This article originally appeared in the February 2022 issue of Trade Show Executive magazine.
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we are reminded to show our love and appreciation for those who enrich our lives. I would like to take it a step further and invite you to share your love and appreciation for the trade show industry by actively engaging in and supporting diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). Not only because it feels good and is the right thing to do, but because it is important for the industry.
A few weeks back at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition in Philadelphia, PA, keynote speaker Torin Perez challenged audience members to be the change needed by pointing out that “Leadership is a matter of how to be, not how to do.” His presentation on inclusive leadership stressed the importance of building organizational trust through action rather than taking a passive (even if supportive) stance on this significant issue. Which begs the question: how do you actively incorporate DE&I into your organization?
One of the first steps taken by IAEE’s Board of Directors in being the change was to create a committee whose charge was to provide a clear understanding of where we are versus where we need to be. Organizational leaders must be completely honest with themselves during this step, and allow every voice to be heard. We found there was no lack of volunteers willing to contribute to the process of creating an effective DE&I plan with the end goal of elevating and supporting underrepresented individuals in positions of leadership and overall representation within the industry.
One of the most pertinent needs that surfaced was providing our members with DE&I education. Knowledge is power and there is a multitude of learning opportunities surrounding DE&I. For example, last year IAEE presented several webinars on implementing DE&I within your organization that can be accessed through its KnowledgeHub at https://learn.iaee.com. In addition, DE&I programming was included and continues to be the cornerstone of content in IAEE’s signature and regional Women’s Leadership Forums as well as during International Women’s Day via a Community Buzz Session on gender bias, equity and inclusivity.
Another key point is the value of boldly communicating the advantages of DE&I. I don’t know of any executive leader who does not consider effective communication fundamental to success, but when it comes to DE&I there are subtleties to consider. At Expo! Expo!, Torin discussed the role of the “Silent Bystander” in which someone notices the inequity or bias but counts on others to take action on it rather than be the one to initiate change. It is imperative that industry executives provide a safe space for action and eradicate the silent bystander effect through leading by example. Don’t be a silent bystander.
Transparency goes hand in hand with communication, and is another powerful resource in the DE&I strategic plan. Transparency is crucial to building trust, and its benefits start at the core of an organization with a ripple effect resonating to its outermost strata. In our case, we are aiming even beyond our individual organizations because we want to excel in our DE&I practices throughout our entire industry.
While this month may be all about spreading the love, we must continue to strive for DE&I long term. I strongly believe that if any industry can lead the conversation for this call to action, it is our industry, because we thrive on creativity, innovation, collaboration and results-oriented success. Establishing industry-wide DE&I is a win-win all around, so let’s make it happen!
David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA
President & CEO