About one in seven in the UK is neurodivergent and it can bring unique and valuable strengths to business.
Approximately 25% of CEOs are dyslexic in the UK, with creativity and big picture thinking being likely key factors in the extraordinary link between dyslexia and entrepreneurship. Yet still the working world is created for neurotypical employees by default.
But it does mean thinking about certain things if you’re organizing a work event, so the team at BeaconHouse Events have shared their advice on how to take steps to create a neuro-inclusive event that means that every voice in the room has the opportunity to contribute and enjoy meaningful interactions.
Over 15% of the UK is neurodivergent so you don’t need to guess at how to make your events more inclusive, just ask! Speak to people who live with neurodiversity and understand where adjustments can be made to create more inclusive spaces and increase the number of people who feel happy and confident to attend your event. Take the approach of ‘not about us, without us’ and have honest conversations with people with lived experience to ensure that your efforts are really what they need and want, rather than just ticking a box.
If you’re taking specific measures to make neurodivergent people feel comfortable, talk about it ahead of time – your guests might not be comfortable being open about their needs or asking for adjustments but knowing in advance that you have considered different options can break down barriers to attendance, as well as raising awareness and understanding to other attendees.
Create a plainly-worded pack of information that can be picked up at reception or downloaded answering frequently asked questions to ease anxiety. Alongside the general information that all guests would find helpful, answer things like – if and how you can ask questions during the day, clear floorplans and information about the venue with maps / pictures and how to speak to staff if you have an issue.
Think about the environment as a whole and what it will be like to spend time in that environment. Avoid smelly food (which can cause overstimulation), turn down or remove bright lights and create a pleasant temperature which doesn’t fluctuate between hot and cold. If guests have to move between locations, especially between inside and outside, remember to communicate any clothing or footwear requirements so everyone can plan accordingly.
The hustle and bustle of busy events can be overwhelming but by creating a quiet space, and clearly communicating the purpose of that space, you can carve out a safe space to escape. This space should be for everyone to make the most of, but take steps to help guests understand that it is a sanctuary away from the event activities and not a place for meetings or phone calls. Curate your space to have low or dim lighting, no noise or distractions, lots of space to spread out and place it away from catering so there are no strong smells.
When you are planning your branded event goodie bags and giveaways, consider gifts that will be helpful to neurodivergent guests on the day. This could be noise-cancelling earplugs to combat background noise and loud areas, fidget toys to reduce anxiety or sunglasses to dull bright, overpowering lighting. Badges could also be given away when guests arrive to show whether they are open to social interactions, like handshakes, or not.
Hybrid experiences are a fantastic way of engaging with a wide range of audiences who are not able to physically be there in person. However, if a fully hybrid option isn’t possible, consider a breakout space with pods and headphones where guests can listen to keynote speakers without having to sit in a busy conference hall where there often isn’t a lot of personal space.