Event profs, building diversity and inclusion starts with you

Diversity and inclusion is paramount for event success with destinations that put people first ahead of the game.

Empathy, understanding the community, handicap accessibility and providing professional credential goes a long way to making business happen.
Empathy, understanding the community, handicap accessibility and providing professional credential goes a long way to making business happen. Photo Credit: GettyImages/Rawpixel

With the return of face-to-face meetings, business event planners and delegates are beginning to recognise the urgency of advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), as are a number of switched-on destinations.

Speakers at Malaysia Business Events Week 2022 agree that the key to any destination’s success post-pandemic is to nurture partnerships, goal setting, agility in responding to global trends, and thinking long-term for the sustainable growth of the industry.

DEI is also one of the most impactful and creative ways business events can advance sustainability – by going beyond the traditional to integrate new opportunities designed to engage attendees and benefit and “give back” to host communities.

Connecting events and destinations with local communities, social enterprises, start-ups and local governments is, say experts like president and CEO of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), Sherriff Keramet, good for business.

“Business events can play a critical role of bringing people together while having dialogues and tough conversations that allow you to narrow the gap that exists so you can solve complex social issues,” he said during MBEW.

But what should destinations be doing to effect more effective and measurable change?

Here are four things to consider when planning for meetings and events, as discussed during the MBEW 2022's panel session on 'Our Values Today: DEI’:

1. The art of empathy

Jane Cunningham, director of European Engagement – Destinations International, says that adopting DEI can be overwhelming. To ease adoption, “Ask yourself: What does belonging and welcoming mean to you? If we understand where people are coming from and try to walk in their shoes, we make them feel comfortable. Just as when you invite people to come into your home, you want to make them feel welcome.”

2. Understand the community more

“One of the opportunities with technology and hybrid events during the pandemic was that a lot of women and those with families were attending events. They don’t have to worry about organising time with their children,” says Sarah Markey-Hamm, president-elect of the International Association of Professional Conference Organisers.

One of the things we learned [at World Deaf Association Conference] is that you have to have food that people can eat in one bite because the deaf talk with their hands.
Sarah Markey-Hamm, president-elect, International Association of Professional Conference Organisers

If you want everyone to be there, think about timing events within school holidays. If it’s about education, think about recruiting young speakers. Look outside the bubble to bring in diverse audiences, she says.

3. Gain professional credentials

Get certifications for your venue and special advisors from societies or associations in your city to understand the needs of participants coming to your destination.

4. Make space for accessibility

Other than wheelchair access, consider getting a sign language interpreter and accommodate the hard of hearing with hearing loops.

“We did a World Deaf Association Conference and one of the things we learned is that you have to have food that people can eat in one bite because the deaf talk with their hands,” explains Sarah.

“These are things that someone may not be able to tell you – you’ve got to experience it yourself.”

Never underestimate the power of asking people who are part of the community what matters to them.



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