A recent Gallup poll indicates that as high as 5% of the world’s population identifies as LGBTQ. And in some metro areas such as San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta and others, that number can go as high as 15%. By staging events that are fully inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community as well as all Sexual Orientation Gender Identity Groups (SOGI), event planners send a message that not only do they want to capture that 5-15% as attendees, but also that they are serving the entire community as a whole and not just parts of it.
Many companies are realizing the imperative of hosting LGBTQ+ and SOGI inclusive events to reflect their values and as such, event managers are answering the call. The result is a renewed and more granular approach to planning events that pays closer attention to the details involved in making the event truly inclusive. Doing so extends an event and organization’s values to a much broader range of attendees while building stronger ties within communities that have previously been marginalized. By practicing inclusivity, event planners can ensure that everyone feels a sense of belonging. That’s why we’ve compiled a few tips and resources that event planners can use when building virtual events that are inclusive of the LGBTQ+ and SOGI community:
Tips for Creating LGBTQ Inclusive Events
- Identification – One of the most important things to remember when staging an LGBTQ+ event is that words, labels and identifiers matter. Attendees from that community feeling comfortable and included can hinge on appropriately handling this concern. Never assume or simply assign generic pronouns as a “catch-all” for all guests. Identification issues can manifest themselves in several places:
- RSVP: When an RSVP is required, it is appropriate to ask participants for their gender pronouns but only if it is necessary for the event.
- General Communication: When it comes to directly addressing attendees, gender-neutral language should be used. This makes pronouns more SOGI inclusive. Using “folks” or “y’all” in place of “guys”, “distinguished guests” in place of “ladies and gentlemen” and “theirs” or “they” in place of “his” or “hers” is recommended.
- Staff/Facilitator Training – One area that must be addressed when building an LGBTQ+ event is staff/facilitator training. These first-line staff/facilitators will be interacting with guests and attendees and it is imperative that they understand gender fluidity and how to appropriately address and engage with guests.
- Speakers – Many events have speakers, trainers, facilitators and even celebrities as part of their lineup. And while these personalities are meant to be informative and entertaining, it is important for planners to realize that they are very visible and therefore definitional faces of the event. Whenever possible they should reflect the diversity of the community in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
- Marketing and Promotion – Staging an event that is LGBTQ+ inclusive should be marketed so that everyone knows they are welcome. This includes planning in advance for issues that may be sensitive, such as the restroom policy (in a post COVID world), and creating welcome messages and a mission statement that promotes LGBTQ+ inclusion and support. This messaging can be listed on websites, social media and marketing materials as well. Don’t forget – it is important to have the material peer reviewed for gaps. For example, for images, a peer may catch that the promotional material is only using pictures of heterosexual couples. Marketing can be a powerful way to communicate inclusiveness provided it relays the intended message in both words and images.
- Zero Tolerance – Actions must match words. Homophobic or transphobic behavior and language at events cannot be accepted. This means implementing a zero-tolerance policy and at the least, speaking to the person using the language or exhibiting the behavior. If necessary, it may require removing the individual from the event.
Post-COVID, factor in these additional tips to foster inclusivity and belonging:
Location – A key factor in staging an LGBTQ+ inclusive event is location. The location should fit a diverse audience. A venue should be evaluated for whether it is in a welcoming and appropriate place to bring people together from all communities, countries, states, cities, etc. It is also a good idea to go one step further and inquire as to what other events may be held in the same location or nearby.
Badges and Check In: Unless needed for security or practicality, photos should be avoided. If photos are not needed, then simply asking guests for their name to check-in should suffice.
Restrooms – Another sensitive issue that is often overlooked is the restroom policy. This may be difficult to manage depending on how much control the event planner has within the venue and accommodations. But at the very least one restroom where people can choose their own gender and one gender neutral restroom should be made available.
While you can’t plan for every contingency, these are but a few of the tips that can help you promote a genuinely inclusive event for members of the LGBTQ+ community. By following these best practices, an atmosphere of respect and true inclusion can be achieved for all participants.
Interested in learning more about how to engage your Pride community and Allies? We’ve compiled a how-to-guide with 5+ steps for companies to support and celebrate Pride.We hope that this guide invites you to engage in meaningful dialogue and inspires you to fight for inclusion and take action to advance equity, inclusion, and belonging for the LBGTQIA+ community. DOWNLOAD OUR GUIDE
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