Why Diversity ‘Is Not a Numbers Game’

PCMA continues its Ascent Luminaries video series with the story of David Labuskes, CEO of AVIXA. As events strive to welcome all kinds of attendees, Labuskes highlights how traditional metrics will not be able to gauge success. The Luminaries series, made possible by VisitDallas, is part of the PCMA Convene Ascent initiative, which seeks to promote inclusion and diversity across the business events industry. More inspirational and aspirational stories like Labuskes’ will follow.

By David McMillin

The face-to-face industry is often tied to numbers — how many attendees registered, how many square feet were sold in an exhibit hall, how many speakers were listed on a program, and a range of other figures that measure the success of an event. There is one area of the industry, though, that cannot depend on this type of formula.

“Diversity and inclusivity is not a numbers game,” David Labuskes, CEO of the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association (AVIXA), told me when I interviewed him for PCMA’s Ascent Luminaries series. “It’s a state of mind and a cultural value. I don’t know if you can measure that.”

At AVIXA, Labuskes is working hard to instill that value in the organization, and members of the AV industry are playing a big role in the progress. When Labuskes reflects on his time at AVIXA — he’s been at the helm for approximately five-and-a-half years — one memory immediately stands out from a Women of AVIXA event. The chapter network of professionals aims to empower women in the AV industry, and Labuskes attended a tea held in Mumbai, India.

“To experience a group discussing female empowerment in a culture such as India where women working is not truly accepted yet was one of the most emotional experiences I’ve had here,” Labuskes said. “It served as a reminder of the important role that our members and volunteers play in advancing the world.”

Getting Everyone Involved

The Women of AVIXA is not the only organization making an impact within AVIXA. A recently formed Diversity Council is also sparking a conversation about inclusivity across the AV industry. Labuskes pointed out that the success of groups like these — whether at AVIXA or any organization — relies on getting everyone in the room. “The Diversity Council includes participants from every group — women, minorities, people from the LGBT community, and middle-aged white guys,” Labuskes said. “And that’s important because diversity and inclusivity don’t happen without everyone working on it.”

Achieving inclusivity goals won’t happen tomorrow, either. Labuskes pointed out that members of the events industry — and the rest of society — need to recognize that there is a long road ahead. “This is a generational journey,” Labuskes said. “We still have a long way to go in all of these areas.”

Labuskes has helped AVIXA take some important steps on that journey, including developing an anti-harassment policy for its events. His focus on creating change for the next generation of the events industry is the reason why he is part of the inaugural class of PCMA Ascent Luminaries — the leaders who are championing diversity in business events. Watch the accompanying video for more on how Labuskes and AVIXA are making a difference in meetings.

The Ascent Luminaries video series is sponsored by VisitDallas. For more on Ascent, go to PCMA.org/ascent.

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