Diversity and Inclusion

Designing Events for Belonging

Multi colored umbrellas hanging overhead on a sunny day

Skift Take

The journey toward creating belonging at meetings and events need not be complicated. Small steps can be taken that will lead you on your way. 

During Skift Meetings Future of the Events Industry 2024 virtual summit on February 28 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Kate Patay, vice president of engagement, Terramar, A DMC Network Company, and Katy Mull, VP of creative strategy, Storycraft Lab will offer tips to help create a sense of belonging at your meetings and events.

Belonging has nuanced meanings. What does it mean to these two industry pros?

“To me, belonging is that sense of community that you feel no matter what room you’re walking into, or what table you’re sitting at, you feel comfortable, safe, and included,” says Patay. 

Belonging Part of DEI

The two add that belonging is an extension of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). “It’s when you can show up as your authentic self. You feel secure, supported, accepted, and included. Who you are can be fully expressed,” says Mull. 

Belonging doesn’t begin at the event; it starts in the planning. For instance, in registration, include inquiries about what accommodations are needed to help everyone feel included.

Creating WhatsApp groups or other chat groups before the event helps first-timers or introverted people connect with others. Having those they have been in contact with on-site will make the overall experience more manageable. It is also advisable to take this one step further and when onsite, create areas where these groups can meet. 

“Event designers usually have their heads down as they prepare for an event. Attendees, on the other hand, want to get excited. They yearn to connect, but planners are hesitant to add to the overwhelm, creating a vacuum,” says Mull. 

This is a mistake. 

Offering different options for ways attendees can participate in events is also essential. “We let our attendees craft their journeys,” says Patay. 

During the session, Mull will share statistics curated as Storycraft Lab tours its Wheel of Belonging nationwide. 

Storycraft Lab created the Wheel of Belonging in 2022 for a Google Xi event. This framework identifies the three general ways belonging resonates: “meaning,” “feeling,” and “magic.”

As Storycraft Lab further tested this through focus groups, workshops, and interviews, it asked people to share stories about their experience of encountering the feeling of belonging. This produced a series of pathways, journeys of sequential steps toward a belonging outcome. Positioned along these pathways are the touchpoints heard most frequently.