Key Standards and Diversity & Inclusion Considerations for Your Next Pharma, Healthcare, or Biotech Meeting

Key Standards and Diversity & Inclusion Considerations for Your Next Pharma, Healthcare, or Biotech Meeting

Navigating Essential Standards and Diversity & Inclusion Guidelines in Pharma, Healthcare, and Biotech

In 2024, event organizers in the Pharma, Healthcare, and Biotech sectors must understand the importance of standards and diversity and inclusion considerations for their events – and even more crucially, they must know how to apply the rules and guidance. With 27% of Americans having a disability, whether physical, cognitive, sensory, or another condition, it’s vital that you’re up to speed with the latest accessibility guidance for events and meetings in these industries.

But navigating healthcare standards and diversity and inclusion for meetings can feel overwhelming – particularly if prioritizing these concerns for the first time. The good news is that once you have familiarized yourself with the regulations and expectations around accessibility, diversity, and inclusion, it’ll soon become second nature to build it into your plans.

Below, we’ll explore some of the most important considerations for your next meeting, ensuring it’s accessible, safe, and enjoyable for all.

Ensuring Accessibility: Accommodating Disabilities in Your Meeting

Regardless of your audience, it’s vital that you consider accessibility regulations, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), to keep attendees safe and feeling welcome in your event space.

Anyone organizing an event or meeting should refer to the ADA website for comprehensive guidance. As a high-level overview, areas you’ll need to consider include:

  • Making accessibility aids available, such as closed captioning, sign language interpreters, and assistive listening devices
  • Selecting venues that are accessible for attendees with mobility limitations, such as those with wheelchair ramps, elevators, handrails, and accessible restrooms
  • Providing quiet spaces for attendees who may experience sensory sensitivity to allow them to take a breather in a calm environment
  • Including trigger warnings for especially sensitive topics (when in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of caution)
  • Complying with ADA regulations to ensure equal access and opportunities for attendees with all disabilities

Want to learn more about accommodating disabilities at your next event? Check out this blog post for a deeper dive.

Ethical Standards: Avoiding Conflicts of Interest

While it may not initially seem like a matter of inclusivity, avoiding conflicts of interest is very important when you’re looking to maintain a diverse, inclusive meeting environment.

Ethical meeting organizers should disclose any speaker relationships with vendors or hosts to mitigate bias concerns. For instance, if a speaker has a financial interest in the topic they’re speaking about, or a presenter works closely with the host organization outside the public eye, it is best to declare this upfront.

Organizers should also make it clear that overt marketing or promotion of products and services during educational sessions is strongly discouraged. If your audience is there to learn, they won’t appreciate being sold to.

Finally, avoid offering excessive compensation or gifts to attendees (or speakers) that could be seen as inducements. A gift bag containing some branded merchandise is likely to be acceptable, but offering $1,000 gifts to attendees is a very different matter. In industries such as pharmaceuticals, this also applies to hospitality in the form of HCP meal caps.

Safety Measures: Planning for Emergencies

For any event or meeting, the safety of attendees, speakers, and staff must come first. You may think that this is the sole responsibility of the venue, but everyone should know what to do in an emergency.

Familiarize yourself with the location of emergency equipment, such as AEDs and first aid kits, and ensure you know who the venue’s first aid and fire personnel are and how you can contact them in an emergency. If possible, consider having medical personnel, such as a doctor, nurse, or EMT on site – particularly for large, busy events.

You should also establish evacuation routes and communication plans for various emergency scenarios, and ensure all event staff are familiar and comfortable with them. At the start of your event, don’t forget to point out emergency exits and assembly points and tell attendees what to do in an emergency.

Health and Wellness: Supporting Inclusive Meeting Practices

Looking after the health and well-being of your attendees is essential for any inclusive meeting. Many event organizers don’t go beyond taking dietary requirements, but there’s plenty more you can do to ensure you’re creating an inclusive environment for all attendees.

Offering healthy meals and snacks, which adhere to allergy and dietary requirements, should be a given for any event. That usually means collecting requirements in advance and liaising with the caterers to ensure a suitable menu can be created and to eliminate any risk of cross-contamination. You should also keep a list of all key allergens in each dish to ensure everyone can consume their meals safely.

Build regular breaks into your agenda to allow attendees to walk, stretch, or simply get some fresh air. Nobody will be at their best being shut in one room all day, so giving people a chance to move around will help everyone be more comfortable and stay engaged throughout the day.

While the height of the COVID-19 pandemic may be behind us, many in-person sanitation and hygiene standards have remained, and many attendees may still want to take extra precautions at busy events. Provide contactless registration, sanitation stations with antibacterial gel and wipes, and remind attendees that they are welcome to wear a mask if they feel more comfortable.

Also, consider the needs of nursing women. Provide a safe, secure space for women who may need to pump to ensure you’re being as inclusive as possible.

HIPAA Compliance: Ensuring Privacy and Inclusion in Meetings

If you’re in the biomedical or pharmaceutical space, you must ensure you’re complying with HIPAA regulations or face fines and other penalties.

HIPAA is all about protecting patient data and ensuring privacy. If you’re hosting your meeting online, use secure virtual meeting platforms and disable recording features to prevent data breaches. If the session must be recorded, ensure the recording is stored in a secure folder, ideally password-protected to prevent unauthorized access.

Requiring confidentiality agreements, or NDAs, for outside presenters or attendees will also help you keep sensitive information safe. For the sake of ease and to track all completed agreements, consider distributing these online ahead of the meeting, or allow attendees to review and complete the agreement on a device when they register at the meeting.

In terms of content, avoid sharing identifiable patient information wherever possible, and instead use hypothetical cases or fully anonymized patient case studies.

A combination of these tactics will help you ensure you comply with HIPAA regulations and keep patient data safe and secure.

Want to ensure your next meeting ticks all the boxes for safety, diversity, and inclusion?

AMI’s meeting experts would love to help – book a meeting with us today for guidance. Contact American Meetings today.
Creating Inclusive Corporate Meetings: Prioritizing Accessibility for All

Creating Inclusive Corporate Meetings: Prioritizing Accessibility for All

Key Considerations for Inclusive Meeting Planning

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is an important law protecting the rights of people with disabilities, as well as preventing discrimination against them.

It’s an important rule for meeting and event organizers to understand, as it means you must take the necessary steps to accommodate disabilities in your meetings to ensure they’re inclusive and can be attended by everyone who wants or needs to come.

Before you organize your next event, let’s take a look at some of the key ADA considerations to make sure your meeting is safe, compliant, and inclusive for everyone.

Offer support for hearing-impaired attendees 

Deaf and hard-of-hearing attendees are often overlooked in event planning, meaning they can struggle to get the maximum value out of your event or feel excluded from certain activities.

Think holistically about the needs of your hearing-impaired attendees by considering what they might need throughout the event. This includes closed captioning for video feeds, sign language interpreters (either provided by your organization or allowing attendees to bring their own at no additional cost), or assistive listening devices, such as hearing loops or FM systems, that transmit sound directly to hearing aids or headphones.

Another consideration is your seating arrangements. If an attendee is hard of hearing, they may prefer to sit at the front of the venue close to the presenters, or near a speaker to help them avoid background noise.

Choose accessible venues

Accessibility should always be a consideration when making your event venue selection. This includes things like wheelchair ramps, elevators, accessible restrooms, accessible parking, and suitably wide doorways to allow access to mobility equipment, such as scooters or wheelchairs.

For visually impaired or blind attendees, ensure there are suitable railings around the venue, and that signs and important information are available in braille. Ahead of the event, check that the lighting is sufficient for navigating around the venue, and that there are no trip hazards, such as cables or uneven flooring.

Many venues are becoming more aware of attendees with sensory sensitivities who may need quiet spaces to take a break from noise, crowds, and busy environments. A designated room to allow attendees to take a breather will help accommodate these guests, and providing earplugs or noise-canceling headphones will help you go the extra mile.

Provide content or trigger warnings

Think carefully about whether the content of your event, or any of the specific sessions, contains topics some could find sensitive or triggering. “Triggering topics” can vary greatly, but could include discussions around health (including mental health), politics, current affairs, crime, violence, or graphic content.

It’s better to include a trigger warning that isn’t needed than to not include one and hope for the best, so err on the side of caution if you believe your event’s content could veer into triggering territory. This will likely mean carefully reviewing all event materials, including presentations, talk tracks, and printed materials, to ensure that attendees are aware of any potentially sensitive content.

These content warnings should be provided ahead of the event, such as on the registration page or in your event promotion emails, as well as on the day before any sessions your attendees could find triggering, giving them the option to step out if they prefer not to be exposed to certain topics.

Comply with all ADA regulations

All event organizers in the US must adhere to ADA regulations to avoid falling foul of the law and to offer attendees an inclusive, enjoyable, and safe event experience.

The ADA website provides a comprehensive overview of everything an event organizer will need to consider, but the key areas to think about before your next event include:

  • ADA scope – The ADA applies to all events and venues that are open to the public, including conferences and trade shows
  • Accessibility requirements – Event organizers must ensure that events are accessible to people with disabilities by providing reasonable accommodations, which may involve making physical modifications to the event space
  • Venue selection – Event organizers must select venues that are accessible to people with disabilities
  • Attendee communication – Promotional materials, signup forms, and event signage must be accessible to people with disabilities, whether this is ensuring web content is compatible with screen readers, providing printed materials in braille, or including closed captions on video content
  • Service animals – Event organizers must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into events, such as medical alert dogs or guide dogs

For more practical advice on adhering to the ADA’s guidelines, take a look at the MPI’s ADA guide for meeting and event planning.

If you’re looking for help adhering to ADA guidelines for your next event or meeting, help is at hand!

We have 20+ years of experience organizing ADA-compliant events for companies throughout America, so our team of meeting professionals would love to help you get it right.

Contact us today to find out how we can help.

AMI Provides Talented Certified Suppliers Through Its Industry Leading Tier 2 Supplier Program

AMI Provides Talented Certified Suppliers Through Its Industry Leading Tier 2 Supplier Program

Learn more in this Out Entrepreneur interview with CEO and Founder of AMI Andy McNeill on his advice for the next generation of Out Bosses.

For over 25 years, Andy and his husband and business partner Todd have witnessed a number of ups and downs in the travel and event industry but believe the recent pandemic has changed the industry for good. Andy said the pandemic had driven the “largest, most jarring shift” they’ve experienced, and forced what AMI did to GROW during this challenging time.

In this interview, Andy also shares the philosophy of AMI’s Supplier Diversity Program and how it is successfully positioning minority businesses to pitch to large corporations and win bids. He gives tips on how to be more effective, as just being able to pitch doesn’t simply seal the deal. (Even though AMI’s suppliers have received millions of dollars in contracts because of the program.)

And finally, Andy shares how his LGBTQ life experience and the experiences of others in the community have allowed him to be MORE successful. He advises the next generation of Out Bosses to use their platform to offer themselves as beacons of safe space, education, and connection.

“If you aren’t your whole self at work, people can feel the un-authenticity. And when people aren’t comfortable with who I am or our philosophies, we are fine not working together because it won’t be successful for either party.”

Check out the podcast, The Out Entrepreneur here (@outentrepreneur), and be inspired today!

The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in Meetings and Events

The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in Meetings and Events

Savvy business owners have long since recognized the benefits of diversity among staff.  With a growing global economy and heretofore neglected consumer groups taking the spotlight as desirable demographics, there is a marked need for employees with different backgrounds, attributes, skill-sets, and points of view to help create products, services, and outreach campaigns designed to cross boundaries and reach new markets.

Modern event management firms are squarely on board with this groundswell in the corporate world, and many have taken steps to not only improve diversity among their own ranks, but to offer advice to event hosts on how to make every meeting, conference, and event more inclusive, and subsequently, more successful.  You might think diversity is old hat at this point, but all you have to do is look at the news to find daily stories that prove we still need to focus on tolerance, equality, and inclusion.

How can you make this happen at every meeting and event you host?  You can start by choosing a forward-thinking event management organization like American Meetings, Inc. (AMI) to help you with strategic planning, including site comparison, vendor selection, logistics, and more.  From there, you’ll find there is no end to the ways in which you and your event company can up the ante on diversity and inclusion at your events.

Selecting Suitable Speakers and Wide-Ranging Topics

Perhaps by now, you’ve seen the paradoxical and acutely oblivious image of a flyer for a math panel at Brigham Young University that proclaims in bold letters “Women In Math”, but nonetheless features photos of four men.  Let this be a lesson to event hosts and event management firms alike: you have to embrace diversity to find the speakers that fit the bill.

Surely, an argument could be made that there are more men in math than women, but this is hardly the way to elevate female mathematicians or inspire an audience of “All Women Who Love Math”, as the poster advertises.  In fact, this approach could be viewed as rather thoughtless and even insulting.  If the goal of your event is to speak to a certain audience, you need to select the speakers and topics that are going to attract your demographic.

Certainly, you and your event company should seek qualified speakers with a sterling reputation in their field and among their peers, but you should also go out of your way to make sure the people acting as the face of your event are representative of the people attending.

Says Andy McNeill, CEO at AMI, “Diversity and inclusiveness open new doors of thought and discourse, which only helps to expand viewpoints, improve relations among groups, and pave the way for a richer experience for all.  This is the future that benefits us most as professionals and human beings, and we should all embrace it.”

Event Company Site Comparison

Consider for a moment the hubbub surrounding the notorious bathroom bill (House Bill 2) enacted in North Carolina in 2016.  In response to fairly blatant discrimination against the LGBT community (under the guise of public safety), several prominent interests vowed not to do business in the state.

PayPal put a stop to plans for a new facility that would have brought an estimated $2.66 billion cash infusion to the state’s economy.  Ringo Starr canceled a concert.  The NCAA vowed to avoid hosting events in the state until the law changed.

Every business owner hosting events has the opportunity to let actions speak louder than words, and even the location and venue you choose for your meetings and conferences can impact your brand image.  In other words, think long and hard about withholding your business from places that reject diversity, tolerance, and inclusiveness.

Diverse Service Providers

When most people plan small-scale events, they go with what they already know and like – the restaurant down the street, the flower shops and photographers they’ve always used.  Corporate meetings and events, however, represent your company, and if you want to present a diverse and inclusive image, you need to consider exhibitors, food, and entertainment options you might not gravitate toward of your own accord.  An experienced event company like AMI can help you here, as can suggestions from your diverse staff and even event attendees.

Event Management Focus on Attendee Inclusiveness

Not every event attendee is the same.  Some are tall and some are short.  Some can walk while others are in wheelchairs.  Some can hear and some can see – some cannot.  Some are gluten- or dairy-intolerant.

You cannot approach inclusiveness as a hassle any more than you can shun people for their differences, at least not if you want to succeed.  If you want to impress and engage attendees from all walks of life, you need to think about how to make accommodations and adjustments so that everyone can enjoy your event.