A top priority for any event planner is making sure their attendees are comfortable. This can mean everything from ordering enough food to controlling the temperature in the conference room. It also requires welcoming people from all walks of life and ensuring that they feel welcome at your event. The events industry has made strides in recent years in promoting awareness around the need to welcome members of the LGBTQ+ community, but there is still work to be done.
Event environments are designed by meeting planners, so it is up to them to create a place that bolsters inclusivity. Sometimes the simplest change is all it takes to make an attendee feel welcome. Following are a few suggestions on where to start to make your next event more inclusive of all genders and sexual identifications.
Gender Neutral Bathrooms
Before deciding on a venue, check to see if they have gender neutral bathrooms. Jeffrey Huang, senior manager, of employee engagement and outforce global president at Salesforce, writing about his experiences with gender inclusivity at events, says: “If you can’t find a venue with all gender restrooms, try to find one with single-occupancy restrooms. These can easily be converted to ‘all gender’ restrooms and eliminate the possibility of anyone feeling uncomfortable.” Simply temporarily affix a sign, like the one to the right, over the female or male signs already in place.
Add Pronouns to Name Tags
Attendees will most likely wear name tags so why not have them add their pronouns to their name tags? Bernadette Smith, founder and president of the Equality Institute encourages wearing pronouns on name tags as it is an easy way to make sure no one gets misgendered. Not using name tags? Check out these cool pronoun buttons that attendees can wear and take home with them!
People’s names do not always match the name on their official government issued ID. Legally changing a name can be a tedious and expensive process, so reconsider checking identification at registration. Jeffery Huang proposes that, if you do need to check IDs, be aware of and willing to accommodate slight inconsistencies as transgender or gender non-conforming attendees might prefer a name other than the one on their ID.
Gender Neutral Language and Clothes
Avoid gendered language when addressing attendees. This extends to any registration forms or questionnaires you may have on which there should be options outside of ‘Male’ and ‘Female.’ These could include ‘non-binary’ ‘prefer not to say’ and a blank space for people to write what they want. Additionally, Bobbie Carlton, founder of Carlton PR & Marketing, Innovation Nights and Innovation Women suggests adding Mx. as an option for titles and honorifics. Only ever ask an attendee’s gender if necessary.
(photo credit: qmunity.ca)
If you have clothing for gifts, try and describe the pieces by fit instead of gender. Think ‘straight cut’ or ‘fitted cut’ instead of ‘women’s’ or ‘men’s’ t-shirts.
Including diverse speakers who will address your attendees from different points of view will broaden the scope of your event. Differing perspectives should always be welcome and encouraged when choosing speakers. Just be careful not to tokenize speakers by including one random person of color to represent all minority viewpoints.
Perry Eising, community strategy and management at Netlify and emcee at this years ACT-W Conference for women in tech, also warns against asking “minority speakers to only speak about minority issues—they have other skills too.”
Clearly Provide a Code of Conduct
Eising suggests publishing a code of conduct that you feel prepared to implement. Having a code of conduct regarding behavior of attendees and inclusion practices lets your attendees know that they are in a welcoming environment and gives you something to fall back on if need be.
Promote your event as LGBTQ+ welcoming
Inclusivity is a big draw for attendees and Bernadette Smith points out that it could be used as a marketing tool for your event. Not only will it attract members of the LGBTQ+ community, it will send a clear message to all your attendees that your event will be welcoming and thoughtful. Additionally, stating ahead of time that your event will have gender-neutral bathrooms (or any other gender inclusive aspects that you decide to implement) will help potential attendees prepare for or decide to come to your event.