IT’S NOT JUST A SIGN: BUILDING AWARENESS AT EVENTS
As an event producer for over 20 years, our team has created a wide range of different projects from awards shows to pop-up shops for both consumers and businesses. Throughout this time we are proud to have created programs for very diverse clients. We have produced events and built awareness for issues facing women, African-Americans, and the LGBT communities to name a few. Although I don’t identify myself technically with these groups, I believe many of the challenges facing these groups not only affects my life but our entire community.
When I first began my career in New York in the early 1990s I was immediately confronted with the reality of AIDS. Within the first week of arriving, I attended the funeral of a family friend who had contracted the virus and subsequently, AIDS. The funeral was not for a gay male but rather a woman. At the time no one would really address the true cause of her passing.
In the years that followed, I experienced the loss of many friends, colleagues and mentors in the theater and fashion industries that I was involved with. Particularly empathetic to the LGBT community for example, our company produces events that shine a light on the issues the community faces.
It’s easy to think that certain issues are isolated to various groups of people and may not be relevant in our lives. However, as part of a larger community, we get a better idea of ourselves by looking at the struggle of others.
This gets me back to the events that our team has created through the years where we create environments that build awareness for products, campaigns or causes. Each time we plan and present an event we strive to engage the attendees through every step of the experience. When crafting programs, we scan the community and try to be sensitive to the issues and concerns of not only our attendees but also those on the outside looking in.
A couple of years ago, one of our LGBT clients asked us to make all the restrooms at the venue “gender neutral” based on the fact that multiple studies show that transgender people often report experiencing denial of access to facilities, verbal harassment, and physical assault when attempting to use public restrooms. Although this form of discrimination was new to me, my team created signs and posted them at the male and female restrooms.
Please keep in mind the gender neutral restroom signs were limited to the event floor and were not allowed anywhere else in the venue. Although this was a small thing it had great impact. It made me aware of my own beliefs and prejudices toward the issue and made our team more empathetic. Doing the same at your own event, however, may get some pushback.
Such issues as homophobia, racism, and bullying are not isolated to any one group, but we need to learn from one another to be better. And when we know better, we do better, even in the workplace.
Our agency is always tasked with finding the new idea or technology in order to stand out and make an impact. I ask those called to build awareness for any cause, community, or commitment to strive for ways to create truly special, significant events, albeit an environment that is evolving. It may not be the latest technology that makes your message memorable, but perhaps the simpler things. The changes don’t need to be major, however, you’d be surprised how small adjustments will open you and your attendees up to a new level of awareness and human sensitivity.