Meeting Mentor Magazine

July 2024

6 Ways to Make Your Events More Diverse and Inclusive

Did you know that organizations that had the most diverse leadership were 33% more profitable than their less-diverse counterparts? That key finding from the McKinsey & Company report on how inclusion matters for businesses is one piece of data the SEMI Foundation pulled together to create a strong business case for its DEI initiative, said Shari Liss, Executive Director, SEMI Foundation, during a recent International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) webinar, “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the C-Suite.”

Liss, who is responsible for leading the foundation’s DEI initiatives, said, “The best way to sell it to the C-Suite is through data and statistics, because they make a strong business case on why this is so critical.”

“There’s a huge body of knowledge demonstrating that diverse teams and companies with leadership from diverse background outperform other companies and have higher rates of creativity, productivity, problem-solving, innovation, and new revenue generation,” Liss added. “By not plugging into this work, you’re actually leaving money on the table.” Her team developed a DEI Roadmap and Toolkit that includes a comprehensive list of DEI-related assessments, resources and research. “In order to oversee workforce programs, we have to build a diverse pipeline of talent,” Liss said.

Dave Labuskes, CTS, CAE, RCDD, CEO of the audiovisual and integrated experience association AVIXA, said during the webinar that his organization got started when it established a Women’s Council of Volunteers several years ago. More recently, it formed a Diversity Council to help AVIXA more effectively help the AV industry in the area of DEI. Because so many companies within the AV industry are small businesses, they may not have the resources to carry out their DEI initiatives, he explained. One of the resources his organization has already launched is a information and glossaries around inclusive language, as well as a series of webinars explaining the business case for how DEI can create added value.

While some objected to AVIXA’s DEI initiatives as beyond the scope of the AV industry, Labuskes said, “Our answer is that enhancing the diversity of our industry results in greater innovation and higher levels of profitability, while also providing social benefits of opening up the workforce to a broader audience.”

Making Meetings More Inclusive

The panelists agreed that meetings and events are a fairly easy-to-measure way to implement DEI initiatives. Some of their suggestions included:

• Diversify your stage presence. It’s not enough to have, for example, a women-in-the-industry add-on panel during lunch or breakfast. Instead, think about embedding a diversity of experts throughout the educational sessions so that their views are represented, even when DEI is not the topic of the session. One idea Labuskes said AVIXA had implemented was a “pass-the-mic” program for all of AVIXA’s in-person and virtual events. It works by having the show organizers ask their usual speakers to invite experts in a less-represented community to come on stage with them. “It’s a way to integrate new voices without losing the strength of those existing voices,” he said.

• If you do plan a DEI-specific session, don’t make it look like an afterthought. Consider making it a main-stage event, not an end-of-the-day breakout. And position these sessions as “diversity as a business strategy,” including studies and statistics that show how diversity makes business sense.

• Ask keynote speakers to work DEI into their presentation, even if it’s not the main topic they plan to address.

• Integrate diversity into the event from the start — including the planning committee. The SEMI Roadmap for Event Planning suggests working toward having 50% of the committee being diverse.

• Ensure your marketing materials and graphics reflect the diversity of your audience.

• Train your moderators to call on diverse people during the Q&A.

The webinar, available on demand, is free to IAEE members and $49 for nonmembers, on the IAEE website.




Free Subscription to
MeetingMentor Online


About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 4,400+ associations, corporations, and sporting authorities through our 400+ global associates.

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually.

Design by: Loewy Design