While inclusivity is on the rise for events such as tradeshows and expos, there’s always room for improvement. With thoughtful attention to inclusive event planning, plus a few tradeshow giveaways, you can make everyone feel welcome and included, including your speakers.
A global study from EventMB analyzed 150 events to determine the diversity of speaker panels. It found that 67% of speakers were black, 86% were BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color and 99% were women.
If you’re looking to ensure all audience members are represented and included, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, religion, age or other characteristic, we offer four helpful tips.
Tip #1: Start with pre-event planning
Inclusion begins long before the doors open to your tradeshow. Making plans prior to the day of the event goes a long way toward getting more people to attend.
Considering how people will physically get to the event is a good start. When selecting a venue, evaluate which types of transportation are available. Nearby public transportation and ADA compliance offer convenience. Designate a contact person for accessibility questions so any concerns can be addressed. If your tradeshow is a multiday event, provide information about hotel accommodations and ADA compliance.
Travel costs and registration fees could be a barrier for some people. Offering tiered pricing for different registration levels makes attending more feasible. Health concerns and time away from home could also make it difficult for some to attend. Share what health measures you are taking. For instance, will social distancing be encouraged? Or are hand-washing stations and sanitizer readily available? Offering remote access to the tradeshow widens your audience, too.
Provide an agenda and schedule prior to the event so people may anticipate what they need in advance. And be sure to plan events around religious holidays.
Tip #2: Showcase diversity in your speakers and exhibitors
Create a more welcoming environment by developing a diverse team of speakers and exhibitors.
Select presenters who represent the attendees you hope to attract.
Extend the same accessibility and inclusivity considerations for your attendees that you do for your speakers and vendors. Inquire about any special travel accommodations or help that may be needed during the event. When selecting the venue, look for accessible features including:
- Signs in Braille
- Wheelchair accessible ramps
- Wide doors and hallways and working entrance buttons for wheelchair users
- Accessible working elevators
Welcome vendors that are members of the Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council, which represents businesses that are at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by visible minorities or Aboriginal persons.
Tip #3: Help all attendees feel welcome
When you’re planning for an inclusive event, making provisions for diverse attendees ensures they feel welcome and included.
Communicate diversity in tradeshow materials and presentations. Select diverse images and icons as you develop your landing page, social media content, digital advertising, mailers or other materials. Use image descriptions in presentations and captions in videos for people with hearing impairments and provide ASL interpretation.
Provide name badges with pronoun preferences. Offer optional colour communication badges with a clip-on holder or silicone bracelets with an explanation for their purposeFor people with autism, social interactions can be draining. By using badges or bracelets to show their preferred level of communication, they can save energy for other activities. Communication levels include:
- Green: they welcome people to approach and talk.
- Yellow: they only want to speak to people they recognize.
- Red: they prefer not to speak to anyone.
Offer a variety of food options including vegetarian, gluten-free, kosher and low-sugar options. These mints are sugar- and gluten-free and these cookie dough bites are kosher. Both make great tradeshow giveaways.
Tip #4: Follow up with post-event plans
A few post-event activities can further communicate inclusivity and help you prepare for the next event. Make event materials available online and through email. Offer to send a hard copy of materials to attendees who request it.
Provide a survey to speakers, vendors and attendees to get feedback about inclusivity at the event. It’s an opportunity to address concerns and make improvements for your next tradeshow. Encourage people to take the survey by offering a gift to all who complete it. A lunch box or collapsible cooler make great thank-you gifts.
Welcome to your inclusive tradeshow, where everyone feels included
Using these tips for inclusive event planning, you’ll provide an inviting environment for everyone at your tradeshow regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, religion, age or other characteristic.
- Make pre- and post-event plans
- Build a diverse team of speakers and exhibitors
- Make the event physically accessible
- Offer a variety of ways to participate so that everyone is included