Addressing cultural diversity at an event can feel like a minefield. Cultural diversity is up there with accessibility in terms of importance, as managers strive to create events without borders. Here are five things to inspire them.
Lesson number 1 - Mind your manners:
Food is always the biggie at events. Attendees will probably remember contacts once they’ve put a face to a name, but they will definitely remember whether they ate well or not and whether they encountered any food manners that they found distasteful or curious.
I have the fortune to live in Spain, where tapas and food sharing come second nature. Working in events, however, reminds me that not all cultures think alike and that eating from the same plate can seem unhygienic and rude to someone.
Not all of us are adept at chopsticks for example, so maybe research some alternatives for those who are feeling a little apprehensive at their food challenge.
Drinks can also arouse confusion. Iced water in jugs is unusual in places where drinking water does not come from the tap so make sure communications are clear when offering this service to overseas delegates.
If your host country does have a particular style for food and drinks, make sure you can explain it to your attendees.
Lesson number 2 - Content is king:
If you suspect you may have some attendees from a variety of cultures attending your event, ensure you choose foods that can be enjoyed by everyone. A little vegetarian should be Furthermore, any professional caterer should be able to assist you with Halal and Kosher dishes. Make sure you communicate all ingredients so to avoid accidents.
Lesson number 3 - Time keeping:
There is a reason that punctuality in Spain is known as ‘la puntualidad britanica’ (British punctuality). Different cultures have differing views on what is acceptable timekeeping. Keep an easy intro and permanent coffee break for the start of your meeting to satisfy the needs of both those cultures who like to arrive early and those who have a more relaxed approach.
Lesson number 4 - Observance of festivals:
If your meeting happens to fall over a religious festival, ensure that you can offer a prayer or quiet room where needed and be mindful that this may have an effect on meeting and mealtimes.
Lesson number 5 - Responsible speaking:
If your event requires a panel, ensure that the speakers themselves are a diverse mix, taking their gender, origin and ethnicity into consideration. Do a little research into the local area – no point flying a panel in from across the world when you surely have some very valid experts nearby, who will also help you to root the event in the destination.
In conclusion, you may find a little homework beneficial to you and all your attendees.
The author Rebecca Johnson is a Sustainability Consultant for the GDS Index, a destination level movement that benchmarks and improves the sustainability strategy and performance of destinations, encouraging them to become more sustainable places to visit, meet in and thrive in.
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