Inclusivity and diversity at events

Program manager Maureen van Houten shares her tips

Inclusivity has become a significant theme in the event industry in the Netherlands. While assembling the program, you’re likely already working to maintain a balance between male and female speakers. However, there’s more to consider in an event aimed at promoting inclusion and diversity. Maureen van Houten, an effect maker with 10 years of experience as a program manager, has engaged with numerous organizations on the topic of developing inclusivity and diversity within their companies. By discussing this matter with clients, she ensures that it’s integrated into the development of concepts, events, and programs.

Maureen van Houten | Programmamanager | E-mail Maureen
Maureen van Houten over inclusiviteit en diversiteit op evenementen

Over the past few years, I’ve witnessed a positive trend where organizations are increasingly prioritizing inclusivity and diversity. However, I’ve also noticed that organizations are grappling with how to incorporate these aspects into their events.

Maureen van Houten Program manager - effectgroep*

The difference between inclusivity and diversity

We talk about inclusivity when differences among people are welcomed and respected. Inclusion refers to how we handle diversity. It’s about showing respect and acceptance to everyone, regardless of their background, age, gender, beliefs, etc.

In the context of diversity at events, practical considerations might include things like having gender-neutral restrooms, prayer rooms, or lactation spaces available.

How do you integrate this into a program?

I consider the diversity of speakers and the format for delivering the topic. Will it be a panel discussion, a workshop, or a monologue? In doing so, I take into account the speaker’s background: what experiences have they had? The personal story contributes to greater understanding and recognition among the audience.

The choice of location can add a lot to the overall experience. This includes catering preferences and accessibility for people with disabilities. It’s a comprehensive picture that needs to align with the target audience and the objectives.


Maureen's tips

  1. Identify where your target audience stands

If you’re just starting out, you might want to begin with raising awareness through an informative session. Starting with an aerobics dance team consisting of drag queens can have a counterproductive effect if your colleagues are not yet accustomed to this. Also, consider the composition of the target audience. Do you need an interpreter, or are there limitations that need to be taken into account?

  1. Determine your objectives

Discuss what the objectives should be and how the event can contribute to them. Do you want to convey that your event is truly accessible to everyone? Then an inclusive location is important. If your organization’s goal is to have a more inclusive hiring policy, you can structure the program in a way that provides employees with tools to make better choices in their work by the end of the day.

  1. Plan your event

It’s time to work on the exact implementation of your goals. Which parts will be optional, and which will not? Can visitors order a coffee using sign language on their own, or do you choose to have everyone order their drinks in the usual way? When putting together the program, ensure a diverse representation of both men and women, different ages, and backgrounds. This way, all your visitors will feel represented and respected. The acts you choose, such as a comedian or a spoken word artist, can be tailored to the topic, providing a customized contribution. In addition to acts and entertainment, you can also engage in discussions. Use the event as a moment to engage in conversations during a roundtable session, debate, or speed dates. This way, the event becomes an accelerator for change.

  1. After the event

Don’t let the event be a one-time occurrence for addressing the topic. The event is a means to bring the topic to life. Provide employees with concrete tasks after the event, or opt for multiple events throughout the year to delve deeper into this subject.

  1. Change is a process

Remember, inclusion and diversity are processes. And this process means working step by step towards inclusivity and diversity. Make the topics discussable within the organization so that they become relevant to everyone. Put them on the agenda regularly and keep talking about them; this is essential to get employees on board and bring about change.

Want to continue the conversation on this topic?

Contact Maureen at and find out how we can incorporate inclusivity and diversity into your upcoming event.