinions on how to expand the offerings so that everyone feels like they belong. The answers may be right in front of you.
3) Tie your events strategy to your business strategy.
An event for the sake of an event feels like a waste of time. Use this opportunity to create a strategy that drives the business forward. Some questions to ask yourself include:
What your goals for this event?
How does this tie with the overall business objectives?
Are there elements of your mission statement you want to incorporate in the event planning—maybe your core values? Your mission statement?
How will hosting this event further your business objectives?
What I learned from The Muse event was that even the D+I professionals on the panel don’t claim to be perfect. They reminded us that it’s okay to not have it all figured out. But they also reminded us that there are simple steps we can take right now to make events more inclusive.
So I’ll leave you with this. Will you come to the party and dance?