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Updated: Dec 16, 2020

Can we create an environment for our guests in which everyone feels seen and appreciated? Probably not entirely, but here are six simple steps to think through to help your event feel more inclusive.

It will be vital to think through each section as you begin your planning process {Think 10-12 months out from the event}

1. Use your RSVP form for gathering attendee needs ahead of time.

Your RSVP is a great opportunity for your team to be better prepared while assuring your attendees you're thinking about their needs.

Consider including the following:

  • Dietary restrictions

  • Requests for interpreting services or assistive listening devices

  • Requests for accessible parking or seating

  • Leave an open text section for any additional accommodations.

2. Prepare for the needs of an ethnically and culturally diverse audience.

Are there different ways they would prepare their food?

  • Example: Without generalizing any ethnic community, there are different preferences for the length of time meat should be cooked. Consider emailing your registered guests the primary menu and ask if they have any specific requests a few weeks out. Additionally, ask your Table Hosts to do some 'recon' with their guests.

Strive to diversify whom you are putting up in front so your guests can feel well represented.

"Imagine a dinner that promotes 'Diversity,' while white men lead most of the event. In some cases, even well-meaning initiatives can backfire."

Make your Main Speaker and Emcee aware of the diversity of their audience.

In your planning, consider different ethnic and cultural values.

  • There are different cultural preferences to be aware of as you plan your event. While most audiences may be anticipating a dinner on the side of luxury, some ethnic groups will place a higher value on effective utilization of funds. As you considering your venue, menu, and gifts, gather feedback from your key partners involved by asking them what their guests would like. If any of your Table hosts come from a specific ethnic background, they might ask a past partner if there's anything they should do differently to include all people better.

Share specific needs during your Ask.

  • Many cultures value how their investment is directly impacting your ministry.

3. Consider guests with strong allergies or dietary restrictions

Food and Dietary restrictions need to be pre-planned regardless of the feedback you receive. Having non-nut based and gluten-free alternatives at your dinner will be a necessity.

4. How might your event look different if most of your guests are over 65 years old?

Time: Suppose you know beforehand that your audience is primarily made up of 65 years plus. With that knowledge, you'll want to consider adjusting your timeline back by at least an hour.

Mobility: Mobility must be well coordinated for every event. The older the audience, the more likely you'll face mobility issues.

"Sometimes we unintentionally forget about the needs of guests with limited mobility. Yet, it's a significant mistake that can work against your event."

When exploring venue options, try your best to put yourself in the shoes of someone who has limited mobility.

  • Are there ramps outside and elevators inside?

  • Are the bathrooms handicap accessible?

  • Are attendee(s) with reduced mobility able to go from one area to another quickly?

  • Will any attendee's need support?

Some venues will indicate accessibility on their website, often in their FAQs. However, for those that don't, send a quick email to the venue.

5. What if the majority of your guests are in their 30s and have kids?

The first question parents will be asking is, does the event fit with my schedule?

Balancing a family's schedule can be challenging—things like children's sports events, naptimes, and mealtimes can hinder younger and older parents from attending your dinner. Research has shown that "59% of Americans with young children struggle to balance their family's schedule when attending live events."

Prioritize establishing a day & time that will accommodate young families.

Saturday evening between 5:45-8:30 will be an ideal time/date. It's easier to acquire a babysitter for evenings, and there are usually fewer scheduling conflicts on Saturday nights as opposed to Friday or Sunday.

Other things to consider:

  • Look for a venue with Restrooms that include changing tables (in the men's room as well!)

  • Easily accessible waste disposal that will not affect event quality (i.e., proper receptacles for soiled diapers)

6. Represent women in a meaningful way at your dinner

  • You can immediately help women feel recognized at your dinner by placing them in any of your speaking roles.

  • One common issue is a wife's name getting excluded when married couples fill out RSVPs. To be more inclusive, you'll want to ask for the wife's name separately to represent her and her husband equally. Practically this will help with name tags and follow-up communication.

  • Ensure you gather an email for the husband and wife so that when the update is shared, both parties will hear about how you used their gift. Women tend to control where the money is spent. Ensuring the wife gets the update could lead to greater involvement!

  • Make an effort to engage with those attending—especially single women. Please have a few individuals in place that can chat with them or connect them with some other attendees, so they aren't left to wander. (This goes for single men as well!)

To get a more accurate understanding of your demographic, consider reaching out to your Table Hosts. Your table hosts can be an instrumental part in helping you make your event more inclusive. They can provide you with information about the ethnicity, age, and sex of those they're inviting. Table hosts will be glad to invite people when they see the effort you make to care for their friends.

Express the heart of Christ through your planning. Your audience will be more likely to invest after getting a flavor of ministry through the efforts you've made to care for them.

Time to get started!

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