AIDS Research Symposium recap

Emee (r) with Anca Trifan of Tree-Fan Events, behind the scenes at the symposium

Last fall, we had the opportunity to assist with a AIDS research symposium, held here in Portland. This conference provided opportunities to exchange the latest scientific perspectives, research findings, and emerging technologies for HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. As we mentioned before, we love working with educational organizations.

The bulk of the conference consisted of researchers presenting their research papers. There was also an area where people could see posters about other research projects that would not be presented live.

Attendees were treated to a diverse range of presentations at this week-long event. The time spent together fostered collaboration and inspired a collective commitment to eradicate AIDS.

We provided pre-event planning and consultation, administrative support, marketing of the conference to attendees, and trade show planning. We also provided final coordination, onsite registration and help desk, and onsite event coordination. Our partner Tree-Fan Events provided AV support and the livestream to participants who could not be here in person.

And we’d be happy to work with you on your next conference, whether it be an AIDS research symposium, educational conference or something else. Please get in touch!

Making events more inclusive – AND 6 Ways you might be making attendees feel unwelcome

We recently attended Connect Pacific Northwest in Boise, Idaho and heard from Justin Skeesuck who taught about the Multiplier Effect and how it relates to accessibility in your events. My takeaway from this important talk was: If you exclude one person, you are also losing 4-5 additional attendees who might be connected with that person. Photo from official website of the speaker.

Everyone says, “I want to throw the best event ever!” and that means making events more inclusive. If your attendees feel unwelcome or left out, your event is falling short. Here are 6 ways you might be making attendees feel unwelcome, and how you can fix that. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive or definitive list. We welcome your input and additions in the comments if you have the time.

The menu. (Including alcohol)

Gone are the days of the rubber-chicken conference dinner or surf-and-turf-for-all. Today’s event attendees are health-minded, from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and care about the environment, animal welfare, and where their food comes from. Food is the centerpiece of any gathering, and if the foods you offer at your event do not serve all of your attendees, they’ll feel left out and unwelcome. Check out this blog post, written by EJP Events’s resident vegetarian and Marketing Events Assistant, Shawn Granton, for some examples.

Are you preparing for attendees who avoid animal products; follow diets based on their faith, such as Kosher or Halal; or have sensitivities to any of the nine major food allergens? If not, you should! And to do so, you’ll want to ask, in your registration form, whether or not your attendee has any dietary preferences (I prefer the word “preferences” rather than “restrictions,” which can sound negative). You also want to make sure you’re working closely with your caterer and venue — even before signing the contract — to make sure they can prepare the foods your attendees want within your budget.

Don’t forget alcohol! As we talk more and more about mental health and overall wellness, we need to bring this into our events too. Not every attendee is excited about an open bar. Indeed, being around a lot of alcohol can present problems both for individuals on a recovery path as well as for organizations who want to promote healthy choices and professionalism. Make sure you are designing your event not just for different dietary needs, but also including those who make the choice to avoid or reduce alcohol consumption. Here’s a recent blog post we wrote about Dry January and how that thinking is coming into how events are planned.

Physical Accessibility

There’s nothing worse than getting to an exciting event you’ve been looking forward to, and finding out it’s a literal pain to get there. Think about the last time you had to walk what felt like miles inside a giant venue to find the restroom, or when you finally got there, only to find it was cramped or poorly appointed. Now imagine being a wheelchair user, someone on crutches, or a person with any other kind of mobility challenge, and you can see how the problem gets much worse. All of us are one accident away from disability, and if we’re lucky enough to grow old, we’ll all need accessibility accommodations at some point in our lives. Again, ask your attendees when they register what their needs and preferences are. “What accommodations, if any, would make it easy for you to attend this event?” is one example of how you can ask. And again, start asking your planning and logistics questions BEFORE you book your venue. One important one is “Are there ramps for a wheelchair-using speaker to get to the stage?” You can find a good resource of additional questions to ask starting here.

Finally, just because there are no curbs, or because the venue is legally ADA accessible, doesn’t mean your event is safe for a wheelchair user. We recently attended a presentation on Accessibility in Travel, where a wheelchair user described being assigned to stay in a hotel where she couldn’t open her room door by herself, from the inside. When asked, the front desk said she could call them whenever she wanted to leave her room. But what if there was a fire? Clearly, “just following ADA” is not enough. We all need to do more, such as spending more time evaluating the actual attendee journey through the space, not just checking off boxes.

Outdated concepts and wording

Sadly, this example of making guests feel excluded is still common. When attendees eagerly click on your event website, or registration form, is there anything there that would make them feel like this conference isn’t for them? One example I see often is titles on a registration form such as Mr. and Mrs. If all I see is Mr. and Mrs. as the choices, I feel left out because neither one describes me.

While many people use these titles, it’s true that “Mrs.” in our current society refers to marital status, and in a business setting, there’s no reason to ask women to declare their marital status. while leaving Mr. as the default for men, without any kind of denotation. Probably a whole dissertation could be written about why there is no version of “Mrs.” to denote a married man, in our society. What to do? A couple of ideas: Avoid titles altogether and instead, ask for first and last name, and pronouns. Or do all of the former and allow multiple choices and fill-in options for the title, such as Dr., Mr., Ms. or Mx.

Online Accessibility

Just like physical accessibility, online accessibility involves allowing everyone, not just sighted or hearing folks, the ability to enjoy your content and use your registration form. If someone with low vision, or a Blind or Deaf person can’t get to your registration form, then how will they attend? It’s a real problem and if your goal is to be inclusive and attract a diverse audience, you must consider disability. Thankfully there are lots of tools to make your visual content readable by a screen reader, so a person with vision disability can have it read to them. And vice versa – there are lots of tools to create captioned content for photos and videos, so hearing-impaired people can access your event sound content. One of the resources for finding these that we like is at MabelyQ – they’re a resource helping organizations improve access for people with disabilities. We recently took their course “Accessibility Made Easy“, and we realize we have a lot of work to do. Even looking at my own web theme at ejpevents.com, there is a lot that needs fixing, starting with text color contrast in my own, low-vision opinion. From adding alt text to photos, to using #CamelCase for hashtags, the resources out there have been useful and important to learn.

Online accessibility is also related to other ways of including everyone. By offering an online component of your event, whether it’s a selected number of livestreams or a full hybrid version, you’re making events more inclusive and accessible to attendees with a caregiving responsibility, such as mothers; the immunocompromised or at-risk populations who are still told to avoid large groups due to COVID; and those for whom traveling to an event would pose a barrier. Consider virtual or hybrid options to increase your attendee reach and inclusivity.

Excluding introverts and the neurodiverse.

This is something, as an event planner, I have struggled with for many years. As someone who gets energy from one-on-one contacts, and can feel depleted having to connect with many people all at the same time, I’ve realized over time that I identify as introverted. It’s common for me to need extra time to process information, to desire to skip small talk, and jump right into deep discussion of a topic. These might sound like liabilities in the workplace. On the other hand, what clients and colleagues stand to gain from these traits, is they receive more authenticity, well-thought-out opinions and guidance, and meaningful interaction. Glen Cathey, SVP of Digital Strategy and Innovation at the staffing agency Randstad, has a wonderful presentation about introversion at work called Introversion: The Largest Neurodiversity Category In Sourcing, Recruiting, Diversity and Inclusion. Unfortunately, because introverts are in the minority, our society and events tend to be built for assertive, “sociable”, and talkative people who have the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others, leaving introverts (1 in 3 people) feeling left out and excluded. While introversion is not officially yet considered a category of neurodiversity, both Cathey and others, such as Sam Sheppard, advocate for including introversion as a part of any organization’s strategy to include the neurodiverse, and I agree.

And let’s talk about the more well-known neurodiversity identities, which are just as, if not more important, to accommodate at events if you truly want to work towards making events more inclusive. How do we serve those who are on the autism spectrum? How do we design for those with sensory issues or other neurodivergent traits?

What can you do? Learn, learn, learn, and then take action. We love the resource from GoogleXi called The Neu Project, which explores the topic of neurodiversity and helping create events that embrace all neurotypes. We recently heard Naomi Clare, one of the leaders on this project, speak at CMP Advance in New York, and she provided us with a Guide to Neuroinclusion which contains a wonderful A-Z toolkit of what you can actually do, starting now, on your path to making events more inclusive.

Affordability

Affordability of events, in my experience, has only recently become part of the conversation of inclusivity. However, as a child of immigrants, and someone who identifies as “1st Gen” (being the first generation in your family to meet a major life milestone, such as going to college in the US), I’ve witnessed firsthand how affordability can be a real issue in attending events. While there has been some consideration of affordability at events, most often in community and nonprofit events, the affordability question is now being addressed by more corporate and business events as well. This is important when we think about the history of racial inequity in this country, and how financial and monetary resources, and paths to generational wealth, have been inequitably distributed or just outright stolen, removed, or legislated out of the hands of marginalized groups. This Twitter thread from Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, an associate professor at University of Michigan, clearly outlines many of the major issues of affordability and events.

What can you do? Here are a few ideas and you’ll need to consider your event’s business model.

  • Offer a sliding scale or path to reduced or free participation.
  • Get sponsors to host scholarships or awards that come with a comped registration.
  • Pay speakers the cost of their travel plus an honorarium, so you’ll have access to all kinds of talent no matter their financial situation.

Sometimes, stakeholders will say, “There isn’t a budget for this.” However, my experience is that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Consider how you’re apportioning your entire budget. Do you have budget for conference swag, luscious decor, or other items, but not a few scholarship or student/low-income registrations? Did you pick a venue that leaves you no margin? Why is that? Can you sharpen your event planner pencil and find a place for your priorities? Your budget will show what the goals and priorities of your event are. If inclusivity is one of those goals, you and your budget will find a way.

I hope you find this blog post helpful! EJP Events works to include many of these methods of thinking when we are working with our clients. If you find these methods would be helpful for your event, I hope you’ll reach out.

An Educational Conference

A little while back we had the opportunity to work with a great non-profit on an educational conference at University Place Hotel and Conference Center. We love helping with conferences!

This conference was a resounding success, with participants from diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise coming together to share knowledge and collaborate on new ideas. Attendees engaged in thought-provoking discussions on a range of topics. The conference featured engaging keynote speakers, interactive workshops, and ample opportunities for networking, allowing attendees to build meaningful connections and gain new insights into their work. Overall, the educational conference provided a valuable platform for people to come together, learn from one another, and work towards a common goal.

Planning an event in Salt Lake City

Red Butte Garden’s Orangerie, photo from Visit Salt Lake.

Planning an event in Salt Lake City? We recently had the opportunity to visit Utah’s capital and largest city, which is also the largest urban area in America’s vast Great Basin, where no water flows to the ocean. (It’s the reason why the Great Salt Lake is so saline!) Salt Lake City lies on the edge of the lake and at the foot of the Wasatch Range, the westernmost reach of the Rocky Mountains. The mountains rise sharply from the relatively flat valley floor, making for a spectacular backdrop. For many visitors, the mountains and the recreation they provide are the reason for coming here. But Salt Lake City has plenty of urban amenities, so one does not need to “go to the mountains” to enjoy being here. Here is a selection of Salt Lake City event venues for you to peruse.

McCune Mansion, from flickr user Emily Allen
Gilded Ballroom at McCune Mansion, from their website
Executive Boardroom at McCune Mansion, from their website

Venue 6SIX9. Located downtown, the interestingly spelled 6SIX9 offers the ability to host events “from corporate parties, seminars, church gatherings to weddings and more!” The venue includes an 8,400 square foot ballroom plus breakout rooms, totaling  20,000 square feet in total available space. Tables, chairs, linens, and centerpieces are also available from the venue.

McCune Mansion. One type of venue we’re always on the lookout for is a historic property. The McCune Mansion is a Shingle-Style estate built in 1901 and in between Temple Square and the Utah State Capitol. The mansion promotes itself as a good venue for business meetings or retreats, weddings and receptions, and for photography shoots as well. The mansion can accommodate up to 300 people in winter and 500 in summer.

Wasatch Brewing. We love event venues in breweries, because the availability of tasty beer is guaranteed! Wasatch’s Salt Lake City location is located in the hip ‘n’ happening Sugar House neighborhood. The brewery offers two event spaces, The Landing Room which can hold 40 and The Tasting Room which can hold 30. Both rooms can be rented together, too! Wasatch has a full kitchen, and meals can be done buffet style.

Beehive Distilling
The event space at Beehive Distilling, Salt Lake City, Utah. From their Instagram.

Beehive Distilling. Located a couple miles south of downtown in South Salt Lake, this bar can host up to 180 in its 4,000 square foot space. Beehive’s event focus is on “corporate meetings, non-profit organizations, weddings and parties”, with an active distillery as your backdrop. Because of the nature of the business, all guests must be 21 and over.

Getting around: Salt Lake City’s light rail system, TRAX, has expanded greatly over the past twenty years, extending from downtown to the Airport, the University of Utah, and southern suburbs. All of the event venues above are within a ten minute walk to a light rail station or S-Streetcar, which connects to TRAX. If you want to get around by bicycle, you’ll see several GREENbike bikeshare stations around town. Amtrak’s California Zephyr stops once a day at Salt Lake’s Intermodal Terminal west of downtown–someday we hope direct service to Portland via Boise resumes.

A word about liquor laws: Utah’s liquor laws are infamous across the United States. Thankfully the stricter regulations have loosened in the past twenty years: You are no longer required to become a member of a “private club” to enjoy adult beverages in a bar, thank the 2002 Winter Olympics for that. And the notorious “three point two” alcohol by volume limit on beers was raised to five percent in 2019–you can get stronger beer, too, but it’s not as easy. You still can’t get more than one shot (1.5 fluid ounces, or about 45 ml) in a mixed drink, something Emee learned the hard way during a recent visit. But you can buy spirits directly from a distiller like Beehive, even on Sunday when state-run liquor stores are shuttered. For more info, check out these two articles.

We hope that you found this post to be informative and hope it helps you find the right Salt Lake City event venue for you!

Planning an event in Eugene, Oregon

A person looks down from a balcony into a large event space with people standing and mingling around cocktail tables, a stage, and a bar. Perfect for planning an event in Eugene, Oregon.
The Grand Hall at Venue 252. Photo from their website.

Planning an event in Eugene, Oregon? We recently had the opportunity to visit Eugene, Oregon, the state’s second-largest city for a trade show so we have several fresh ideas for you. Sitting at the southern end of the Willamette Valley, Eugene is about 120 miles (195 km) south of Portland, an easy two hour drive, that is if traffic on Interstate 5 isn’t bad. But you don’t have to sit in traffic if you don’t want to–there is convenient Amtrak train and bus service, with several trips daily. That is how we traveled for this recent trip! And because Eugene is a city known for its numerous cultural activities, brewpubs, and bikeability, it’s a good place to hold an event. Here is a selection of Eugene Oregon event venues for you to peruse.

Venue 252. Operated by local natural grocery chain Market of Choice, this venue bills itself as “your event venue for weddings, fundraisers, trade shows and more.” Located just outside of downtown and close to Eugene’s Amtrak station, this 20,000 sq. ft. venue can accommodate up to 770 seated guests or 1,285 standing.

The Barrow. This community-minded venue is also located close to Eugene’s Amtrak station and consists of two buildings adjacent to each other. The Mahonia and Stellaria Community Rooms can hold up to 50 people, while the Stellaria Board Room can seat 25. Each building (Mahonia and Stellaria) have rentable common kitchens. We can see The Barrow as being perfect for planning an event in Eugene, Oregon for small gatherings, workshops, meetings, and the like.

A person walks through a hotel lobby at the Graduate Hotel in Eugene, Oregon. There are trade show booths set up on either side of the lobby.
The lobby at Graduate Eugene, set up for a trade show

Graduate Eugene. The Graduate is a chain of hotels that operate properties in many college towns across the US. (We visited their Berkeley location in 2019.) Conveniently located just two blocks from Eugene’s Amtrak station, The Graduate boasts its own Conference Center. The Center has spaces such as the Playwright’s Hall (11,620 sq. ft./capacity 1,400), the lobby which can hold 800 people, a suite of smaller event rooms that can hold 125 to 350 people, breakout rooms, and board rooms. To top it off (pardon the pun), there is the 3,700 sq. ft. Vista Ballroom and Rooftop space which according to The Graduate is perfect for “small weddings, company retreats, and family reunions.”

Barrel Room at Hop Valley Brewing. Eugene is renowned for their beer scene. There are numerous brewpubs and tasting rooms in town, many located in the Whiteaker neighborhood to the west of downtown. This is where you’ll find Hop Valley’s Barrel Room. This private room can accommodate 10 to 100 people, with additional patio space reservable if needed. Hop Valley bills this space as appropriate for “birthday parties and company events to non-profit fundraisers and monthly meetings for your club or organization”. And you’ll be able to sample Hop Valley’s tasty beers and food from their pub menu!

Image of chairs and tables set up in a wood-floored, high-ceilinged ballroom at the University of Oregon. If you're planning an event in Eugene, Oregon, you can't skip the University of Oregon!
Here is U of O's Ballroom at Erb Memorial Union, Photo from their website.
If you’re planning an event in Eugene, Oregon, you can’t skip the University of Oregon!
Here is U of O’s Ballroom at Erb Memorial Union, Photo from their website.

University of Oregon. Lastly, we could not forget to mention the place that Eugene is most known for! The University of Oregon has numerous spaces available, large and small. This would be a perfect venue for a planning an event in Eugene, Oregon; especially a very large one.

We hope that you found this post to be informative and hope it helps you find the right Eugene, Oregon event venue for you!

Company Picnic Planning – Photo of the Day

View of Willamette River, Portland Oregon with a dock and kayaks in the foreground for a company picnic
Company picnic planning is easier when you have fun activities such as kayak lessons and other water activities.

I bet that company picnic planning is not top of mind in January, but it’s actually the best time to start thinking about it. With Portland still a bit cold and dreary at this time of the year, it’s hard to believe we only have about six months to do your company event planning for summer. Above is a photo of a kayaking add-on that we planned for a tech company’s employee outing at a riverfront park on the Willamette. Just a few extra touches like this can make your event really special and make your employees feel so appreciated and re-energized.

What else goes into an event like this? First, you’ll need a great venue. Then most likely, you’ll need delicious food. Finally you’ll need to choose some entertainment, such as DJs and photo booths; or games like Capture the Flag or an obstacle course. This particular group also added treats like chocolate, beer, and wine tasting booths. There are tons of ideas out there for planning your company picnic, but if you get stuck, feel free to contact us at EJP Events – Portland Event Planning.