Inclusivity in events

How to implement inclusivity and diversity in events

Championed by Forbes as a true opportunity to grow businesses; inclusivity is set to change exhibitions of the future. Jacks Thomas, Director of The London Book Fair, world-leading within its field, discusses how we create an event that truly represents the world we live in...

"Q: Why is this so important now?

Personally, I think that this has been important for a long time. However, in the wider creative industries this is a topic that has been quite rightly gaining momentum for some time. All analysis indicates that more inclusive and diverse teams lead to better problem solving, greater innovation and ultimately, competitive advantage. There is a striking connection between strong commercial performance and cognitive diversity.

Inside LBF, inclusivity is a key topic and features in many events and seminars. Outside the book fair itself, we run a Building Inclusivity Conference that specifically serves the book publishing industry. Clearly, a diversity of author voices and subjects is as necessary for people to find in books as it is on television for example. Stories and educational resources increasingly need to reflect the diverse society that the UK enjoys today.

Q: What have you implemented in your events?

In terms of event management, we work with Olympia London to ensure that the nuts and bolts of physical accessibility are catered for. We are looking forward to greater accessibility with the refurbishment plans.

As an event that attracts over 135 countries, we do keep an eye on the need for translation to ensure that our exhibitors and visitors have as good an exhibiting experience as possible. We have a different guest of honour region each year and translation is provided for the key events involving them. Going to our Literary Translation Centre sometimes reminds me of a mini United Nations. Additionally, about five years ago we translated our background materials and visa application guideline material into several languages. We have over 250 seminars and events during the 4 days of the book fair, we offer British Sign Language signers when requested or when required by speakers or attendees.

We have a pavilion of industry charities and introduced a Charity of the Year a few years ago to highlight a particular charity in the sector and give them marketing support over the year as well as stand presence at LBF.

There is an Accessibility Seminar Stream at LBF and we work with WIPO on presenting their global accessibility award for publishing at our awards event. We want to ensure that our events are welcoming to the breadth of audience we attract.

While there is always much more to be done, we have made progress through listening to customers’ feedback on subjects from mindfulness and accessibility to alcohol and veganism.

We loved celebrating the centenary of Women’s suffrage at LBF this year and decided to do so with ensuring that all our Authors of the Day were women. Next year we will redress the balance… For 2019 we are consulting on providing quiet safe spaces inside LBF for those who would like to attend but need quiet spaces within exhibitions to make that possible.

Q: Any recommendations for other organisers considering the same?

I am not sure we have done enough for anyone to take any recommendations from us. I am interested in learning what everyone else is doing as every sector that an event reflects always has different approaches to the same subject. What I would say is that our Building Inclusivity Conferences has a pledges section so that we ensure that the talking becomes actions.

Q: Where would you like to see the industry regards 'inclusivity' in 2030?

I think many people still think of inclusivity rather narrowly, focusing on the gender or ethnicity-based barriers and issues, which are indeed considerable. But for us inclusivity encompasses all manner of different aspects from the underrepresented groups in society – which includes people with disabilities, the LGBTQ community and those from underprivileged backgrounds, for example to those who are visiting the UK for our event and may feel overwhelmed by a different city, different language and different way of doing things. We take a very broad approach and consider how we can ensure all of these groups are catered for and can be part of the wider conversation. There is still a long way to go..."

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