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Talk Diversity to Me: How the Event Industry Can Do Better

In this guest column, founder and CEO of California-based Innovate Marketing Group Amanda Ma discusses the role of diversity and representation in the meeting and event industry.

Illustration: Aaliyah McNeal/BizBash

Amanda Ma is the founder and CEO of Innovate Marketing Group, a full-service live and virtual event production agency that specializes in branded experiences. 

In the wake of major social and political changes, many leading companies are now taking necessary steps to increase and improve diversity and inclusion within their workspace. The need for increased representation and support for all cultures and backgrounds is needed now more than ever and benefits both the people and the company. Amanda Ma, Innovate Marketing GroupAmanda MaPhoto: Courtesy of Innovate Marketing Group

Studies show that diverse teams are 33% more likely to generate better-than-average profits, 70% more likely to capture new markets, and generate 19% more revenue from innovation than companies with below-average leadership diversity. But what about diversity and representation within the events industry? How can we as event professionals pave the way for consistent representation and diversity regarding speakers, suppliers and discussion topics in the virtual and live events we produce?

As a proud woman of an Asian-owned business, I’ve ensured diversity and inclusion have always been integrated into our framework at Innovate Marketing Group. From our internal and extended team, to the amazing vendors we partner with, to the events we produce, diversity has and will always be at the forefront. By creating an environment where all are included, we pave the way to allow for mutual success. We have seen some of our clients do this successfully as well. The companies with the most success have leadership that make it a part of their culture and deliverables, then funnel that top-down. Essentially: Do not just talk the talk, but walk the walk.

A great question to ask yourself when looking at a list of potential speakers or panel is, "Do the individuals at the forefront or on stage reflect the broader community?" As well, if you have an array of speakers, they should contrast one another. It’s important that the stories and information your audience will hear reflect those from different backgrounds and communities. Work this aspect into your company/event KPI (key performance indicator). For example, out of 15 potential speakers, five will reflect diverse backgrounds (women, minority, LGBTQIA+, veteran, etc.).

Those at the forefront are not the only positions where diversity and representation should be discussed. The companies we hire for our events should reflect this as well. Whether it be an AV company, catering or rentals, as an events agency, we can help the growth of companies owned by underrepresented groups.

Event Topics/Themes
Hosting diversity- and inclusion-based events, as well as mixing it up with different topics, will bring new potential speakers and new event attendees. Finding a balance between event topics is also important. For example, if you host a women-empowerment event, for your next event, perhaps focus on cultural diversity. Remember, when your attendees know your event is reaching to promote diversity and embrace a wide range of speakers, suppliers and themes, it will greatly impact their engagement and receptiveness.

A version of this story appeared in the fall 2020 issue of BizBash.

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