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Diversity, Inclusion, and Your Association

By Sandy Hower, Account Executive and Meeting Planner, THM

Sandy Hower PhotoAssociations, corporations, start-ups, non-profits, and individuals in general have all been discussing diversity, inclusion, social justice, and racism a lot more since the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

Over the past several months, THM has been engaging in Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) conversations to learn more about how to address the D&I challenges facing associations. Some of the webinars attended include: "Association D, E & I Efforts In Action: A Showcase of Models," organized by Lowell Applebaum, FASAE, CAE, CPF, CEO & Strategy Catalyst, Vista Cova, LLC; "Inflection Point: Is the Events Industry Motivated to Change," organized by Smart Meetings; and "Rooting Out Racism: How To Get Started at Your Association," organized by Association Success.

Below is a list of key thoughts and considerations.

Associations Have Power

Associations have more power and influence than some might think. Associations have Boards and Committees made up of members from many corporate companies, this can help inspire and lead change beyond the association itself and help change corporate America/government entities.

Where to Start?

Start small by asking yourself some questions. Think about your answers. Did you have to justify any? If you had to justify your answer, then something more needs to be asked/addressed.

In the environment that I'm in:

  • Who is in this picture?
  • Who is left out? Why is that?
  • What do I influence? Why is that?
  • What are some things that I do that might perpetuate racism?
  • What vendors/companies do I work with?
  • Who is involved with those vendors/companies? Who is not?

Diversity vs. Inclusion vs. Equality vs. Equity

  • Diversity is about WHAT. It focuses on the makeup of a workforce.
  • Inclusion is about the HOW. It is the creation of a work environment and culture that enables all employees to participate and thrive.
  • Equality is giving people the same thing/things.
  • Equity is fairness in every situation.

Shared Definition

Before you can really try to address and solve a problem, you need to make sure there is a common definition of the problem.

  • How does your association define racism?
  • How does your association define diversity? Inclusion?

Matters to Think About

  • Don't just create new policies, take the time now to examine your existing policies and start addressing the inequities, if any.
    • What in this policy serves everyone in your organization?
    • How are your operations in line with your mission?
    • Are you who you say you are?
    • Are your mission and vision statements incorporating everyone?
  • What is the core of your organization/company that you are offering to the community?
  • Remember it is a marathon, not a sprint - small steps are important (statements), but then move onto bigger steps.
  • Bring in an outside moderator for meetings and discussions about D&I.
  • Educate yourself: read, learn, be honest about what you do not know, go talk to people who know more than you.
  • Include D&I goals and objectives into your organization's strategic plans.

Tips on Crafting Appropriate and Personalized Pivot Messages for Your Organization

By Lauren Simonetti, Account Manager, THM

Lauren SimonettiOver the past few months, organizations have had to rethink how they communicate with their members, partners, and the public in response to both the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the new momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement. Last month, The Lee Institute hosted a webinar on “How to Write a Transparent, Authentic and Actionable Pivot Message” led by Deborah Bosley, PhD, Founder and Principal of The Plain Language Group. Dr. Bosley provided guidelines on how to craft appropriate and personalized messages for your organization.

Here are some main takeaways:

  • Follow through. Think about a short term and long-term action and communication plan. It’s not enough to show empathy and send one message – tell your members your action plan and what steps you will take.
  • Be relevant. Is your message realistic? Responsive? Refreshing? Make sure the audience can tell you understand what they are going through and that you are listening. Check out these 6 Rules of Message Relevance provided by Kivi Miller of Nonprofit Marketing Guide.
  • Keep it short and simple. Be concise – use short sentences and paragraphs and utilize headings and lists. Avoid clichés and jargon.
  • Sound like a human being. Be transparent and authentic. Write as though you are having a conversation. Be sure to use an active voice and positive language.
  • One size doesn’t fit all. Although your overall message may be the same for all audiences, you may need to shift the focus of the message or utilize different channels for different groups.

Ways to Improve Speaker Diversity at Meetings

By Sandy Hower, Account Executive and Meeting Planner, THM

Sandy Hower PhotoHow to diversify panels and speaker line ups is not a new question for meeting and event organizers but is a question that should be prioritized more moving forward. Last September, award-winning inclusion strategist and keynote speaker, Ruchika Tulshyan, published an article in the Harvard Business Review addressing what it will take to improve diversity at conferences. In the article, Tulshyan wrote that “we need to fundamentally understand and accept how different perspectives and life experiences among speakers will bring a richer conversation to any conference, and as a result, encourage greater attendee participation from diverse and underestimated communities.” In addition, “we must also recognize and acknowledge the systematic barriers holding back people of color (especially) from being recognized as experts.” Tulshyan went on to give ideas about how to increase speaker diversity. A few of those ideas are below:

  • Don't only look for experts by title. Look for speakers outside the traditional networks and look at their experience and points of view rather than their title.
  • Set an (audacious) goal. Make ambitious diversity goals and quantify them. And don’t just add one “token” speaker from an underrepresented group.
  • Ask for speaker recommendations from a diverse slate of people. Enlist the help of members or industry experts from a diverse group for speaker suggestions.
  • Do not always enlist people of color to speak about diversity issues. Tulshyan advises to do your research on whether the speaker’s expertise is on the topic of diversity and identity and that an ideal conference is one that doesn’t need a diversity and inclusion track because speaker diversity is carefully curated in all the topic tracks.
  • Pass the baton. If possible, try to recommend another speaker if you are frequently asked to speak and identify as white and male. Help create opportunities for speakers from an underrepresented community to take your place.

Read the full article here: https://hbr.org/2019/09/what-it-will-take-to-improve-diversity-at-conferences

Taking Your Meetings Virtual Part I: The Key Considerations

Video Conference ImageAs annual meetings, spring conferences and summer meetings are being cancelled due to coronavirus, several associations have looked to make their events virtual. One of our THM staff members sat in on the Acumen Webinar "Meet Your Members Where They Are: Associations Share Virtual Conference Successes" to learn what several organizations are experiencing as they make the big jump to video conferences.

Below is a list of key thoughts and considerations regarding taking your events virtual.  In Part II we'll present the key takeaways and lessons learned.

Key Considerations:

  • Look carefully at income verses expenses.
  • What are the cancellation requirements for your different service providers.
  • Hotel penalties need to be considered.
  • Exhibitor revenue loss.
  • Increase in registrants - no travel restraints.
  • Decrease in budget due to food and beverage.
  • Revenue for associations is mainly membership dues and events. Even without cancellation fees, there is a strong chance of decreased revenue. Consider if a virtual event would be more beneficial than no event.
  • CEU approval - will they still be honored at a virtual event?
  • Format changes should be shared - be totally transparent - so people know what they are paying for.
  • Keep a live FAQ sheet on the web page.
  • Changes need to be announced to BOD, Sponsors/Exhibitors, Attendees, and finally the general membership.
  • Redefine the target audience now that travel constraints have been lifted - possibly open to other states.
  • Speaker abstracts can be posted post-event, along with their credits.
  • Organizations with strong social connections will miss the human element - find a way to add it back in with a networking event.

Taking Your Meetings Virtual Part II: The Lessons Learned

Video Conference ImageAs annual meetings, spring conferences and summer meetings are being cancelled due to coronavirus, several associations have looked to make their events virtual. One of our THM staff members sat in on the Acumen Webinar "Meet Your Members Where They Are: Associations Share Virtual Conference Successes" to learn what several organizations are experiencing as they make the big jump to video conferences.

Below is a list of the takeaways and lessons learned shared during the webinar.

Lessons Learned:

  • One group exceeded the in-person attendance expectations. They credited market efforts, social media, and some due to the fact that other associations totally cancelled their events.
  • Lesson Learned - light a fire and be creative.
  • Budget - both companies presented that the virtual event was on par with the budget for the in-person event.
  • Registration fees: one company stayed the same and did not offer a refund unless it was requested. The other company had one price for the Live Stream + On Demand, or a lower price for On Demand only. Their On Demand option was offered at a later date due to the rush to get this virtual meeting underway. The On Demand option was another revenue stream.
  • Exhibitors had mixed reactions - some disappointed, but some pushed to the next in-person event.
  • Vendors had mini product theaters between sessions.
  • Post-Pandemic Future - will most likely keep the On Demand option, even with in-person events. Travel budges will most likely suffer in coming months while companies are trying to recover financially. Future is TBD based on the NEW NORMAL.
  • Ease of use for attendees, speakers, etc. (is training involved). One of the companies chose to use Zoom (before the hacking occurred). All speakers were trained beforehand to cover any hiccups, and were very comfortable with their presentations (even a yoga class).
  • Biggest Challenges:
    • 3-day in-person event down to hybrid virtual event.
    • Organizing/planning with your team while working from home (staying on track, meeting deadlines, not duplicating efforts).
    • Be positive. How do we do this? - not can we do this?
    • Don’t be intimidated by technology.