DEI Event Ideas: Embracing Diversity and Inclusion

Our world is always changing and becoming more diverse. Whether you’re an event planning pro or new to organizing events, making them inclusive is super important these days. Celebrating diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is the way to go. It’s good for both individual people and helps organizations succeed.

Studies show that companies who make DEI a top priority can increase their ROI by up to 19%.

That’s a big deal!

It shows how having an environment where everyone feels included helps people and organizations grow. But DEI events do way more than just boost profits – they give employees, customers, and community members a space to come together.

By celebrating diversity and promoting fairness, these get-togethers break down walls between people, fight against stereotypes, and create more peace and understanding.

Why DEI Matters

Before we dive into some fun event ideas, let’s talk about why it’s so important to include DEI in your planning.

Like we mentioned, organizations that are really good at DEI can have better ROI overall. That’s because when you make everyone feel welcomed, it helps the whole company thrive, not just certain people.

Plus, DEI events do a lot more than pad the company’s pockets. They give people from all walks of life – employees, customers, folks in the community – a chance to connect, share their unique stories and perspectives, and learn from each other. When you celebrate diversity and stand up for equity, it tears down barriers, helps people see past their biases, and brings folks together. Kumbaya, am I right?

The Business Side of Things

Obviously, pushing for DEI is the right thing to do. But there are also some pretty sweet perks for businesses that host inclusive events:

  • Happier employees who stick around longer
  • Fresh ideas and better problem-solving
  • Customers who are more satisfied and loyal
  • A reputation boost and tighter community ties

By throwing DEI shindigs, companies show they’re all about making people feel welcomed and valued. That attracts top-notch talent, earns customer trust, and sets them up for long-term success. Cha-ching!

Interactive DEI Activities to Get the Party Started

1. Cultural Food Festival

One awesome way to celebrate DEI is by getting people pumped to explore and appreciate all kinds of cultures, backgrounds, and views. Host a potluck where everyone brings a dish that represents their cultural roots. This shows off the incredible variety of yummy food traditions and sparks conversations about the special meaning and stories behind each dish. As people bond over grandma’s secret recipes and childhood memories, they’ll gain a deeper understanding and love for the diversity in their community. Warning: may cause severe hunger and the urge to swap recipes.

2. Diversity Bingo

Spice up the usual icebreakers with a round of Diversity Bingo! Pass out bingo cards filled with different qualities, experiences, and identities (like speaking multiple languages, living abroad, or being LGBTQ+). Then, challenge players to mingle and find people who match the descriptions on their card. This silly game pushes folks to step outside their bubbles and strike up convos with people they might not usually talk to. It’s a fun way to highlight the diversity in the room and help people feel more connected. Bingo!

3. Identity Mapping

Ready to get deep? In this activity, everyone creates a visual map showing all the different pieces of their identity (like race, gender, religion, etc.). Then they share their maps with each other. Opening up like this builds empathy and makes people more aware of how complex identities shape our lives and views. By being vulnerable, people start to see identity in a whole new light. Tissues not included.

4. Unconscious Bias Workshop

Bring in a pro facilitator to lead an interactive workshop on spotting and overcoming sneaky biases we all have without realizing it. Through hands-on exercises and frank discussions, participants will start to see their own blind spots and learn how to make decisions that are more fair for everyone. These eye-opening experiences help people question their assumptions and inspire them to take action to level the playing field. Get ready to have your mind blown!

5. Story Swaps

Get cozy and gather people together to share real-life stories about their experiences with diversity, equity, and inclusion. These intimate story circles create a safe space for people to open up, really listen to each other, and put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Hearing stories from all walks of life helps build understanding of the challenges and triumphs that colleagues and community members face. Prepare to laugh, cry, and feel all the feels.

You can check out We & Goliath’s big list of creative DEI event ideas if you need more suggestions.

How to Plan an Epic DEI Event

As you’re planning, it’s important to think about the different needs and interests of ALL your attendees. A killer event should have a little something for everyone, no matter how they like to learn or what they’re into.

Keynote Speakers Who Bring the Fire

Invite a diverse group of speakers to share their unique stories and drop some knowledge about DEI. Make sure your lineup looks like the diversity you’re celebrating – consider factors like race, gender, age, ability, sexual orientation, and cultural background. Amplifying voices from all over will give people a richer, more nuanced take on DEI issues. Pro tip: a few well-placed jokes never hurt.

Panels of Wise Ones

Bring together a panel of DEI experts and thought leaders to school your attendees on hot topics, what’s working, and how to create spaces where everyone feels valued. Aim for a diverse mix of panelists from different industries, areas, and backgrounds to keep things spicy.

Breakouts for Deep Dives

Give people options to really geek out on specific DEI subjects with breakout sessions. Smaller groups are perfect for getting everyone involved in juicy conversations. Keep things fresh by shaking up the format with workshops, roundtables, and case studies that click with all types.

Networking…But Make It Inclusive

Create spaces and activities dedicated to helping people make connections across all kinds of backgrounds. Think: speed networking, meetups for people with shared identities, or DEI-themed scavenger hunts. A little structure goes a long way in making people feel included and building a sense of belonging that lasts way beyond the event itself.

Easy Access for All

Pick a venue that’s welcoming to people with disabilities. Think about things like wheelchair ramps, sign language interpreters, and captions. But access is about more than just the physical stuff. You’ll also want to offer gender-neutral bathrooms and quiet chill-out zones so everyone feels at home. Bonus points for venue security named Billy or Bob.

Watch Your Language (and Visuals)

Use inclusive language that steers clear of stereotypes and biases in all your event marketing and materials. Make sure the images and videos you use show all kinds of diversity too. Go for gender-neutral words and avoid sayings that might get lost in translation across cultures. If your visuals are starting to feel like a college brochure, you’re on the right track!

Raise a Glass to DEI Holidays

Another great way to champion DEI is by celebrating cultural heritage months and big historical milestones. These observances honor the contributions and experiences of diverse communities while teaching attendees why they matter. Some big ones to put on your calendar:

  • Black History Month
  • Women’s History Month
  • Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
  • Pride Month
  • Hispanic Heritage Month
  • Native American Heritage Month
  • Juneteenth
  • International Women’s Day
  • Disability Awareness Month

When you’re planning events around these special dates, think about partnering up with community organizations that represent the groups being celebrated. Working together ensures your event is culturally on point, genuine, and actually means something. Collaborating closely with these partners will give you valuable insights on the right ways to honor and celebrate these important occasions.

Buddy Up with Community Groups

Teaming up with local organizations can take your DEI events to the next level. These groups have deep roots in the community and can offer a wealth of insights, resources, and connections to boost your event’s impact.

Some ways to buddy up:

  • Co-host events that line up with both of your missions
  • Invite community leaders to speak or join a panel
  • Provide space for them to share helpful resources and info
  • Donate some of the proceeds to support their cause

Building strong relationships with community groups keeps your DEI efforts grounded in the real experiences and needs of diverse communities. That’s how you make a lasting difference.

Measuring the Feels

To get a sense of how your DEI event went over and spot areas that could use some work, collecting feedback from attendees is key. Send out post-event surveys that ask about their experience, what they learned, and how the event changed their perspective on DEI. Include some open-ended questions so people can share their unfiltered thoughts and suggestions.

For even juicier insights, think about hosting focus groups or one-on-one chats with a diverse mix of attendees. These deeper convos will help you really understand the event’s impact and how you can make it even better next time.

Don’t forget about the cold, hard data too! Keep tabs on metrics like attendance, engagement, and how diverse your attendees are. These numbers can inform your planning moving forward and show the higher-ups the real value of your DEI initiatives.

Eyes on the Prize

To really get a handle on your DEI event’s impact, you’ve got to set clear goals and metrics from the get-go. A few examples:

  • Boost attendees’ knowledge and understanding of DEI issues
  • Create a sense of belonging and community for diverse attendees
  • Fire people up to put DEI into action in their own lives
  • Build relationships and join forces with diverse organizations

Once you’ve nailed down your goals, come up with concrete ways to measure your progress. For instance, if your aim is to increase knowledge, track how many people said they learned something new in your post-event survey. If building community is the name of the game, keep tabs on how many new connections people made with folks from different backgrounds.

Having clear targets and ways to measure them makes sure your DEI events have a purpose, pack a punch, and prove their worth.

Tips for Throwing an Inclusive Rager

Follow these pro tips to make sure your DEI event is welcoming for anyone and everyone:

Round Up a Diverse Planning Posse

Put together a mixed bag of people to plan and run the show. You want ALL the perspectives in the room. Shoot for diversity in race, gender, age, ability, cultural background…you name it! It’s like the Avengers, but for event planning.

Make Sign-Ups a Breeze

When people are registering, give them a chance to share their preferred pronouns, any food allergies or restrictions, and what kind of accessibility needs they might have. Let them know how you’ll use that info and keep it on the DL. Bonus points for a registration page that doesn’t require a PhD to navigate.

Lay Down the Law

Come up with a code of conduct that lays out the rules for keeping things respectful and inclusive. Make it clear that any discrimination or harassment will NOT fly. Spell out what happens to anyone who can’t play nice. Setting firm boundaries creates a safe space where everyone can let loose.

Grub for All Grubs

When you’re picking the menu, keep different diets and cultural tastes in mind. Offer a range of eats that cover all the bases, and be sure to label them clearly. Get creative, but be mindful about any cultural food faux pas. Nobody wants to explain to the boss why there’s a sacred ritual dish next to the pigs in a blanket.

Accessible Info for the Masses

Make sure all your event communications (think: invites, schedules, presentations) are easy to digest for people with visual, hearing, or cognitive impairments. Provide different formats, image descriptions, and assistive tech. Follow web accessibility guidelines for anything digital so you don’t leave anyone out of the loop.

Networking Without the Cringe

If your event has social hour or networking, make it a good time for ALL by offering a range of activities for different interests and comfort levels. Give people some structure and some free time to do their thing, and don’t forget quiet spaces for the introverts. Pro tip: Drunk karaoke doesn’t count as inclusive networking.

The Secret Sauce: Storytelling

One of the most powerful tools for getting people to connect, understand each other, and build a more inclusive world is good old-fashioned storytelling. Weaving personal stories into your DEI event helps attendees relate on a deeper level and see diversity, equity, and inclusion in a new light.

Think about inviting speakers or attendees to share their experiences through:

  • TED-style talks
  • Fireside chats (fake fire optional)
  • Storytelling workshops
  • Spoken word (slam poetry, anyone?)
  • Visual storytelling (photo essays, art displays)

When you create a space for people to open up and be vulnerable, it builds a sense of trust and community that inspires everyone to step up and be a DEI champion in their own lives.

Stories: The Ultimate Empathy Hack

There’s something magical about personal stories and their ability to break down walls and help people from different walks of life understand each other. When we hear someone share a piece of themselves, we can’t help but try to see things from their point of view. That’s the kind of empathy we need more of in this world.

At a DEI event, personal stories are your secret weapon. They:

  • Make complex issues relatable and human
  • Highlight the diversity WITHIN communities
  • Give a platform to voices that are often silenced
  • Encourage people to reflect on their own experiences and biases

When you sprinkle these powerful stories throughout your event, you create “aha” moments that connect people on a whole new level.

Storytelling Dos and Don’ts

To make storytelling a smash hit at your DEI extravaganza:

  • Create a supportive vibe that makes it safe to be vulnerable
  • Hook people up with training on how to craft and tell compelling stories
  • Make sure the stories shared reflect a range of diverse identities and experiences
  • Use stories to spark deeper discussions and reflections
  • Follow up with storytellers and thank them for being brave

A little thought and care go a long way in turning stories into an unforgettable, transformative part of your event.

Partner Up with the Pros

Want to kick your DEI event up a notch? Join forces with organizations that know the ins and outs of diversity, equity, and inclusion. These collabs bring in valuable expertise and fresh perspectives that make your event even more legit.

Get in the Co-Host Game

Team up with a DEI org to throw an event that aligns with what you BOTH care about. This expands your reach and brings new voices to the table. Just be sure to hash out who’s doing what so the event goes off without a hitch.

Sponsor for a Cause

Look for sponsorships from companies or groups that are known for walking the walk when it comes to DEI. They can help foot the bill while showing the world you’re both committed to building a more inclusive future. Vet potential sponsors to make sure their values line up with the heart of your event.

Share the Good Stuff

Swap resources like educational materials, trainings, and rock star speakers with DEI orgs. This team effort raises the bar for your event and supports the vital work these groups are doing. Consider setting up a resource hub that attendees can tap into during and after the event to keep the learning going.

Parting Thoughts

Hosting impactful, inclusive DEI events requires thoughtful planning, creativity, and genuine commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Implementing the strategies outlined here can create meaningful experiences bringing people together, fostering understanding, and contributing to a more equitable world.

But the work doesn’t stop when the event ends. The true measure of success is the lasting impact on attendees and the broader community. To drive real, sustained change:

  • Reach out after with thanks and resources for continuing the DEI journey
  • Consider creating a newsletter or online community to stay engaged
  • Reflect on successes and areas for improvement through attendee feedback
  • Refine your approach for even more impactful future experiences

Remember, pursuing true diversity, equity, and inclusion is an ongoing process requiring continuous dedication. By keeping this top of mind, your DEI events can be catalysts for positive transformation.

The Future of Inclusive Gatherings

As our global community becomes more connected, the need for DEI events is only going to grow. By staying plugged into the latest trends and best practices, you can dream up meaningful experiences that spark real change.

1. Virtual Is Here to Stay

The pandemic forced us to get creative with virtual and hybrid events to keep the good times rolling safely. Turns out, these formats can also boost access and flexibility. The key is to use tech and tools (like captions and interpreters) to create an engaging, inclusive vibe from anywhere. Virtual dance party, anyone?

2. It’s All Connected

The way our different identities (race, gender, sexuality, disability, etc.) overlap and affect our lives is MAJOR. Exploring these intersections helps us see the full picture and create programs that speak to the wild, wonderful diversity of the human experience.

3. Less Talk, More Action

Awareness and education will always be important, but people are hungry for tools and strategies to actually make a difference. Think about offering workshops to build practical skills, time to make action plans, and resources for keeping the momentum going. Less “thoughts and prayers,” more “roll up your sleeves.”

4. We Are the World

DEI isn’t just a hometown thing – it’s a global movement. Bring in voices and viewpoints from around the world by partnering with international organizations, showcasing culturally diverse speakers, and thinking about these issues on a planetary scale. It’s time to dream bigger, y’all.

5. Allies, Assemble!

As DEI events evolve, we’ll probably see a bigger emphasis on how people with privilege and power can step up as allies and accomplices. Raising awareness is a start, but nothing changes if those with influence don’t walk the talk.

Expect future events to focus on:

  • Showing people how to be allies who get sh*t done
  • Spotlighting examples of allyship in action
  • Creating spaces for allies to use their privilege for good
  • Getting people to commit to being long-haul allies

The more people we have fighting the good fight, the faster we can create a world where everyone has a seat at the table.

That’s a Wrap!

And there you have it, folks – your ultimate guide to throwing a DEI event that educates, inspires, and maybe even gets a little wild. Just promise you’ll save me a front-row seat and a bag of the good snacks. I’ll bring the terrible dad jokes and interpretive dance moves.

In all seriousness, the world needs more people like you who are willing to have the tough conversations and do the hard work of bringing people together. Keep shining a light on diversity, equity, and inclusion, even when it’s not trending on Twitter. And when all else fails, remember: WWBBD? (What Would Beyoncé Do?)

Now go forth and plan an event so epic, it’ll make the history books (or at least your Insta story).