August 16, 2022
By Hope Salvatori

During Cvent CONNECT 2022, we sat down with a panel to discuss diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and how event professionals can incorporate their organizations’ DEI priorities into their event programs.

Our panelists covered four key strategies to help planners implement, track, and measure their DEI efforts.

Measure DEI Efforts Using KPIs

You might be thinking, “What can KPIs tell me about DEI? Aren’t KPIs all about event success?” KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators, are measurable data that tell you about the success of your event goals.

Your KPIs should always mirror your strategic plan and should be based on your organization’s values. So, if one of your goals for your event includes improving DEI, you can curate the data you collect to ensure your KPIs are measuring DEI.

Now, how do you do this? By gathering the right data from your attendees, speakers, vendors, and exhibitors, and asking yourself, “What’s missing?” Or approached another way, “Who is missing?”

Consider what voice is missing from your table. What perspective could add value to your discussion? DEI is not about numbers and quotas; it’s about bringing together a diverse pool of perspectives and voices.

Here are just a few examples of KPIs that will help you measure diversity, equity, and inclusion at your events:

  • Demographics of attendees, speakers, vendors/venue workers, exhibitors, and sponsors – think age, race, gender, disabilities, interests, experience, etc.
  • Attendees’ responses to questions about their experience – how well did you meet the needs of all your attendees?
  • DEI efforts of vendors and venues – are you working with inclusive partners?
  • Think about the data you don’t have and make capturing that data one of your goals by creating a KPI for it.

Work with Vendors and Venues That Prioritize DEI

When building a well-rounded DEI strategy for your events, it’s important to consider how the vendors and venues you choose to work with are approaching DEI. Why? Because your business, and that of your event partners, directly benefits a huge number of people – so why not make sure those benefits are equitably dispersed?

Follow the Money

According to an Events Industry Council study, meetings make up $325 billion of direct spending in the U.S., and of that total, $95.6 billion is wages and salaries. That means that about 30% of all direct spending goes to supporting the people who make your events possible – some 5.9 million people.

On a global scale, those numbers are staggering. According to the 2021 Global Economic Significance of Business Events study, the events industry supports 26 million jobs globally, with $1.7 trillion in direct spending.

So, when you think of those numbers and how many people are involved in making the events industry so successful, consider who those people are and whether the companies and organizations they work for are prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion.

But how do you figure out who’s championing DEI? Start with the numbers. When you walk into a hotel, you might think the staff is a good indicator of how inclusive their hiring practices are, but that’s only part of the larger picture.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020 Current Population Survey, about 80.9% of hospitality management positions are held by White workers. So those in leadership positions – who derive the most benefit from your business – are primarily (and by a vast margin) White.

Ask the Hard Questions

If you want to work with venues that prioritize DEI, dig deeper than front desk demographics; ask pointed questions about prospective partners’ DEI policies, hiring practices, demographics, etc. You can pose a number of these questions in your RFPs:

  • What are the demographics of your managers versus your hourly workers?
  • Can you provide a breakdown of demographics by age, race, gender, disability, etc.? Ask for more than you think you’ll get!
  • Do you have a formal DEI policy you can share?
  • How is your venue set up to be accessible? Can the space be configured to be more accessible, if necessary?

Now, it’s possible you won’t receive answers to all your questions. But a good place to start is by sharing with your prospective partners why you’re asking. Share your DEI KPIs with your vendors and partners so they understand why it’s important to your organization. Beyond ensuring you choose the best partners for your event, you might inspire those partners to work harder in championing DEI.

Want a small insight into which companies are prioritizing DEI? Check out the Forbes 2022 study, America’s Best Employers for Diversity. Did your partners make the list?

Connect With Your Attendees by Asking Questions

To ensure a positive experience for all attendees, you should ask yourself one question: How can I make my attendees feel welcome? The Platinum Rule is an excellent starting point: “Treat others the way they want to be treated.”

How? By getting to know your attendees before your event begins and by prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the entire life of your event, beginning with registration.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

The insight you gather from attendees during registration can do far more than provide you with demographic data to meet diversity goals or tell you which attendees have food allergies. With the right set of questions, you can find out what’s important to your attendees, what they need to feel included, and how you can plan for things you might not have considered.

For example, think about the questions you ask about disabilities during registration. Providing a list of common needs for your attendees to choose from is a start, but leave room for attendees to list needs that aren’t on your list, as well. By allowing open-ended answers, you’ll let people tell you what they need rather than assuming what you can provide.

Make Idea Sharing Simple

If your attendees have an idea to make your event more inclusive or more accessible, give them the opportunity to share their insights. Consider adding a link to your event website where attendees can send a message to a dedicated email or submit a form with their ideas.

With your website set up to accept feedback, you’ll be able to call out your DEI goals from the start and show your attendees you’re serious about meeting those goals – with their help.

Ask Questions That Matter – To You and Your Attendees

You should have a reason for asking every question – for your sake and your attendees.’ Don’t clog up the registration and survey process with metrics you won’t use, and don’t ask your attendees questions without telling them why their answers are important.

If your attendees supply feedback about their disabilities, ethnicity, gender, etc., let them know why those details are important to you and what you plan to do with that data. Perhaps when attendees indicate they have a disability, a “thank you” message can appear to say you’ll do everything possible to meet their needs.

Consider Your Attendees’ Perspectives

It’s important to remember that meeting DEI goals isn’t just about quotas or your KPIs – it’s about creating an inclusive attendee experience. Focus on including a multitude of perspectives by considering all the ways your attendees are unique and how you can make everyone feel welcome by accounting for their differences.

Some perspectives you might want to consider include:

  • First-time attendees – what do these attendees need to enjoy your event and feel welcome?
  • Solo attendees versus groups – how can you help bring people together?
  • Preferred pronouns – can attendees display their pronouns on their badges?
  • Personality types – who feels anxious about participating in the social elements of your event?
  • Learning styles – are sessions and trainings set up for a variety of learning styles?
  • In-person anxiety – As we transition back to in-person and hybrid events, how are we helping our attendees adjust?

Use Event Data to 'Plan for Everyone'

Collecting attendee data before your event is imperative, but you’ll also need post-event data to help you form a complete picture of your attendees’ experiences. That way, you can use attendee feedback to truly “plan for everyone” when building future events.

As you collect attendee feedback during registration, session surveys, and post-event surveys, you’ll benefit from gathering both qualitative and quantitative data.

Tips for Asking Qualitative Data Questions

  • Ask both multiple-choice and open-ended questions so attendees can provide their own perspectives. Open-ended question example: “What can we do to make future events more inclusive?”
  • Ask broad questions so that you don’t miss opportunities for feedback. You might be tempted to ask specific questions about accessibility or signage, but those questions, while important, don’t allow room for attendees to provide feedback on other elements of inclusion that you might not think of.
  • Only ask for feedback you can reasonably review and consider when planning. Perhaps asking for one thing that could have made an event better is easier to manage than asking, more broadly, “What could have made your experience better?” One response from each respondent is much easier to manage than several answers from each respondent.

Tips for Asking Quantitative Data Questions

  • Ask about attendees’ experiences using a rating scale (i.e., “How would you rate our DEI efforts on a scale of 1-5?”)
  • Review quantitative data for a single event and across multiple events to evaluate how your events are performing over time and whether your event program is moving closer to your DEI KPIs.
  • Compare qualitative data to quantitative data. Look at which groups or demographics are providing positive or negative quantitative feedback, then dig into their qualitative responses to understand how you can help those groups have a better experience.

Be Willing to Make Changes

Being open to feedback means being open to change. In order to truly address DEI, you need to be willing to ask questions and then do something with the feedback you’re given. Of course, change won’t happen overnight – and no one expects it to. This can be a LOT of data, which can be overwhelming and impossible to tackle before your next event.

So, why not start small? Look at the feedback you receive, consider what short- and long-term goals you can set, and create separate strategic plans to help you get there.

Even if your long-term goals take 3-5 years, let your near-term goals guide you in the right direction, and give yourself and your organization time to make manageable but meaningful changes to your future event programs.

Watch the full Cvent CONNECT 2022 panel discussion and other great content from the conference here.

Hope Swedeen

Hope Salvatori

Hope is a Senior Content Marketing Associate who has been with Cvent for more than two years. She has 8 years of experience producing content for corporations, small businesses, associations, nonprofits, and universities. As a content professional, she has created content for a wide range of industries, including meetings and events, government and defense, education, health, and more.

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