Five Steps to Create a More Inclusive Event Experience

Five Steps to Create a More Inclusive Event Experience

By Amber Coleman-Mortley

Creating an inclusive event entails more than booking a diverse slate of speakers. The outcome of the event and audience experience matter just as much in setting the stage for the next event. 


Here are five steps to build a more inclusive event experience:

  1. Understand your audience. The composition of your audience should be as diverse as your speakers. Analyze the attendees of prior events if you have collected demographic information in the past. If you haven’t requested any information about your attendees, get started when you open up registration for your next event. This will establish a baseline for your audience, help identify the gaps and monitor your progress in closing them.
  2. Engage and publicize a diverse planning committee. Who is on your planning committee? Does it reflect your intended audience? Convene your committee with intention and publicize their involvement.
  1. Make your speaker criteria public. Be public about your commitment to an inclusive program and ensure it is noted alongside all requests for speaker nominations. Be explicit that submissions for all-male panels will not be considered. This makes your intentions clear to potential attendees in an organic way and lays the groundwork for the type of multi-dimensional conversation that you are planning for your event.
  1. Market honestly and with intention. Curate and market your event with a DEI mindset. After you’ve worked to create an inclusive list of speakers, make sure your marketing materials reflect your efforts. Release speaker promotions that are balanced across gender, race, age, ability, etc. and review the promotional language to ensure that it, too, reflects your commitment to inclusion.
  1. Signal to all attendees that they are seen and welcomed. This may include a code of conduct to set standards for a welcoming environment. Make it public in your program, on the website, announce it from the stage and on social media channels. 


Identify and address issues that will improve the event experience for your audience, such as:

  • Accessibility. If you are meeting in-person, make sure that anyone who is differently-abled will be comfortable navigating the space. Are you ADA-compliant in your digital communications?
  • Registration fee. Will this be cost prohibitive for members of your intended audience? Explore scholarship opportunities or a sliding scale to ensure there are options available.
  • Timing. Have you considered potential conflicts, such as holidays that may affect attendance by certain groups? Are there ways that you can time your event to make it easier for those with caregiving responsibilities to attend?

Remember that curating an inclusive speaker roster is the first step. Ensuring that your speakers and audience want to keep coming back for an enriching experience is also key to your success. This tool will provide a clearer picture and ensure your audience isn’t hearing from speakers that all look and sound the same.

Get started with the Speaker Equity Assessor now.