On the heels of launching its Inclusive Event Design certificate program in April, Meeting Professionals International has released a research report that offers both benchmarking statistics for meeting planners as well as crowd-sourced practices to maximize diversity and inclusion at events.
Titled "State of Inclusion in Meetings & Events" and conducted in partnership with New York University’s Jonathan M. Tisch School of Hospitality, the report addresses a wide range of categories by which attendees can be considered for purposes of ensuring full inclusion at events. Specifically, MPI examined attendee factors such as physical ability, health, culture, demographic characteristics, personal characteristics, and professional background.
For instance, the results from 1,087 responding planners showed, unsurprisingly, that males and extroverts are best served by the meetings and events industry, while introverts are least served. To remedy this, the report recommends that meeting professionals use technology to ask questions in different ways during sessions and use assigned seating at meal events in order to better engage and serve introverts.
Other research results include:
· 20 percent of respondents say they implement diversity and inclusion initiatives to comply with legal requirements, while 31 percent use diversity and inclusion initiatives to respond to guest expectations.
· 56 percent of respondents say their organization has a written diversity and inclusion policy.
· 40 percent of respondents say they don’t have all the information or knowledge needed to plan fully inclusive experiences.
· One of the largest hurdles to making the event-registration process more inclusive is trying to build a registration form that is comprehensive but short enough to not dampen attendee interest.
· About 50 percent of the time, planners offer different types of seating/furniture to match attendees’ needs and preferences.
· In contrast, few planners share event menus with attendees ahead of time, or produce event materials in different languages.
In its respondent-driven best-practices section, the report offers ideas such as creating open-ended questions on registration forms to capture all relevant information. Another recommendation: For large events, reserve space dedicated for attendees with differing abilities and their companions, or provide them with early access to the session to avoid navigating through a crowd.
“Industry professionals have said there is a gap in knowledge and education to support the design of inclusive experiences," said Jessie States, CMP, CMM, director, MPI Academy for Meeting Professionals International. "We need to create safe learning environments where our community can learn from experts and from each other about how to design truly welcoming experiences," and thus create similarly welcoming experiences for attendees of any event.