Diversity and inclusivity in event technology

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Tokenism doesn’t help anybody, it just doctors the stats. Inclusivity proper should be natural to organisers, like a sixth sense. 

This panel on Day 2 of Event Tech Live, expertly steered by Ashanti Bentil-Dhue from EventMind, who is co-founder of Diversity Ally, featured first-hand experiences and some forceful observations about how organisers should be using tech to switch on to the wants of the minority and to amplify them, literally and metaphorically. 

Panellists David Hughes from Ablio, Megan Strahle, who’s at the University of Exeter, Pamela Benitez of the Virtual Events Experience and Sabrina Meyers, founder of Two Social Media Chicks, looked into how virtual events could, and should, be fostering relationships with minority groups and providing for the wants of visitors and speakers. 

As a host of a number of high-profile events and a planner/online moderator since the Covid-19 crisis, Sabrina Meyers makes a point of connecting with the speakers/contributors she books, in writing and via Zoom, to build a relationship, to find out exactly what they need and, above all, to establish trust. 

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The rest of the panel advocate a similar approach to engagement – across cultures and languages – to make sure participants, exhibitors and visitors get whatever they need to optimise the experience. 

That’s a key difference between digital and live events; the capacity to deploy tech to make it better for people who might not speak e.g. English, might be deaf, blind or have other disabilities. 

For Megan Strahle though, who is a little hard of hearing, not a single organiser from a single virtual event she has been to since lockdown has sought to find out what she needs to get the most from the experience or provided something as simple and helpful as subtitles. A massive missed opportunity. 

Pamela Benitez, who works for a social enterprise, was perhaps the most radical – in this conversation at least – suggesting organisers take a step back, stop doing the same style of events and find different cultures, different nationalities a place in the show as an extra tier of understanding.

Among the top tips from this top ETL 20 session: listen to what people are telling you and act on it; take the time, make the effort, to really get to know your speakers and try to use the budget to bring new ideas to the party. Do something for the minority and make use of tech to get more inclusive.

Event Tech Live continues 2-6th November, register here