16 Ways to Make Your Event More LGBTQ+ Inclusive

Keep these tips in mind when planning live, virtual or hybrid gatherings. 

ways-to-make-event-more-lgbtq-inclusive

As event professionals, we often talk about best practices for safety protocols and contingency plans. But an equally important, yet often overlooked topic is the importance of inclusion. 

Planners must make sure that all of their attendees feel safe, comfortable and acknowledged at their gatherings. Doing so requires taking a strong stance on inclusion and embedding it into the entire planning process. 

Below are more than a dozen ways to make your events more LGBTQ+ friendly, including what to do before and during the gathering. Many of these tips can be implemented across virtual, hybrid and in-person meetings.

Before the Event

  • While in the planning stages, create a code of conduct or inclusion policy to ensure that the expectations of your team, vendors and attendees are clear. Be sure to circulate the code of conduct prior to the meeting, so that everyone is on the same page. It is also important to have a copy of this document on hand at the event, in case a situation arises where it would be necessary to remind everyone of the policies that are in place.
  • It is imperative that your team is aligned with vendors and venues who are interested in providing a safe and inclusive space for attendees. Do some research and have open conversations with your suppliers before booking.
  • If possible, remove gender from the registration form completely. Not everyone is comfortable with disclosing their gender, so leave out the question if there's no need for that data. If your registration process requires you to include gender, avoid using the options "male, female or other." Instead, offer a write-in field for attendees to fill in the gender they identify with.
  • As part of the registration process, allow guests to share their preferred pronouns and what name they prefer to be addressed by, if different from their legal name.
  • Consider whether your venue has gender-neutral bathrooms already or if the current bathrooms can accommodate all genders (with the addition of appropriate signage and communication).
  • When planning the dress code for the event, be sure to avoid referring to gender when describing what you would like attendees to wear. For example, instead of saying women should wear dresses and men should wear suits for an evening reception, offer a list of suggested clothing.
  • Set aside time to speak with your team, event staff and any vendors involved to ensure that they are using inclusive language and will follow best practices during the event. Make sure everyone understands the expectations, and address any questions they might have. Advise them to avoid gendering people and to be mindful of not making any assumption about attendees, such as whether a companion is or is not someone's spouse.
  • Make sure your speaker lineup includes a diverse group of individuals who can provide representation to a range of audiences and communities.
  • Remind speakers and presenters to avoid using gendered language when addressing or referring to participants. You can create and circulate a document that advises presenters to stay away from the use of ladies, gentlemen, ma'am, sir, girls, guys, his and hers. Instead, encourage them to use inclusive language, such as friends, folks, distinguished guests, everyone, team, they and them.
  • Review all event materials and presentations in advance to ensure the text is gender neutral.
      

During the Event 

  • Where appropriate, provide signage throughout your meeting space that reminds attendees to be respectful of one another.
  • Allow attendees to share their preferred pronouns if they would like to. Please keep in mind that you should not make this mandatory due to everyone's varying comfort levels.
  • If the event is taking place virtually, you can invite attendees to include their pronouns in their screen name.
  • For an in-person meeting, you can provide pronoun stickers for badges. Alternatively, you could include your attendees' pronouns on their preprinted name badges, should you have their permission to do so.
  • If you have done your due diligence prior to the event, then you shouldn't have to worry too much about issues on-site. Nevertheless, it is always a good idea to have a contingency plan in place that includes what to do if a vendor or speaker is being disrespectful to attendees.

Lindsay MacDonald is a social media coordinator and communications consultant at Tycoon Events, a division of the Event Estate, a full-service event management company based in Edmonton, Alberta.