Extraordinary Events Podcast

Ep 69: Diverse and Inclusive Events with Megan Cook

April 15, 2021 Extraordinary Events
Extraordinary Events Podcast
Ep 69: Diverse and Inclusive Events with Megan Cook
Chapters
Extraordinary Events Podcast
Ep 69: Diverse and Inclusive Events with Megan Cook
Apr 15, 2021
Extraordinary Events

Ensuring that every attendee feels included at your event is a critical step in the event planning process! In this podcast episode, Megan Cook gives simple steps to ensure that your event is inclusive to all event attendees. These steps include elements such as food choices, accessibility, using proper pronouns, etc. Implementing these elements into your event will create a better experience for event attendees, and ensure that every attendee feels seen and heard. 

Show Notes Transcript

Ensuring that every attendee feels included at your event is a critical step in the event planning process! In this podcast episode, Megan Cook gives simple steps to ensure that your event is inclusive to all event attendees. These steps include elements such as food choices, accessibility, using proper pronouns, etc. Implementing these elements into your event will create a better experience for event attendees, and ensure that every attendee feels seen and heard. 

Dr. K: In the Intro to Events class, students have to show mastery of the design thinking process. Students are able to show this mastery in a variety of different ways, such as designing a training video, a game, or even a podcast. They are able to choose any topic and organize their activity in any way they want, as long as they follow this design process. These student created podcasts have offered so many insights into what students are thinking and experiencing that I have decided to take two Thursday’s a month to feature these works of art. I hope you enjoy today’s student created podcast! 


Megan: Hello. Hello. Hello everyone, my name is Megan Cook and I'm here at the College of Journalism recording this podcast. Now picture this, you're at an event. You've been there since 7:00 in the morning, and now it's 12:00. You haven't eaten a snack or breakfast. It's lunch time and you're having steak and egg salad with milk. Kind of weird a little bit. But yeah, it's going to help me explain this. You're vegan and lactose intolerant. You can't eat steak and egg salad, you look around and you don't see any other options. Guess you'll have to go with the water and eat when you get home. Now that's something that you want to avoid happening to any of your guests at your event, right? Of course! You want to make sure that your event is perfect and everyone feels included and seen and heard. Let's talk about what went wrong in this situation. The event planner didn't design with everybody in mind. Just some they didn't consider that there would be people there who don't eat meat and can't have regular milk. The event planner obviously did not make the event truly inclusive. We're going to talk about when planning, you need to keep everyone in mind. It's a simple way to ensure that everyone has a comfortable and enjoyable time at your event. 


A great place to start would be to talk about food and creating a menu that includes all types of food options. There are lots of things to consider when creating a menu that is inclusive. You need to consider people who are vegetarian, vegan gluten-free, have nut allergies, religious dietary restrictions, dairy intolerance and other food allergies. So a way to avoid having the situation happen would be to include a dietary restriction section on the registration form, that way you can get a sense of what needs to be included in your menu. 


Another area to be considered is how to accommodate those with disabilities. Ensure that you have a plan to have enough space for those with wheelchairs as well as keeping in mind those who are deaf, hard of hearing, and also blind. Allow for plenty of time between sessions for those people whose mobility is compromised. This will help them avoid crowds and getting injured. Reserve spots for those attendees in the front of the room. Reserving spots for the hard of hearing at the front of the room is also a good idea so then they can see their interpreters. This all needs to be done kind of as discreetly as possible. Those people who need those extra services should not be made to feel as if they are on display or singled out amongst their peers. Feeling comfortable included and on equal ground with those is a top priority. A way to ensure that this happens is if you making sure that everyone knows what is going on. Informing your staff, your volunteers, they need to be informed of who needs assistance so they can get the proper assistance. Communication is key. 


Something that when I was researching this that I never even thought of is making sure that buffet tables are low enough for people in wheelchairs and also with registration tables and things like that where people need to reach and grab things. That's probably something that I never even thought of, but it's something that should be thought of and making sure that everyone feels included. Also, it's important to note that you will be complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act and it should be listed on your program as well, along with proper contact information for people who need those accommodations to contact you and if they have any issues, they can contact that person and make sure that they are getting what they need and your event will run smoothly that way. 


When we reviewed this topic in class. I probably would have never thought to think about religious holidays, which is pretty ignorant of me, but I should think of them and respect those and not plan any events on those days. This is an area where an assistant will come in handy. He or she can have a list of religious holidays and a planner, let me know if one occurs on the date of the event. Making sure that you are not scheduling events on those days, making sure that all of those people feel like they have the option to come to your event and don't have any conflicts will ensure that you will have the most attendance possible and the most people feeling included and seen and heard. 


Also, keep in mind that not everyone is extraverted. Not everyone is going to want to participate in your events. And I think that's okay if they don't want to participate in events. It is good to break out of your shell, but sometimes people don't want to and that's perfectly okay. Don't force them to participate in something if they don't want to participate in it. It's their experience, you're designing the event for them and you want to make them feel included. 


Another area of inclusion is to make sure people are aware of proper pronouns to use as well. You can allow registration badges to have pronouns on them to ensure that people are being properly recognized. You don't want to talk to someone and call them. Mr. or Mrs. when that's not what they identify as. You want to make sure that those people are feeling properly represented. You are going to have different attendees who identify as something different.


A list that I found on the MPI’s diversity and inclusion report lists out everyone that you should keep in mind when designing for your event. Keep in mind male attendees, female attendees, younger attendees, older attendees, LGBTQ attendees, introverted attendees, extroverted attendees, attendees with food restrictions from ethnic minorities with disabilities, from non dominant religion, attendees with more work experience, attendees with less work experience. 


And so kind of what the more work experience and less work experience is talking about, if you want to make sure that you are using vocabulary that everyone can understand. Don't assume that everyone is going to know what you're talking about and making sure that they can get the most out of the experience by understanding everything that is being said. You also want to include attendees who are less comfortable with technology. Something that my mom told me is that when she goes to work shops, she's a teacher so she goes to work shops a lot, they have guides strategically placed to help those who maybe can't log on or can't find the website and they need to troubleshoot and etc. like that. They don't quite know how to work with technology. Having those guides maybe with the password and the login to the Wi-Fi because maybe people don't have service at the event that you are hosting or don't have enough data and you're making them look stuff up. They need to be able to effectively do that keeping those people in mind will help you in the future. 


So just keep that in mind when you're trying to make your events diverse and inclusive and really keep in mind that making these events diverse and inclusive will make your event better overall. It will run smoother and people will enjoy it a lot more if they feel represented. Thank you all for listening to this podcast about diversity and inclusivity. I hope that you all learned something as this is a very hot topic right now. This is Megan Cook, once again, thank you all for listening.


Dr. K: What an absolutely amazing podcast by Megan Cook if you've been listening to the Extraordinary Events Podcast for awhile then you know that maybe  a month ago I said that I was on somebody else’s podcast, and actually it was Megan's podcast. Megan Cook and Hailey Ryerson came together to form a podcast called Small Town Girls and they had me as a guest on it so how much fun that they created a podcast for the Extraordinary Events Podcast and then I was able to be on their podcast. It is the circle of life in education. I love that Megan had the opportunity to do any possible topic that she wanted to do for this podcast and she chose one that was around diversity and inclusion, just absolutely love that, love diversity and inclusion so critical for events. I am so excited about what we have for you next week so make sure to stay tuned and subscribe to share with your friends, help us hit our goals and reach out to us, tell us what you want to hear. We only do this podcast for you to provide value to our industry and it helps a whole lot more when you reach out and let us know what you want. With that thank you all so much so much for taking the time to make the time I'll talk with you soon.