Dave Leong speaks on making everyone feel welcomed at events

As Smart Meetings leans into exploring what the concept of “belonging” means to the meetings and events industry and how we can all do better, we are sitting down with experts to capture their different angles on what the idea of belonging is. Dave Leong, founder and CEO of Super Creative, gives his expert insight into his thoughts on belonging and what progress for the future looks like.

 Q: What got you interested in the meetings and events industry?

A: I grew up in the world of TV, music and film. So, I fell into live event production. I was an audio engineer in Australia and toured with cover bands. But I was a swimmer as well, so I would finish work at 2:30 a.m. and be in the pool at 5:30 a.m. I became very ill. My father said, “You clearly love your job, but this is not working. So, what do you love you love about it?” I said, “I love life. I love seeing everyone come together.”

Q: Why was inclusivity and belonging so important to you when starting Super Creative?

A: I am an Asian, gay, vegan male who works in the events industry. I have been marginalized my entire life and even more by experiences. I feel that, from my perspective, I can find solutions. We started ideating, we started building and we created this concept to be rolled out in phases.

Q: What can the meetings and events industry do better for inclusivity and belonging?

A: The first is training. I’m working with doctors and psychologists on creating some training around how to move your events team to think more about the concept of belonging and how to integrate that into your workflow.

Read More: Neuroinclusion: Events for Everyone

Q: What are some of the concerns you have heard in regard to implementing inclusion and belonging practices and how can we debunk those myths?

A: Some think “we don’t have the budget for that.” It doesn’t cost; it requires a little bit of brain power. You don’t have to [spend] money on it if you don’t want to. There are so many ways that we could make people feel like they belong at our events.

“Some think ‘we don’t have the budget for that.’ It doesn’t cost; it requires a little bit of brain power.”

Q: How does implementing practices for the purpose of making attendees feel like they belong enhance the event and create more recognition and revenue for the meeting professional and their client?

A: If someone came to your event and felt like they were understood, they’re going to be that sticky attendee that comes back every year. You don’t have to spend as much advertising dollars; they’re going to become your ticket seller. They’re going to say “this was the most amazing thing I’ve ever attended” because “they actually [cared] that I was in a wheelchair” or that “my hearing was failing so they had closed captioning” or that “I was feeling super overwhelmed, and I had an area I could feel resilient in.” All of those things might cost minimal amounts of money, but they mean that your attendees are going to come back year after year.

This article appears in the May 2024 issue. You can subscribe to the magazine here.