Building Your Events on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (with Nathan Chin)

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Episode description

Diversity, equity, and inclusion form the foundation for fostering a sense of belonging and acceptance for all individuals. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you’re keeping DEI in mind when planning an event. What steps can you take to set yourself up for success?

In this episode, Nathan Chin, Global Head of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at Cvent, joins the show to share his insights on creating an experience everyone can be included in. Having co-founded the LGBTQIA+ employee resource group at Cvent, Nathan makes it his goal to strive towards upholding DEI in everything he does for the company. Hear his thoughts on the planning process. By utilizing questionnaires, you can begin eliminating DEI blindspots you may have missed. You’ll also hear his take on the importance behind setting your goals to ensure that your event reflects your attendees.

Show notes

  • How to go about promoting DEI the right way
  • Examples of inclusive language
  • Cvent CONNECT’s DEI focused efforts

Things to listen for:

[01:31] Getting to know Nathan
[03:25] Why DEI is important
[06:00] Where to start with DEI
[12:00] Promoting DEI the right way
[16:58] DEI and Cvent CONNECT
[20:00] Examples of inclusive language

Meet your host

Rachel Andrews, Senior Director of Global Meetings & Events at Cvent
Paulina Giusti, Senior Manager of Meetings and Events, at Cvent

Meet your guest speakers

Nathan Chin, Global Head of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at Cvent

Episode Transcript

Intro: Great events create great brands, and it takes a village to put on an event that engages, excites and connects audiences to your brand. And we're that village. I'm Alyssa. I'm Paulina. And I'm Rachel. And you're listening to great  events, the podcast for all people interested in events and marketing.

Rachel: What is up everyone? What is going on in the wide, wide world of events? My name is Rachel and welcome to this week's episode of Great Events. I am joined with my beautiful, awesome co-host, Paulina Giusti.

Paulina: Hey everyone.

Rachel: And also we are joined for the first time on the Great Events podcast. Mr. Nathan Chin, a Cvent, family member. He's been with Cvent for a long time. Nathan is our head of DEI at Cvent. But Nathan, welcome.

Nathan Chin: Thank you. Glad to be here.

Rachel: Yeah. Let's, so let our listeners know about your very fun journey at Cvent. You have a very long, extensive background, in all things. And, I think they should, I should, they should understand your breadth of experience and what you've done and, yeah. So take it away, give us the one minute 30 second overview of Nathan.

Nathan Chin: Yeah, happy to. I've been working in the events industry for about 12 and a half years now, in various roles. But I started here at Cvent actually in our client services department, helping to work with our clients on some of their biggest and most complex events, helping to set those up through the system and working through all those kinks.

And then, pretty early on in my career got the chance to move actually over to our technology team where I joined the product management side and worked on enhancing our event registration product for almost about 10 years. So really working on all the ins and outs, talking to customers about all their different use cases, all the different things that they needed, to do with their events and the different types of events they had.

But in the background the whole time, I've always had a very strong, personal kind of side passion and involvement with. diversity, equity, inclusion type initiatives, getting back to college and even going to, some marches here in DC When I was in high school, my parents would let me get on the metro and carry some signs and go, do the march womens rights back in the early two thousands.

But, so I was also one of the co-founders. Our, LGBTQIA+ employee resource group here at Cvent, and about two, just under two years ago got the opportunity as we opened up a new role for the head of DEI to throw my hat in the ring and apply. Had to go through a lot of interviews and compete against some external folks, but was very excited to eventually get to take on that role and really take a lot of the skills that I've learned both within the company and outside of it, and use it to try and make not only, our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts within the company stronger, but also how we can apply those to, meetings and events and help our customers with those since we're intricately tied with the industry there.

Rachel: Yeah. Wow, that's a great background. I think that's really important too for the industry and the fact that you've been along the ride with us, for as long as you have been. It really helps us. It helps the event and it also helps the industry. So excited to have you today.

So let's kick it off. And what we like to do, Paulina and I like to do, is make it simple for our listeners. We have a lot of different types of listeners out there, namely being in the events industry, but also event marketers. Let's talk about DEI. It continues to be at the top of people's talk track and their list. But there's a lot of noise on it in the industry. I feel like I see something posted every day, which is not a bad thing. That's always good. but there's a lot of noise. Tell our listeners why it's so important. DEI is so important,within the larger kind of engagement conversation.

Nathan Chin: Yeah, I mean it's definitely, I don't want to say it's become a buzzword because there's a lot of people that do really care about it. But like you said, it's coming up so often that, I think some people feel like they just need to check a box or say that they're doing something and really what it's rooted in is creating those more inclusive environments, events are made to bring people together and to create those different connections. And if you aren't creating a warm and welcoming environment for those people to come and participate in where they can be as much of their authentic self as possible, you're really not getting or providing, you know much to your attendees, you're not getting much out of them being there. And those connections, they're not going to resonate as well with the content that you're sharing or that you're trying to train them on. They're not going to make those networking connections if they don't feel comfortable working or being around others or seeing themselves represented in the places, on stage, whether that's speakers or, even the staff or folks working there.

I think we've all, especially this day and age, started to realize how interconnected the world's, the economy global, elements are. And even hosting or hosting events really just has such a bigger impact beyond just one group of people or one element. And you can really use these events to drive a lot of other things forward in areas that you care about, like through your sourcing and, influencing, how hoteliers do their business or helping support minority suppliers through catering, other services or onsite services, things like that, really can push your program so much further. And the funny thing is, if you put in the effort and do it early enough, it really takes actually zero extra effort. But if you wait till the end and then try to go back and see if you've done it you've got to do a lot of scrambling and usually a lot of correcting.

So it can be an easy win and create really that golden experience that you're looking to provide for your attendees.

Rachel: Yeah. Inclusivity is the name of the game. We were just talking before we started recording. That's part of the event professional's job description is bringing people together. So why don't you, let's walk through some of the things that should be high up on people's lists to pay attention to when it comes to, being an event professional, being a marketer, paying attention to those DEI things again, To harp on your checklist, the checklist conversation, gets up there, but event professionals are very much like that. They want to know what are the top five things that I need to do? Because I'm trying to get this done for my event or my events program or whatever. Insert that. What are, what is still so important for event professionals to pay attention to as of right now?

Nathan Chin: There's a lot of different things. but I think just before I dive in, start off and frame it, there was a panelist I was speaking with, a couple of years ago who I really loved the way she phrased it. and it's a very true fact, which is that inclusion always takes active and deliberate effort.

It's never something that just happens automatically. It always takes that extra bit of thought. So if you want to have inclusive events and you really should because that's how you're going to get the most outta the experience on all sides of the equation there. You need to be putting in that thought and that deliberate effort.

That doesn't necessarily mean you have to throw tons of extra resources at it, but you need to spend the time and think about what you're doing and be very intentional with it. And checklists aren't necessarily a bad thing. It's really checking the box that we're trying to avoid. So if you have some things that you can do in building your programs to help make them more inclusive, by all means templatize that share it.

Just be willing to come back to it from time to time and say, is there more we could be doing? Do we need to change what we're doing? But to that end, we actually had a great session at last year's event, Connect with some panelists where we actually talked about getting started with DEI in your meetings and events program because I think so many planners and event marketers can, resonate with being told by their bosses, Hey, we need to make our events more diverse and inclusive go.

And they don't really get much beyond that, whether that's additional instruction or resources, they just know it's something that they're charged with doing. And to that end, we try to map out some things that I think were some really good advice, whether you're very early on or whether you've got something already going and just want to see if you can be doing better.

The first thing is figure out what your goals are, what kind of diversity you're looking for. One of our panelists last year had a great explanation with this where she was saying, the diversity needs of the NAACP, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, it's going to be very different than, some of the like a disability focused association.

They need very different types of diversity in their events. So figure out what you're looking for, and a great place to start with what you might need to be adding more of, is by looking at the demographics of your events. That could be your speakers, your attendees, I would definitely say wherever you can, collect as much data as possible on those different elements.

So that might be adding some questions to your registration around attending demographics. it's always important to be very, I don't want to say cautious, but speaking, letting people know why this information's being collected, saying, Hey, we're going asking for this information for demographic purposes. We can make our events more inclusive. It's an optional question, but that way people don't feel like they're being put into a box or, something nefarious is going to be done with their information. But collect that info on demographics. Ask people, you know in the registration, what can we do to make an event more inclusive?

Ask people in your feedback surveys, what can we do to make an event more inclusive? If you don't have direct access to all of your attendees, always another great place to start is within your company. we're lucky enough at Cvent to have those employee resource groups, and those have been some great resources we've had for asking for, Hey, is there anything we could do to make our conference more inclusive? Like offering ways to identify people's pronouns more clearly on name badges so that doesn't end up being misgendered. So those are just some good things. Oh, sorry. Go ahead.

Rachel: No, I was just going to say, I agree with you on the registration. I think that there's a little bit of nervousness. I don't know if Paulina knew you feel like this too, but like in putting those demographics out there, and obviously you can make 'em optional, people don't have to submit what they, What they want and what, what you're trying to do.

But ultimately you're trying to make it more inclusive. So it should be viewed as a good thing. But I think some planners are hesitant to put things like, put your preferences or your background as mandatory or, in the registration. because they don't want to offend anybody. But they also want those demographics.

I remember it was fopaux a couple years ago, Paulina needed to put their gender in there. And it might, it still might be if you're only putting male and female, but it maybe if you're putting more options in there, it's not as, and it maybe it's not mandatory and it's optional in the registration, just to understand and leverage that.

Paulina: Yeah, I think that, what Nathan said, that particular speaker you worked with who said it's all about intentional actions. we can request it, we'll put it out there and the information we get back, we hope we can only enhance and leverage to make the event better each year.

It's really about that benchmarking opportunity that I think leaning into the technology that events afford us, we are able to create targets and create metrics that we can say, this year, our speaker base was more diverse and here's why, because we were able and we're able to report on it.

But I have a question. And this is coming to me in real time, Nathan, so I apologize. As we collect this information and as we continue to make event design decisions, having a more diverse speaker lineup, let's say, or, making fundamentally different, fundamentally different changes to perhaps programming and content.

What's the appropriate, like, how would an event planner feel comfortable about promoting it and to use an example, that we've heard in the industry, talking about sustainability and then this notion of greenwashing, right? How do we approach, we've made, in year one and now year two, maybe year three, we've made strides in offering a more inclusive conference experience.

And this is how it is, I, there's this balance of authenticity and then there's this balance of over promotion, if that's the right phrase. I don't know any kind of suggestions around that for our listeners.

Nathan Chin: I think, one of the things I liked that we did last year with our own conference, was we had, a little section dedicated on our website. It wasn't plastered across every page, but we said, Hey, we're committed to making this an inclusive event, so if there's anything that you know we can do to make the experience better, please email this address with any suggestions you might have.

You can definitely take the steps to show that you're caring about it, but. I think a lot of it comes off in the marketing and the other stuff that you do where if it's, they're a little too much, then you know, it might be perceived as we're just trying to over promote and get credit for this.

But if people see it truly baked in throughout, and so that's where kind the consistency comes in. Like you were saying, Rachel, the hesitance with the questions totally understand that can be a very awkward thing. so that's where I always recommend, putting a sentence around that.

Hey, in an effort to make the event more inclusive, we would like to collect this information. It will not be used for any purposes and will be kept completely confidential, or the information will be anonymized or deleted afterward, especially. In the case of some countries with stricter privacy laws, but let them know why it's being used.

And like you said, keep it optional. It's not something they have to do. Another great thing around those questions, that gives you a really nice avenue for the things. Cause we always, you don't know what you don't know is open text boxes. Any chance you have for any of those, where you select something or you can give them another.

And they can put in their own information. It's easy to ask if people need just dietary issues or physical accessibility, but there might be other things that we're not thinking about. Like some people might have, disorder or neuro disorders that make auditory processing harder so close captioning is better for them, but they don't need sign language. It's really easy to. Give a list that's very short and doesn't cover all the bases. So just leaving those avenues open for folks to engage with you if they do have suggestions or if they do have additional needs, I think really shows a lot of that.

Rachel: Yeah. I think that goes back to your checklist too. Like maybe it's not a checklist, but it's a goal, like you said, targets and goals. Setting a goal for your event of, okay, we want to be more inclusive to the way we speak about gender or more inclusive, about, neuro diversion, diversity and things like that.

And then list them all out. Cause sometimes it's oh shoot, we forgot to do x. And, you met, you have the best of intentions, but you forgot to put up signs that there's strobe lights in the general session, and it might cause a seizure. There's just so many things that we need to remember. It's almost like we do need these checklists, not checking the box, but just like remembering those things.

Nathan Chin: Yeah, and they're great for that purpose. I think the other thing that really comes up a lot more with diversity, equity, inclusion, more so than some of the other areas, is, there's no one who really works actively in the space that is going to rake you over the coals for one mistake if you own up to it.

It's a lot more about honesty and communication and transparency and saying, Hey, this is where we are. This is the progress we've made. It's not where we want to be yet. And we're open to suggestions and we're going to keep trying, but pretending you've either already gotten there and obfuscating some of the information or just not saying anything at all, that's when people get upset and start to call things out.

But if you're willing to have a dialogue to own up to mistakes you make, there's almost no DEI professional person that really cares about that I've run into that, will seriously hold a grudge against something like that. It's just showing the effort and continually improving.

Rachel: I feel like that's why Paulina and I agreed to do the podcast is like one learning. I feel like I've learned so much doing these podcasts, just speaking about it, and even when I don't know anything about the topic, like I maybe know the first three bullet points of what's important. It's been awesome because we've been able to learn and hopefully educate our listeners on.

All the things that are hard to find. It's really hard to Google a checklist for inclusion. But if you listen to things like this, and I know you have other resources to share with our listeners later, Nathan, let's dive into Cvent Connect. I know you've been actively working with my team, Paulina's team on event design, and making sure the DEI is making its way into Cvent Connect. Now, we've been doing this for years, so this is not new, a new concept for us, but I want our listeners to hear from you and Paulina, how you all have worked together. I know you have a session, specifically that's speaking about DEI. take us through some of the things that we've worked on together,over the last couple years, incorporating DEI and inclusion into Connect.

Nathan Chin: Absolutely. So some of those things are, what I just mentioned, which are looking at our registration processes and other kinds of touchpoints and making updates to make sure that we aren't. We don't have blind spots, basically. So when we're asking about, Hey, what assistance might you need at the event, instead of just listing out the things we know people have needed in the past, giving them an option to pick one of those or tell us that an additional need that we might not have thought of yet.

Also really important, depending on who your audience is, where your event is taking place, the world is looking at what cultural or other observances might be happening. Last year's event was during Ramadan, so we realized that a lot of our attendees who would be observing Ramadan wouldn't be able to take part in any of the meals.

So we made sure that we had an easily accessible, clearly marked prayer room, and also that we had meal delivery for them at Sundowns. They could still take advantage of some of the free meals from the conference. They didn't feel like they were completely missing out on the experience, even though, they couldn't participate in all the meals that we offered onsite.

So definitely being aware of who's coming to your event, what might be happening, around that. If you try to do everything to everyone, it's definitely overwhelming. So you need to look at what your demographics are, where you are in the world, all those different factors. and like I said, we added some statements to the website last year and made sure we had some email addresses and little blurbs saying if you have any suggestions, because as good as we think we are there might be a new attendee that has something we've never encountered before. Another really important thing is, the language that you use, whether that's in your email communications on your registration websites, things throughout the event itself. There's a lot of great resources out there for inclusive language guidelines. I like to use those a lot to help make sure we're not using any language that's improperly, gendered, sexist, ableist, ages, you name it, it goes on and on.

But a lot of, Our language has some interesting roots sometimes that we might not even realize. So making sure that we're making people feel as welcome as possible through the things that we're saying. And, it's funny, but when you use these things properly, you don't even notice. But it just makes everyone feel better, and feel more welcome, when you make those updates.

To that end, also think about your attendee experience, things like pronouns and letting people easily be identified. How I look visually might not be, what you, or how I prefer to be identified. You might make assumptions as to my gender. So that's another thing to make sure that attendees can clearly identify themselves and not have to repeatedly correct others or,give those, or yeah, have situations.

Paulina: Can you give a couple examples? I know when, before we started recording today, We were talking and I'd love whenever there's opportunities for our listeners to say, oh, that's perfect. I know I can take that and use it and employ it immediately, put it into practice, as soon as this episode ends.

Are there any examples of leveraging more inclusive language that may be, not as well known for some of our listeners, catching you off guard? Again, this is me hitting you with the hard stuff today. Geez.

Nathan Chin: Yeah, I'm trying to think off the top of my head. A lot of it comes into just simple language that we don't even think about. Like it's taken me years to retrain myself and, even though I'm not from the south, to make sure I'm saying hey to y'all instead of, hey guys, or, anything like that.

Things that just become very ingrained in our speech patterns, especially depending on where we're, even simple things like that, especially for folks that are, either. Not guys or outside the gender or elsewhere on the gender spectrum. Things like that can feel very alienating, but you often get very used to that so you don't speak up. And thus they might not realize that they're, causing those little bits of discomfort or pain for individuals. I think also just, a really simple thing is asking in the feedback at the end of the event, what can we do to make the event more inclusive next year?

Just being open. When folks feel like you're actively listening and trying to hear from them, they're going to be much more willing to tell you. And they're not going to just go, post somewhere online and, read you over the calls and say, this was a terrible event. And they don't care because hey, it's a journey.

We're trying to make updates, we're trying to learn and grow and improve. So making sure they have a way to interact and feel that dialogue. I'm trying to think of what else are some good ones. 

Rachel: I feel like I always use, like in our team meetings, it's Hey friends, hey team. it's just very, because I had the same problem with, hey guys, is like the hardest thing to fix in my verbiage. Like I couldn't get it out

Paulina: I was just thinking about an example of something we did last year at Cvent Connect. And Nathan, you and I had chatted through it and it's something that we're employing this year, a complete change. But, offering spaces for people who may not be extroverted and a little more introverted.

And that was something that because it's not second nature to me. I am such an extrovert. It's hard for me to remember in the planning of it what the experience is like for someone unlike me. And so I have really, we've put a lot of thought into offering, I think we're calling it the wellness lounge or wellness room, but it's really an opportunity to step away and gather yourself, in a quiet space, in a really ambient space.

We're still going to have TVs in there, so should you want to step away from a livestream session, you're not missing out on the content experience. and another one that you and I talked through was, it's Vegas. Everything is far, everything is big, but there's always so much programming and so we've crammed so much content back to back with not taking a ton of context into mind as to whether people need a break, people may need a little extra time to get from session to session.

So the way we redesigned some of the floor plans, we've moved, our two largest, most popular stream stages to be in the same ballroom next to each other so that it's a lot easier for people to get from session to session, but, in addition to that, instead of having 15 minutes in between sessions, we have 30 minutes.

And that's a whole new opportunity for people to take the time they need to connect, to foster new connections. So all of that, to your point of having a solid post-event survey and gathering all that information, it's completely being employed and in practice for this year's program.

So I hope others are listening and thinking about it. in, in a similar way that, that, I'm excited to say that we have.

Rachel: I'm glad that we've normalized wellness spaces. That's huge for our industry to normalize that and make it part of it.

Nathan Chin: Yeah, that's one thing I've been really excited about, seeing kind of the uptick in acknowledgement of, how neurodiversity can really impact people's experiences and acknowledging the different things that we all have, cause a lot of it is invisible. A lot of folks can struggle through and sit through a session, but it's harder for them or they don't get as much out of it.

Especially those with sensory processing disorders or other conditions can be very tough to be sitting in a room. Listening to someone seeing all these lights and slides behind them and digesting that information. So having a place where they can go,maybe read it on captioning, on TV or something like that, can really allow them to fully experience event walking.

Completely not able to pick up what's going on there. to that end, and I know we'll be sharing it, with the resources, but there's a great ongoing project that Google's been working on called The New Project, and NewU for Neurodiversity. And they actually have a full downloadable guide for how to make events inclusive for folks that are neurodiverse.

And they're partnering with so many wonderful folks in the industry, folks I know and have worked with in the past that are just top-notch to make sure that we're providing these experiences for a lot of these facets of diversity that aren't always visible. cause. Oftentimes, so much of it is not what's on the surface, it's what's underneath us.

Paulina: Yeah, that's a good point. And you also have to check out listeners. We've done a couple podcasts on accessibility. Those are all out there. You should check those out. There's a lot in there to unpack, Nathan could speak on that for probably an hour, just, making tech accessible. And that's like a whole. That's a whole department here. We try to dedicate a lot of time towards making that easier for, for folks. And we'll try to pull any other resources that we find. I know people have been looking for checklists, so if we find one, you'll, we'll let you know.

Nathan, is there anything else, any other takeaways for, or Paulina, any other takeaways that people should, if they remember nothing else from this podcast, what should they be doing with their events and DEI.

Nathan Chin: I think for me, one of the things we talked about in our session last year that really helps is just, asking and talking about it a lot. When you're sending out your initial RFPs, adding a couple of questions, asking them about, Hey, what do you have for your gender neutral bathrooms or what is your company's, diversity inclusion policy?

And then, a lot of these hotel chains have done amazing jobs. I know Hilton and Marriot are often some of the top employers for diversity rankings when it comes to the national awards here in the US and so ask them like what suggestions do you have? What have you seen others do to make their events more diverse and inclusive? Because they get so much business going through there. They're going to see things that you might not think of. definitely take advantage, look at where you can also partner with minority-owned businesses, women owned businesses, veteran-owned, GT own. There's so many great associations and groups that you can work with that would love to work with you and get that business and can help you on this journey. But oftentimes when we only focus on the vendors that we know or already have relationships with, we can have blind spots there. So I think really just, yeah, tapping everything from, your suppliers, your vendors, the folks internally at your company. Like I mentioned, our employee resource groups we're a great place, even though not all of them.

Your attendees, your speakers ask what you can do better. What suggestions do they have?

Rachel: Awesome. Awesome. Paulina, anything from you? I know you had this journey with Nathan.

Paulina: I think for me it's an ongoing strive just for improvement. We want to, just as you think about designing your expenses, your experiences or your events, to be better, we should be thinking about it from a holistic lens, right? And that includes DE and I, that includes sustainability, that includes accessibility.

And so we're all on this journey together, and it's all about just continual improvement. And yeah, I'm just, I feel very lucky that Cvent has the ERGs and colleagues like Nathan who are really open to talking. I think for those of us that are starting our journey in, in understanding and like I said and bettering these events and experiences that we put on, it's also a big part of listening.

So it's having that great, that healthy conversation, leveraging those resources to really make you feel like an informed individual. So thank you so much, Nathan, for your time. We really appreciate it.

Rachel: Yeah.

Nathan Chin: Yeah, my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Rachel: So much goodness here, and I hope our listeners found some good tips and tricks for their takeaways. I have a shameless plug. Cvent Connect is coming up at the end of July. Nathan will be there doing a session on DEI, but we have a lot of other great sessions. If you can't join us in person in Vegas, July, 24th through the 27th. Please join us online because we put a lot of work into it and we have a lot of great content. So it's shameless plug,

Nathan Chin: And my session will be both, virtual and in person so folks can attend it even if they aren't there in-person, you have it there folks, so you need to hit up that in person if you're coming and virtually if you're not. Thanks again Nathan, for joining us.

Rachel: Really appreciate your time. And then to our rockstar listeners, thanks for joining us as always. you can send us a note on LinkedIn or at greatevents@cvent.com. If you have additional things or questions, we're happy to answer. So thanks for tuning in to Great Events. We'll see you next time.