Five ways to make your virtual events more inclusive

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At BDC, everyday we see the results of out-of-the-box thinking from entrepreneurs who embrace diversity—and we always strive to walk the talk ourselves. Recent events have made it essential that each of us considers what we can do personally, and as business owners, to proactively embrace and promote inclusivity.

In order to thrive, we need to constantly challenge ourselves to do better and to do that we must embrace many different opinions, ideas and perspectives.

One way each of us can make a difference is by being mindful about the events you choose to attend and that you host. Here are five tips to help you create more inclusive events, whether they are virtual due to COVID-19, or when they eventually return to in-person:

  1. Engage a diverse organizing committee: There are scores of opportunities to push for diversity and inclusion at every step of the event planning process and working with a diverse organizing committee is essential. Together, you can look for opportunities and flag possible blind spots. For instance, when choosing the event date, consider religious or cultural holidays that may conflict. When events return to in-person, book venues and vendors that promote racial diversity, including how they accommodate the full spectrum of disabilities. You can do this now for any virtual events.
  2. Find the right speakers: Your speakers are the faces of your event or webinar and should be as diverse as the audience you want to appeal to. Hosting an event that includes a diverse set of outlooks should include women, LGBTQ2+, visible minorities, disabled people, and so on. Too often I see the same faces presenting at events and typically they say the same things. A diverse panel will present new ideas and provoke more thoughts. Admittedly, it may take more time, but that time and energy will reflect back on the overall experience of attendees. Increasingly, it`s great to see that speakers are also demanding event organizers commit to diversity before they will even agree to participate in an event. You can do this too.
  3. Don’t skip the sign-up: Make your attendees feel welcome as soon as they sign-up. To help achieve that, be inclusive in your language and photos. Offer the option of a gender-neutral title (Mx) as an alternative to the traditional Mr., Miss, and Ms and ensure your photos of people represent all the people who may attend your event.
  4. Ask for Feedback: After the event, ensure you encourage both your organizing committee and attendees to provide feedback. This will provide input on what worked and how you can improve for next time.
  5. Lead by example: This may seem like a no-brainer, but it truly shows your commitment to diversity. Ensure your companies policies from human resources and hiring, through to building your culture, reflect the company culture for which you are striving. These changes don’t need to happen overnight, but your employees and clients will appreciate your commitment.

Designing an event where all attendees feel included requires deeper effort in learning and getting informed. It requires you to ask tough questions, to be comfortable being uncomfortable and recognize that you probably won’t get everything right the first time. What’s most important is that you continue to be intentional about your goals and outcomes and continue to ask questions to learn and improve your events.

There are many ways to embrace diversity and inclusion be it in an event, webinar, or in life. It starts with making it a priority.

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