Diversity & Inclusion: How to Plan an LGBT-Friendly Meeting or Event

Diversity & Inclusion: How to Plan an LGBT-Friendly Meeting or Event

Planning an LGBT-friendly meeting or event isn’t just good practice, it’s good business. The LGBT market has major spending power when it comes to meetings, events and travel. Due diligence and inclusive marketing can not only make your attendees feel happy and safe, but also bring an ROI to your meeting or event.

Visit Alexandria recently hosted a webinar on LGBT meetings. Here are our tips on how to plan an LGBT-friendly event or meeting, whether you’re starting from scratch or already have diversity initiatives in place.

Who is the LGBT market?

In 2016, 4.1% of American adults identified as LGBT, while 7.3% of Millennials did. As gender fluidity continues to rise, the LGBT community has major spending power, with the largest disposable income of any niche market. 77% of the LGBT community says companies that support LGBT equality will get more of their business this year, which means it’s important to show your support. Wondering why we use “LGBT”? As of 2017, it is still the preferred term by the majority of LGBT folks according to a recent survey by Community Marketing & Insights. For more information on pronouns and LGBT vocabulary, check out the Glossary of Terms from the Human Rights Campaign.

Image credit: Cameron Davidson for Visit Alexandria

What is an LGBT-friendly meeting?

Ideally, all meetings should be LGBT-friendly. Even if your meeting is not for an LGBT organization or a group of LGBT individuals, there may be LGBT attendees, family members, or allies. An LGBT-friendly meeting simply means you have taken extra care to create an inclusive environment for all of your attendees throughout your meeting or event.

Before You Plan: Know State and City Laws

There are always many factors when choosing a location for your meeting or event. Not all states and cities have equal protections for LGBT folks. Consider:

  • You don’t have to have an LGBT-friendly reputation like San Francisco to be LGBT-friendly. Alexandria, Virginia was named an “All Star” city for LGBT rights by the Human Rights Campaign in 2017.
  • North Carolina saw huge financial losses at an estimated $3.76 billion with the introduction of the anti-trans HB2 bill.
  • Meeting planners are adding contract clauses to protect themselves in case of changes in protections for LGBT folks.
  • If you’re uncertain about your state or city laws, the best place to start is with the local CVB or by checking the detailed maps at the Human Rights Campaign.

Plan Ahead: It’s All in the Details

Use the time leading up to your event or meeting wisely, and keep an open line of communication between planners, suppliers and attendees. Consider:

  • Use LGBT-identifying or LGBT-friendly vendors or suppliers
  • Use gender neutral language in all forms for attendees
  • Feature a zero-tolerance policy against homophobic language or behavior
  • Work with diverse speakers and panelists
    • Encourage speakers and panelists to use gender neutral language
  • Work with local LGBT organizations
    • Visit Alexandria works with NOVA Pride, Arlington Gay and Lesbian Association, the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. Contact your local CVB for more information on local resources 

Image credit: M Enriquez for Visit Alexandria 

Plan Ahead: Working with Hotels and Venues

It’s important to make sure that all staff who will be interacting with attendees on the day of your event or meeting have gone through LGBT training, from the front desk to housekeeping and anyone in between. Visit Alexandria regularly hosts LGBT workshops for members to learn tips and best practices for serving the LGBT community, including meeting venues and hotels. Your local CVB may have more information about LGBT-friendly hotels and venues. Also consider:

  • Know which additional groups may be sharing spaces on the day of your event
  • Walk through the space beforehand to ensure it is accessible and accommodates all of your attendees
  • Know your brand: many national hotels are among the top LGBT-friendly businesses in the country
  • Check for TAG approved venues or LGBT Meeting Professionals Association

Spread the Word: Inclusive Marketing

It’s important for LGBT attendees to be able to see themselves at your meeting, so once you’ve taken the steps to ensure a safe space for LGBT attendees, you can begin marketing:

  • Plan an LGBT happy hour or networking event
  • Prepare a one-pager on LGBT things to do
  • Include gender neutral language throughout all content
  • Include LGBT individuals or rainbow icons in meeting collateral
  • Join LGBT Meeting Professionals Association
  • Advertise in LGBT media
  • Contact your CVB to see what tools they have such as logos, photography, etc.

Day-of: Event Execution

At this point, all of the planning is taken care of and you should now be focused on having a successful meeting. Be sure to:

  • Walk through the venue prior to the start of the event and specifically ask if there are any concerns for inclusion or accessibility.
  • Remind people of your zero-tolerance policy.
  • Make someone the designated point of contact to answer questions and complaints regarding inclusion. You want to make sure that if someone has a negative experience, they have a safe person to go to.

Follow Up: Opportunities to Grow

One of the most important pieces of this entire process is the follow up, which allows us to learn from experience. Be sure to:

  • Get feedback from attendees, including surveys with questions about inclusivity.
  • Get testimonial quotes pertaining to inclusivity to be used in future promotion.
  • Remember: it is an ongoing learning process and commitment.

For more information on LGBT issues and marketing, check out the following resources:

Header image by Todd Wright for Virginia Tourism Corporation