Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging in Live Events


Today, more than ever, cultivating a meaningful and intentional culture of inclusion and belonging for live events is essential to building community and making deep impacts. The most creative, strongest and resilient communities are those that are comprised of diverse kinds of people, from across all demographics.

Whether you are designing an event to attract large crowds of people or to serve a particular small group, a common objective can be found: to create a sense of belonging and build community. As live events professionals, we know our actions, intentions and impacts matter, and as we work to strengthen communities and create memorable moments once again, it is so important that we are rebuilding for an inclusive and equitable recovery. We must constantly work towards creating experiences where difference is championed and celebrated.

Inviting diversity into your events, groups and teams is a fantastic first step. Even more important is to make them feel comfortable, safe, welcomed and inspired when they arrive. To quote Vernā Myers, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

To ensure guests feel like they are truly welcome at your events, consider the following:

Before the event, review your event marketing:

  • What is the message? What sort of language is being used? Who is in the images?
  • Is the marketing and advertising carried out in different ways and in difference spaces to enhance inclusion?
  • Are all accommodations that are being provided being highlighted to encourage diverse attendees?
  • Is the marketing and advertising happening with enough time in advance to allow for any requested accommodations to be thoughtfully implemented or for attendees to make their own personal arrangements as needed to get to your event?
  • Does the ad copy include contact info to request any additional accommodations?
  • Do the promotional materials use high contrast, large clear fonts, with essential information not embedded in a graphic so screen readers can detect the info? Is the event website accessible?
  • Ask questions during registration to ensure you are meeting your attendees’ needs. Listen, learn, understand what is needed.
  • Be humble about your mistakes.

You may not be able to be all things to all people for every event, but consider what your marketing imagery, branding and messaging says about the people you are trying to attract and serve. And then make sure your marketing is an authentic representation of the event experiences that lies ahead – don’t just talk about it, do it.

During the event, do what you say:

  • Build a diverse team – ensure all team members, contractors, vendors, partners, sponsors value diversity and inclusion and build diversity as a requirement into your procurement policies. Look beyond gender, ethnicity, and race, consider diversity within economic background, education level, work experience, language skills, age, physical ability, neurodiversity, sexual orientation, family status, communication style.
  • Prepare your onsite team and give them the necessary training to interact with all types of people to create a safe place for all.
  • Represent a broad range of voices, perspectives and experiences in your speakers, presenters, contributors and content that are reflective of your desired audience.
  • Focus on accessibility: commit to similar experiences for all and reduce or eliminate barriers to participation – plan in advance for inclusion instead of a last-minute retro-fit.
  • Offer a variety of event activities to balance the needs of everyone.
  • Words matter – consciously choose inclusive language, avoid expressions that may be misinterpreted.
  • Offer inclusive food choices – having vegan, gluten-free, halal, kosher or other food choices on the main menu rather than as a special request is a small detail that will stand out for attendees.
  • Offer translations services, live transcripts, sign language interpreters or other communication tools that will assist attendees.
  • Set and communicate a code of conduct and enforce these community rules and guidelines so attendees know the expected behaviours and feel safe.
  • Be humble about your mistakes.

After the event

  • Measure your progress – set diversity and inclusion targets and hold yourself accountable.
  • Ensure your post-event recaps feature the diverse representation of your attendees, team, event partners, etc.
  • Acquire feedback from your attendees, only they know how they felt – get a clear understanding of what efforts make your events more inclusive and where you may have fell short.
  • Be humble about your mistakes.

As event professionals, I encourage our industry to work every day to be strategic, agile, intentional, adaptable and responsive in the life-long journey towards creating a culture of equity, diversity and inclusion in our teams, in our events, and in our communities. We need to work together to create positive change where all are welcome, represented, accepted and celebrated and everyone feels like they belong.



Corinne Kessel, CSEP, is principal of Greenscape Design & Décor. She is also president of International Live Events Association.




Venue & Supplier Profiles