How to Foster Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging in Virtual Events

How to Foster Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging in Virtual Events

Due to unprecedented times, the event industry has pivoted and continues to create innovative virtual events. Engagement is the name of the game in this new (for some) territory. As we adapt to this new reality, here are a few tips to boost diversity and inclusion at your next virtual event.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to create events where all can feel comfortable and respected. We can do this by embracing diverse perspectives, insights, and contributions. features. It’s all about intentionality in how your virtual event is structured. One of the event goals should be to ensure your event allows for others to feel valued, included, and heard. You can make the most of this experience by maximizing some of Zoom’s features.

Hire Diverse Speakers and Suppliers
It’s important to ensure your guest speakers or panelists are diverse. Try to secure BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) individuals to deliver the content. This creates room for more perspectives in the conversation. Consider hiring diverse suppliers to create the event — from graphic designers and tech support to DJs. Great things happen in the moments of truly dynamic synergy. When recognizing the speaker lineup be sure to list their name, job title, company, and preferred gender pronouns.

Set the Tone with a Warm Welcome
Before your event be sure to ask in the registration form (and reminder email) if any attendees have any accessibility requests to be noted and accounted for. Create a space for all to experience your events, virtually. When your event begins, have music playing as guests enter the Zoom webinar. This can be done by sharing music on the platform or incorporating a DJ into the webinar experience. You’ll also want to greet guests as they arrive. Thank them for joining and share how long before the event starts. Let attendees know that a recording will be provided following the event. This allows participants to focus on the conversation rather than be consumed by note-taking.

To get the group engaged and attentive, have an icebreaker poll, which adds a personal touch and fills in the gap for any latecomers. Once the event begins, set the tone by taking the participants through the agenda for the event using visuals. A branded slide deck created through PowerPoint, Canva or Perzi will support the points you’re making and keep your attendees engaged.

Provide Closed Captioning
In Zoom, you’re able to assign someone to manually type closed captions or provide a closed caption option through a third-party vendor like TypeWell. This feature is also available in Zoom breakout rooms. Transcribed notes will be provided following the event. It is also a great option to share the transcript and the replay in your follow-up email. There are also services that will translate the conversations into various languages after the event using the recording.

Consider a Chat and Q&A Host
Designate staff to host the chat and another to moderate the Q&A segment. Have the chat host introduce themselves, welcome attendees, and monitor the responses in the chat. The chat host can also respond to any incoming questions sent to the chat or assist attendees with tech troubleshooting. The moderator of the Q&A session can manage incoming questions, the timing of the session, and pace of the Q&A segment of the program. This allows your participants to feel supported and comfortable to take a deeper dive in the content of the webinar. Enabling the Q&A upvote function allows attendees to upvote what they find to be most valuable. This allows the moderator to select questions to answer based on the highest number of votes. Asking attendees to share questions in advance can also be helpful to gauge the depth of the content shared.

Take Advantage of the Breakout Session Feature
During Zoom meetings, the “breakout session” feature allows for in-depth small group conversation. The breakout session can also be used as a way to create a virtual networking experience or go in depth with each panelist. Incorporate event-branded slides with bullet points of content being shared. This creates structure and familiarity for the participants. Lead with prompts during the session that allow participants to feel comfortable expressing ideas, sharing experiences, and contributing to the small group discussion.

Honorable Mention
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the virtual photo booth incorporated into this year’s ILEA Star Awards from The Brand Booth. Attendees had the ability to use their phones or computers to take images of themselves using the branded backdrop and share on social media using the event’s hashtag. An online photo booth is a fun way to engage with attendees.

About the Author
Faith Folayan, CWP is the owner of TLW Consulting, an engagement and event management strategy firm in the business of doing good. She’s also the owner and creative director of This Love Weddings, a planning and design boutique that specializes in creating wedding weekends for long-distance and multicultural couples. Faith has over 13 years of event industry experience planning weddings; social events; nonprofit event productions; and events driven by diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is a certified wedding planner, and her work has been featured in publications such as Brides, The Knot, Style Me Pretty, Mpls St. Paul Weddings, Minnesota Bride, Black Bride, and Munaluchi Bride.

About ILEA
The International Live Events Association (ILEA) represents and supports more than 5,000 members globallyevent professionals who do business together, share knowledge, nurture talent and progress the live events industry. For more information on how an ILEA professional can help you with your event, please contact