If you’re working to make your events feel more inclusive, you’re not alone. The most recent American Express Global Meetings and Events Forecast showed that 87 percent of event professionals are trying to incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into their experiences. It’s an encouraging statistic that reinforces the role that meetings and events have in fueling cultural progress, but raising the bar for inclusivity won’t happen overnight. Organizers will need to carefully consider the unique needs of their audiences to determine the best path forward for making sure that everyone feels welcome when they arrive.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, there’s no better place to turn than California — the birthplace of the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, the home for more women-owned businesses than anywhere else in the country, and a state with more than 10 million immigrants. As you look ahead to your next program, consider these three examples from the Golden State — the destination that sets the gold standard for inclusivity.
Help Attendees Who Need a Break.
Visalia in the San Joaquin Valley is leading the entire destination marketing industry forward as the first-ever IBCCES-certified Autism Destination in the U.S. With hotels and attractions that include sensory guides, signage, quiet spaces, and low-sensory event offerings, the city is working to make sure that sensory-sensitive travelers feel comfortable away from home.
Visalia isn’t alone in its efforts, either. About 225 miles northwest in San Francisco, the Chase Center — home to the Golden State Warriors — debuted an upgraded sensory room earlier this year. It’s a haven for anyone who needs 15 minutes of peace away from the noise and lights of the arena. For added flexibility, the venue also offers a mobile sensory station — an on-the-go offering from KultureCity, a company that has helped integrate sensory-assisting programming at venues like Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific.
Support Working Parents.
The inability to find childcare for convention participants has always been an issue. Now, in a new era of hybrid work, parents are facing even bigger challenges if they want to be part of the networking and education opportunities that are so critical to their professional development. Organizers of the Game Developers Conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco have taken steps to make sure that parents can join the action through on-site childcare services. And to ensure that every child feels comfortable, services are provided by a diverse care team.
Honor the History of the Host Destination.
Inclusive experiences aren’t solely about the attendees at the venue; to foster a real sense of belonging, events must make room to recognize the groups that gathered long before anyone was concerned about the square footage of a hotel or the Wi-Fi connection at a convention center. California is doing more than preserving the rich traditions of the Native American tribes who have shaped life in the west. The state is investing to bring the past into the future with sites like the Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza in Palm Springs. Set to open later this year, the venue will include a museum, a spa that celebrates the Agua Caliente Hot Mineral Spring and its 12,000-year-old healing water, and a gathering plaza.