With Diversity Summit having just wrapped up in Atlanta, diversity is sure to be top of mind for all attendees as they return to work this week. However, we want to remind everyone to keep diversity top of mind all the time, instead of just when the conversation is brought to the forefront.

Dan Williams, CTA, is the vice president of convention sales and services here at Experience Columbus and he is incredibly passionate on the topic. Over the past year, he has offered his opinions to Smart Meetings and Rejuvenate and has also hosted panels at Connect Marketplace and Collaborate Marketplace in which industry experts discussed best practices regarding diversity in meetings. Like Dan, we understand that a conversation is just the beginning, but its the most important step to begin to implement change. So, for anyone ever faltering to understand what it means to have a truly inclusive meeting, or how to explain the importance of keeping diversity top of mind in planning, we have summarized some top takeaways from Dans conversations over the past year.

  • Diversity is more than just black and white. Yes, racial diversity is the first thing many people think of when they hear the term and the type of diversity most discussed, but in reality diversity includes people of all races, religions, cultures, ages, genders and sexual orientations as well as those with varying degrees of physical and mental disabilities.
  • On a similar note, just because a meeting has a diverse-looking group of people, it does not mean it is being inclusive. It is imperative to think just beyond what might show up in the pictures you put on your website or Facebook page. If you have a Jewish attendee who does not have the option for a Kosher meal at your closing ceremony, he or she is being excluded. If you have an attendee who is transitioning and there is not a gender neutral bathroom that he or she feels comfortable using, then that person is being excluded. Be sure to take a full inventory of the make-up of your attendees before you start the planning process and think through the unique needs of each individual. That is how you plan an inclusive meeting.
  • If you are in a position to make a change, do it. The hospitality industry offers many opportunities for all people, yet it is not very diverse. It is important to educate those looking to enter the workforce in coming years about the type of jobs available to them, not just hotel front desk staff or CVB employee. Once we look inward at our industry and become more diverse, to accurately reflect society, making sure our meetings are inclusive will be a much easier endeavor.

Our country is diverse and the DNA of the groups we work with each day is diverse, so this is not a conversation we can, or should, avoid. We welcome any thoughts on the topic and look forward to continuing the conversation over the coming year.