Written By: Jeanna André-Murdie
What does the word “inclusive” mean to you? Exactly… no one answer will be the same. Inclusive has so many meanings, because we are ALL different. We all learn differently, and we all have different needs. Where some events are wide and varied, others are very narrow and highly focused. How do you strike the balance to make everyone feel welcome and included, while not excluding others by being too “inclusive”?
Here are my Top 5 ways to create an Inclusive meeting:
- Contributions – Share the outlines of sessions and meetings ahead of time and offer a way for delegates to ask questions or give input to ensure you get better contribution from your audience. This allows any introverts and remote workers time to process information without having conversation monopolized by any extroverts in the group. This ensures everyone’s voice is heard.
- Offer Safe Spaces – With a varied audience comes the need for a space for all, whether it’s places for prayer, accessibility for those with specialized needs, quiet spaces for Elders in aboriginal events, and, when possible, gender-accepting and LGBTQ-safe spaces.
- Open Dialogue /Feedback – The most effective way to make your next meeting inclusive is following up after your last! Send out thoughtful and meaningful surveys inviting attendees to give their good, bad and GREAT ratings. And include space for their suggestions and feedback. This awareness of what your group wants to see makes it easier to implement elements which will spark better learning next time.
- Customs/Traditions – Where possible, when holding your event, ask your host venue or DMC (Destination Marketing Company) about local customs, land rights, environmental practices, ways to give back to the community and if they have any suggestions on ways you can improve your inclusiveness. Also ask for suggestions of the availability of local places such as churches/mosques, First Nations centres and LGBTQ spaces. Then to ensure inclusiveness, check venue accessibility for those with additional sight and mobility requirements.
- Set Up – Room set up often dictates whether a meeting will leave everyone feeling included. Make sure everyone is sitting at the table with no “overflow” chairs in the back of the room, please! If people are clustered at one end of the table, spread them out so everyone can be seen and heard. If any attendees are dialing in using a phone bridge or video conference, be sure to put the microphone in the center of the table so it can pick up everyone’s voice.
Another great resource is this federal government guide and summary of legal requirements.
Further to that, work with us at The Howes Group. We will ensure you have what you need from that right venue!