Inclusive excellence

The goal of the below information is to guide event planners to design events around inclusive excellence so that all participants feel safe, welcome, respected and inspired.

Your team

Events professionals need to make sure that all voices are heard and that everyone feels welcome and is represented, regardless of identity and status.

When thinking about diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, consider including representations of race, color, religion, national origin, citizenship, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability and veteran status.

Look at your goals and values. Does your team have diverse voices that represent your audience and values? Train your staff and volunteers to identify and address the needs of all participants.

Have your team and volunteers participated in inclusive excellence training? Consider completing Event DEI Strategic Certification from the Event Leadership Institute. ASU also offers classes through the Global Advocacy Certificate Program. Consider attending these and encourage your team to do the same.


For registration, make sure to include a request to indicate the following items:

  • Pronouns.
  • Phonetic pronunciation of the name.
  • Information on food restrictions.
  • Request for accommodations.
  • Accessible parking near the venue.
  • Emergency contact information (especially important for day-long or multi-day events).
  • Ask about participants’ interests, as this information can be helpful for icebreaker sessions or breakouts.
  • Ask people about their digital literacy level to find out if they need help with technology or video conferencing.
  • Consider offering economically accessible options for paid events, such as event scholarships, multiple ticket options, or hybrid options.
  • Include an optional field: “Tell us of any need you have to fully participate”.
  • Provide a map that includes accessible parking, elevators, ramps, and other appropriate directions.
  • Communicate and enforce the expectation that all attendees (participants, presenters, staff, etc.) are to demonstrate fair treatment, mutual respect, and dignity toward themselves and all others.

Consider including a code of conduct in the registration.

Engineering is dedicated to providing a harassment-free experience for all participants attending our events both in person and virtually. We encourage an open exchange of ideas and recognize the inherent worth of every person.

While attending an in-person or virtual event offered by Engineering, as a participant, you agree to:

  • Respect other participants.
  • Communicate openly and thoughtfully.
  • Be considerate of the ideas of other participants if they differ from your own.
  • Be courteous to everyone, and when disagreeing with others, respectfully express yourself.


In all communications to the participants, including the introduction and the talk, consider the following:

  • Have the text reflect inclusion and read through it from the perspectives of race, color, religion, national origin, citizenship, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability and veteran status.
  • Use language that is inclusive for the audience and gender neutral (e.g. server, not waitress).
  • Include text that is free from slang, regional colloquialisms, stereotypes or negative assumptions.
  • Use non-gendered pronouns (e.g., they, not he or she).
  • Use “participants” or “esteemed guests”. Avoid using “Ladies and gentlemen” or “guys”.
  • Avoid using italics in communications as it can be difficult to read for individuals with certain disabilities.
  • Avoid acronyms.
  • Use colors with good contrast to maximize the number of people who can read it without difficulty.


Communicate with anyone who is requesting accommodations so that you know what service they need, such as accessible transportation, translation services, interpretation services, accessible parking, etc.

Samples of accommodation needs from Rosemarie Rossetti, Leading Disability Inclusion Expert.

Does the person…

  • Use a mobility aid and need an accessible hotel room? What accessible features are preferred?
  • Have hearing loss or is deaf? What specific needs do they have?
  • Have low vision or are blind? What specific needs do they have?
  • Need to rent a wheelchair or scooter or will they bring their own?
  • Need an accessible vehicle to transport them from the airport to the venue and off-site locations?
  • Need a sign language interpreter? Do you speak American Sign Language or another version?
  • Need printed materials in Braille?
  • Need videos to be captioned?
  • Have chemical sensitivities? If participants have chemical sensitivities others who will be attending the meeting should be advised not to wear scents. The hotel needs to provide an unscented room.

Presenters and content

Consider the audience when selecting presenters. An audience that does not feel represented is not likely to come back to your events.

Include diversity, both in the presenters’ backgrounds, geographical locations, and topics offered at the event. Aim for balance in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, religion, age, and other characteristics. Share the goal of the event and the code of conduct with presenters before confirming them so they are informed and help you reach the set goals.

If any of the presenters travel in a wheelchair, provide a stage and a ramp so that the speaker can easily access the stage and be seen by the audience.

Request demographic information from presenters (gender pronoun/race or ethnicity/education level) for tracking purposes. Make sure the presenters know why you are asking for this and that it is voluntary.

Put some thought into the agenda before finalizing it. Ensure that presenters represent diverse identities, perspectives and experiences and that the content is fully accessible to all participants.

Select topics that resonate and directly impact the audience. Go over the language to make sure it is appropriate for the whole audience. Example: At a graduation ceremony, use the term “participate in the ceremony” instead of “walking”, as not everyone is able to walk. For virtual events, consider where the audience is located. “Good morning” is not inclusive for a global event.

Consider using guides to inclusive language and share with the presenters and team members.  Consider recent events in the community that can affect how people feel about topics or specific language. These can be triggers that create a negative experience for those affected by the events.

Consider opening the event with an Indigenous land acknowledgment statement.

See the below resources to learn more about Indigenous land acknowledgments:


Include pronoun and phonetic spelling for the moderator. Plan with the moderator on how they prefer to solicit questions. If the topic of discussion is a sensitive subject, make sure the moderator is equipped to handle it respectfully.

Make it clear, both in communications as well at the beginning of each session, that the event is an inclusive space, and that discriminatory behavior will not be tolerated.

If the event is being recorded make sure the audience, presenters, and moderators are aware of that.


Ensure that promotional materials are representative. Promote the event where they are accessible to a wide audience, such as through social media. Avoid using red or green colors in communications and event registration as red/green color blindness is the most common.

Designing the event

If student participation is essential for the event, make sure the event does not fall during student breaks or in the middle of exams. Keep in mind not everyone is comfortable at events. Introverted individuals may be more comfortable in the back. Offer a quiet room where participants can take a break if they need to get away from the crowds due to sensory overload. This room can also be used as a prayer room if needed.

Offer the opportunity to network before the event online to break the ice. You may consider assigning people to small group discussions based on their interests or assign topics to tables or areas allowing people to choose the group they want to interact with. You can ask about their interests in the registration form.

Make participation optional, as not everyone feels comfortable participating in certain activities and may prefer to observe.

Take into account celebrations such as Black History Month, Women´s History Month, Pride Month, etc. so you can plan meaningful inclusion activities at the event.


When selecting a date consider the following:


When selecting a location consider the following:

  • Do a site tour to see first-hand how accessible the location is.
  • Is the location able to accommodate the size of the event you are expecting and still have good room for those with limited mobility, pregnant, or larger bodies?
  • Does the location have space where those who cannot sit for a long period can stand or move around if needed and still enjoy the presentation?
  • Is there easy access to the location from elevators or ramps?
  • Is there good signage and is it easy to find elevators or ramps?
  • Is the location ADA compliant?
  • Is the location accessible for everyone?
  • Is there parking nearby that can be easily accessed?
  • What is the terrain? Is the shortest way from the parking lot to the venue paved, wide, and easy to maneuver for people with mobility challenges?
  • Is there access to restrooms close by?
  • Are the sinks, soap dispensers, and towels accessible to all participants?
  • Do the restrooms have changing tables?
  • Does the location offer all-gender restrooms close to the event?
  • If multiple rooms, are they close to each other and easily accessible?
  • Do the restrooms have automatic doors and grab bars?
  • Does it have an elevator with easy access and are the buttons easy to read and reach?
  • Is it easy to find and clearly labeled or numbered?
  • Does the location provide the technology needed for the event (such as audio, video, live streaming, on-site technician who can troubleshoot, etc.)?
  • Does the location have the Wi-Fi bandwidth for the event and is there an additional cost for this?
  • Is there an available hot spot if the Wi-Fi goes down?
  • Is electricity easily accessible?
  • Is the venue well-lit and is it easy to maneuver?
  • Can the venue offer a designated room – lactation room, prayer room, quiet room, etc.?

Event setup

When planning the event setup:

  • Make sure that locations, activities, resources, and equipment are accessible and usable by all participants.
  • Have a designated and reserved place for participants with differing abilities and their guests.
  • Have a short tablecloth at a designated table for persons in wheelchairs so that the tablecloth does not get caught in the wheels.
  • Consider early access entry for participants with differing abilities to avoid getting caught in the crowd.
  • Make sure to have 36” of space between tables to accommodate anyone moving around in a wheelchair.
  • To accommodate those in wheelchairs, tabletops need to measure 28 to 34 inches in height so that a wheelchair can roll under the table. Under the table, provide knee room that is at least 30 inches wide, 27 inches high, and 19 inches deep.
  • Reserve seating for deaf audience members close to where the sign language interpreter is located.
  • When designing the buffet, avoid having raised areas that may be hard for participants in a wheelchair to reach.
  • If the event is a cocktail reception, make sure to have both tall and low tables and always include some seats for those who have a harder time standing for a long time.
  • Offer sensory-sensitive options such as headphones or a quiet room.
  • Consider utilizing the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, guidelines for events.
  • If there is an attendee with a service dog, make sure to ask if the dog needs a water bowl or other accommodations. More information on Service Animals accommodations.
  • Avoid using strobe lights or bright flashing lights at events.
  • Keep in mind access to resources at ASU to assist with accommodations. Advancing Inclusion and Culture and contact email, also SAILS (Student Accessibility and Inclusive Learning Services) and contact email.


When selecting a menu:

  • Select a caterer that can accommodate dietary needs such as vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-free, etc.
  • Ask the caterer if they provide products that are certified fairtrade.
  • Have clear communications for those requesting a meal that has dietary restrictions, so those individuals know whom to reach out to for their requested meal.
  • Have a list of restaurants or caterers that can provide halal or kosher meals in the office and share it with the team in case the catering company cannot provide this. Engineering uses Phoenicia Cafe for halal meals and Chick-In for kosher meals when we have events on the Tempe campus and allow our guests to select the items they want from the menu.
  • Request that the caterer have information on all food items that are included in any dietary information on the requests received during the registration. Example: Seabass (GF), salad (VG, GF).
  • Choose to have the nuts on the side if possible.
  • If serving alcohol at events, make sure there are plenty of non-alcoholic options available.
  • Consider having beverages without ice and offering ice separately, particularly if there are European audience members, as they often prefer drinks without ice.
  • Check for religious dietary restrictions that might fall on the event day. For example, Catholics may abstain from meat during Lent, and Muslims do not eat until after sunset during the month of Ramadan. Here are two links that give better insight into religious dietary restrictions, Interfaith Center and Thrive Meetings and Events.
  • Staff need to be available to assist people who cannot see or access food items and need assistance filling their plates. Staff should be prepared to offer to carry the guest’s plates or beverages to the dining table.

Other considerations

  • Provide participants with a map that includes accessibility entrance and exits for the venue, and closest accessible parking.
  • Have closed captioning for all larger events regardless of whether it has been requested or not.
  • If offering hotel rooms for the event, make sure the hotel has an adequate number of accessible rooms.
  • If there is a shuttle service or transportation at the event, make sure they are accessible and able to accommodate everyone attending. If not, order special accommodations for those needing one and communicate with them on where and when to meet the accommodating vehicle.
  • Have an option for participants with ways to submit questions anonymously, such as directly to the moderator by email. This may help those anxious to speak out, as well as provide the ability to ask sensitive questions.
  • Encourage small group discussions before participants share information with the whole group. This creates a safer space for those reluctant to speak in front of all the participants.
  • Make sure recorded events and any video shown at the event have closed captioning.
  • Do not require virtual participants to have their video camera on, as that may make some of the participants feel uncomfortable.
  • Select a time frame for virtual events so that participants can participate in multiple time zones.
  • For Q&A try to start with a member of a minority group or a woman.
  • Consider having colored stickers representing how comfortable participants are with interactions. For example:
    • Green for those comfortable with handshakes.
    • Yellow for those comfortable with fist bumps and elbows.
    • Red for no touching, bowing heads or waiving as a greeting.
  • Offer language interpretation if needed.
  • Consider offering a captioning app in different languages if feasible.
  • Make sure to test digital communications on multiple phones and laptops and that all documents are assistive-technology friendly, with a bare minimum of graphics.