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Event Service Professionals Publish Meetings DEI Guide

Graphic of ESPA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, A Guide for Event Service Professionals cover.
Photo of Denise Reid, ESPA president and event planning manager at New Orleans’ Hyatt Centric French Quarter.
Denise Reid

The knowledge and duties of event service professionals (ESPs), aka convention service managers, is where the rubber meets the road in the meetings and conventions world. Sales sells the dream and hands the ball off to ESPs, who take it forward to service the meeting, working with meeting and event planners and local venues, vendors and suppliers to make their event dreams a reality. 

DEI, or diversity, equity and inclusion, is rapidly becoming an integral part of that dream for meetings, and ESPs hold the key position to ensure events are inclusive and reflective of all communities, from convention center ballrooms and exhibit floors to hotel meeting rooms, offsite venues and activities, and beyond.

[More Meetings Today DEI Coverage]

To aid ESPs in their DEI duties, their professional association, Event Service Professionals Association (ESPA), published a free downloadable guide, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, a Guide for Event Service Professionals

According to Denise Reid, ESPA president and event planning manager at New Orleans’ Hyatt Centric French Quarter, although the guide was published with ESPA members in mind, it is valuable to all in the meetings and events industry. 

“The guide is not mainly for those in the organization,” Reid said. “I believe that this is going to be a guide that is evolving, revolutionizing and transforming. It’s definitely not exhaustive, as it’s continuing to grow as things in our society grow, things in our destinations grow. But this is a springboard.  

[Related: New ESPA President Denise Reid on DEI, New Member Acquisition–and a Show-Stopping 'Ave Maria']

“This is how you start,” she continued. “Get this toolkit, get a budget and reach out to your community, and this guide will help you in this process.” 

According to ESPA, the three pillars of the guide are as follows: 

Photo of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, a Guide for Event Service Professionals from ESPA.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, a Guide for Event Service Professionals

DEI Pillar: Education 

DEI education, coupled with meaningful training, helps enable employees to be successful in today’s workforce. 

Best practices include: 

  • Publishing DEI statement on company’s website. 
  • Developing mandatory DEI training for all staff. 
  • Scheduling offsite education opportunities to share different cultures and experiences. 
  • Establishing a team to champion DEI efforts. 
  • Supporting employee resource groups. 
  • Creating a supplier diversity program. 
  • Incorporating DEI mission in performance reviews. 

DEI Pillar: Inclusive Marketing 

When visitors connect with a host city, they look for a sense of belonging. Inclusive marketing can bring people together through shared experiences. 

Best practices include: 

  • Speak to your audiences with thoughtful language and relatable visuals. 
  • Explore meaningful ways to celebrate and recognize awareness months. 
  • Ensure inclusive messaging is leveraged internally and externally. 
  • Create a strategic plan and budget; set goals. 
  • Research diverse speakers. 
  • Provide information about inclusive engagement opportunities. 

DEI Pillar: Supplier Diversity 

Building a culture that supports supplier diversity will require rethinking processes, measuring potential to include diverse suppliers, quantifying their contributions and determining the economic impact on communities. 

Best practices include: 

  • Develop a policy that intentionally includes diverse members of the community. 
  • Build relationships with diverse community partners. 
  • Identify diverse vendors by attending community-based events. 
  • Create a supplier database that easily identifies diverse vendors and resources. 

Many DEI proponents agree that this last pillar, supplier diversity, is an easily attainable DEI goal that helps ensure the economic benefits inherent with any meeting or convention are shared throughout the community, and most notably with often-excluded communities. 

[Related: 5 Ways to Deliver on DEI at Your Next Meeting]

“I think there are lots of suppliers out there that [event services professionals] work with and never thought, ‘This can be a resource for stakeholders, such as, ‘How can I find a baker that does cakes for LGBTQ communities? How do I get a kosher chef to come in and prepare for certain types of audiences?’” Reid said. “I think that promotion of the guide will serve to create a database for destinations to get in touch with vendors from diverse communities, which is absolutely immediate and measurable, so we’re really excited about this.” 

Read Next: 7 Ways CSMs Can Help Planners as the Meetings Industry Reboots

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About the author
Tyler Davidson | Editor, Vice President & Chief Content Director

Tyler Davidson has covered the travel trade for nearly 30 years. In his current role with Meetings Today, Tyler leads the editorial team on its mission to provide the best meetings content in the industry.