Inntel is determined to help address some of the challenges that conference and event delegates who are neurodivergent may experience, ranging from the layout of physical spaces to how activities within events occur. Examples include:
- Delegates finding themselves sitting for long periods without a break and not having spaces where they can listen but still have some freedom of movement.
- Sensory overload from bright lights, crowded spaces, and loud noise-levels leading to feeling overwhelmed and not having any quiet spaces for delegates to reset, relax and refocus.
- Poor signage that does not help delegates easily understand where spaces are, where they need to be, and how to navigate an event – on the day and in advance.
- Lack of inclusive catering choices.
- Failing to manage delegate expectations on networking spaces where people can network or chat only if they feel comfortable to do so.
Inntel has partnered with Eventwell – a charitable social enterprise and the event industry’s ‘place to go’ for mental health and neuroinclusion, dedicated to educating, campaigning and supporting better mental wellbeing.
We are developing a more nuanced approach working alongside Eventwell to overcome these challenges and help our Meetings & Event clients to create more inclusive conference environments for neurodivergent people participating in their future events.
At an inclusive conference the environment needs to feel calm, safe, and comfortable in order to achieve a greater sense of inclusivity. Most of all, neurodivergent delegates need to feel that they can avoid masking during a conference which is exhausting and can often be used as a coping mechanism. It’s vital that neurodivergent delegates are encouraged to just be themselves. Examples of techniques and considerations that can be introduced to enhance a conference event to make it an effective, successful and inclusive experience for all delegates, not just those who are neurodivergent can include:
- Increasing numbers of syndicate rooms within an overall conference booking to give delegates access to supervised safe spaces to reset and restore – like an Eventwell Hub*
- Using colour-coded wrist bands or lanyards for delegates to signal their comfort levels for talking or interacting with other conference participants.
- Setting up ‘Topic tables’ as conversation-starter points and ‘Networking stops’ so delegates are clear these are for those that want to network.
*An Eventwell Hub features low-lighting, noise-cancelling headphones, meditation and breathe-work books, diffusers, and other tools to combat sensory overload as part of their concept of a ‘10-minute break’ – rather than taking people away from events. The Hubs can even have a trained Mental Health First Aider on hand for support.
Ultimately, the goal is for these aspects of inclusive conferencing to be considered the norm. Almost everyone that has attended conferences will recognise that there have been moments when you need a break, a welcoming quiet space, a moment to yourself to gather thoughts or to just still your mind. Whether neurodivergent or not, the mental wellbeing of every delegate deserves this kind of support.
On partnering with Inntel, Helen Moon, CEO, Eventwell says “the landscape of the event experience is shifting and moving towards a more human experience ideal, which is essential for the future of in person events. The Neurodivergent community are now speaking up in terms of what they would like to see become commonplace to allow them to experience events in a similar way to others, but at the same time recognising that any experience is very individual. We are delighted to be working with Inntel to support them in their vision and commitment, and that of their clients, for more inclusive and accessible human centric event environments, for all attendees.”
Douglas O’Neill, CEO, Inntel expands on Inntel’s commitment stating “As a service brand that thrives on being agile and innovative, we’re committed to creating the right kind of engagement with neurodivergent people – increasingly being recognised in business organisations as exceptional problem-solvers and creative thinkers. Working with a partner like Eventwell means that for our Meetings & Event clients, we can help enhance their event activities going forward so they create more inclusive spaces for neurodivergent delegates participating at their events in the near future.”
For more about Eventwell, please go to: https://eventwell.org/
And for information about Neurodiversity Week 2023: www.neurodiversityweek.com/