Conference Best Practices

We know that organizing a conference is time-consuming, stressful and requires juggling multiple moving parts. To help organizers create a diverse and inclusive conference, we’ve compiled a list of best practices! Please let us know if you have any suggestions for us to add to this list.

Do some pre-reading!
Here is a list of great resources to start off with:
-Making conferences accessible: Union of Concerned Scientists, Special Interest Group on Accessible Computing, Web Accessibility Initiative
-Making conferences diverse: 500 Women Scientists
-General Reading: Exordo

Planning your venue
If you are in charge of booking the venue, here are some great features to look out for to ensure everyone at the conference will be comfortable and feel welcome
1) Location: Try to find a venue in a safe and welcoming location. For example, is the venue in a location known to be safe for racial/ethnic minorities? LGBTQ+ members? DACA recipients? It’s great to have a safe venue but you also want your conference-goers to be able to explore the surrounding areas and still feel safe!
2) Facilities: Try to find a venue that has gender-neutral bathroom options, breast-feeding areas, and is accessible for people with disabilities (i.e. are they ADA compliant)
3) Try to offer the option to participate remotely (helps those with limited financial resources, health issues preventing them from long flights, other responsibilities at home, etc. And it’s better for the environment!)

Inviting Speakers
1) Invite a diverse array of speakers. Of course we hope that you’ll use our list as a resource, but below are several others that may be more suited to your conference’s needs:
-General, URM:
-General, Women/URM:
-General, LGBTQ+:
-General, Women/URM:
-For Neuroscience, Women:
-For chemistry:
2) Track your data! Keep yourself and other conference organizers accountable by tracking representation at your conference. How many of your key note speakers are underrepresented minorities? LGBTQ+? etc…

Planning your event
1) Write up a Code of Conduct (i.e. what is expected of conference-goers and what is prohibited) and distribute it before the conference. A good Code of Conduct will have the following:
-Clear instructions for reporting incidents
-Clear instructions on what will happen for violators of the Conference
-Protections for the reporter (i.e. keeping their reports anonymous)
-Written in inclusive language that does not put the onus/blame on the reporter
It can be difficult to write a code of conduct so here are several examples/resources:
2) Include a session or talk where you invite a speaker to talk about the issue of diversity in STEM, this can include talks on implicit bias, allyship, mentoring URM researchers, etc. Find a list of resources here.
3) Offer a grant to attend your conference: Conferences can be expensive to attend, thus excluding scientists who are not yet financially secure. If possible, try to offer a grant (either for travel, or covering the whole cost of attendance). If you cannot offer a grant, consider making a “resources” section on your conference website with pertinent grants that they can apply to. (We are working on compiling a list ourselves and will link to it asap!)
-Note: Financial aid applications are often burdensome to the applicants who are already busy and dis-advantaged compared to financially secure applicants. For this reason, it is best to keep your application simple, straight-forward and as minimal as possible.
4) Offer childcare or accommodations for childcare (i.e. a childcare stipend or room/board for a childcare provider – babysitters, nannies, etc)
5) Arrange chairs so that there are wider aisles so that people with mobility aids have enough room to navigate. Consider putting chairs in poster session rooms and having rest areas if your conference is held in a particularly large venue.
6) Have social/networking events that are not alcohol centered for those who don’t engage in drinking.

1) Congratulations on organizing and executing such an ambitious event! The final suggestions we can give is to ask for feedback from conference goers/speakers regarding their experience. If you already have a post-conference survey that you send out, simply add a few questions regarding the perceived inclusivity at the event. Questions can include inquiries about the general atmosphere of inclusion at the conference, if there were any accommodations that individuals needed that weren’t met, if individuals knew who to contact for any accommodations that they may have wanted, etc. We are working on finding a reliable, comprehensive pre-made survey to link to!

This list was compiled using resources across the internet and feedback from conference organizers/goers regarding what they’ve seen create a welcoming, supportive environment for everyone. As noted above, if you know of anything else to add we would love your feedback.