CVBs are showing planners how their events can be more accessible and inclusive —enhancing the total visitor experience in the process. Case in point: the Melbourne Convention Bureau launched an industry first — a Dialogue in the Dark pop-up — at the Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event (AIME) 2019 in mid-February to allow participants to challenge limits and overcome boundaries the same way a visually impaired attendee would.
Taking place throughout four sessions during AIME’S Knowledge Program, the pop-up sensory experience was a partnership with the charity Guide Dogs Victoria (GDV).
Participants without visual impairment and without any of their light-emitting electronics (such as smartphones and watches) were taken into a pitch-black room, where they were seated at a table with seven strangers. This is how the sessions started, setting the stage for a series of challenges and team-building exercises that groups needed to do together — sans sight.
The experience served not only as an icebreaker for AIME, which organized more than 14,000 meetings between exhibitors and buyers during the three-day event. It also challenged participants to discover hidden potential.
“The popularity of the pop-up was undeniable,” said Matt Pearce, director of Talk2 Media & Events, the event’s organiser. “It was problem solving, team building, and personal development at its finest. It’s both hard and rewarding.”
Each of the scenarios, led by professional facilitators who are blind or have impaired vision, showcased real-life situations that vision-impaired employees may face in the workplace.
“Through this encounter, [participants] often find a new appreciation for the unique skills of people with a disability, and they challenge their own personal perceptions and values,” Charlie Spendlove, general manager marketing and communications for GDV, said in a statement. “To be able to run an industry-first experience at an event founded on connections and community is really special.”
Dialogue in the Dark was founded in Germany more than 30 years ago by social entrepreneur Andreas Heinecke and has since spread to 39 countries with more than 10 million participants taking part in the activity.
Pearce said one of his favourite reactions at AIME was from a hosted buyer who has a blind sister and thought she understood blindness. After the event, she had a completely different outlook on what it means to be blind, he said. “For this buyer, the impact was profound,” Pearce said. “We all struggle with diversity, corporate social responsibility, and inclusivity, so it was a golden opportunity to tackle all three with meaning.”