by Sarah JF Braley | May 07, 2019
Meeting Professionals International has released a new study that examines diversity in the global meetings world. The "State of Inclusion in Meetings & Events" explores how and to what extent event professionals plan for inclusivity and diversity, knowledge gaps in this area and best practices for creating inclusive experiences. One of the main findings is that men and extroverts are best served by the meetings and events industry, with introverts being worst-served.
To compile the report, MPI partnered with New York University's Jonathan M. Tisch School of Hospitality to conduct an exhaustive literature review, a research study, interviews and an MPI member survey that received 1,087 responses. The research focused on several areas of diversity: ability, culture, demographic characteristics, health, personal characteristics and professional background. Among the highlights of the results were:
 
• Meeting professionals say the groups best served by the events industry are male and extroverted attendees. They say introverted attendees are not served well. To balance this situation, experts interviewed suggested that planners use technology to allow delegates to ask questions in alternative ways, as well as assigning seating at lunch time to create new connections and reduce awkwardness.
 
• 56 percent of respondents said their organization has a written diversity and inclusion policy.
 
• 20 percent of respondents said they include diversity and inclusion initiatives to comply with legal requirements, and 31 percent use diversity and inclusion to respond to guest expectations.
 
• 40 percent of respondents said they don't have all the information/knowledge they need to plan inclusive experiences.
 
• Rarely do planners share event menus in advance or produce event materials in different languages.
 
• Half of the time, meeting professionals offer different types of seating/furniture to match delegates' needs/preferences.
 
The report also includes best practices for those looking to up their diversity game, such as creating open-ended questions (e.g., Do you have any dietary preferences?) on registration forms to make them short, but still capture relevant information. A recommendation for large events is to reserve space for attendees with differing abilities and their guests, and to provide them with early access to the space to avoid getting caught in crowds.
 
"We can't be afraid to have the conversation," said Jessie States, CMP, CMM, director of the MPI Academy. "Industry professionals have said there is a gap in knowledge and education to support the design of inclusive experiences, and MPI takes that seriously. We need to create safe learning environments wherein our community can learn from the experts and from each other about how to design truly welcoming experiences."
 
The association is taking continued action to expand diversity inclusion efforts. To that end, a new Inclusive Event Design certificate program launched last month, which features a four-hour, interactive training session on the business case or rationale for inclusion, key principles and strategies for planning for inclusion. Also, a new diversity-inclusion liaison has been placed on the MPI Global Board of Trustees, to work with the board, the new Diversity Inclusion Committee and the MPI community.