Mind diversity and inclusion

Related areas
TL;DR recommendations
—Establish group norms and expectations —Use inclusive language —Provide closed captioning and other personalization options —Cater to different modes of participation —Incorporate multicultural perspectives

If you are working in a globally distributed company, or with clients from other countries, you probably sat with the challenge of inclusivity in your sessions. But even if you bring a group of people from the same culture together, chances are they have different preferences and ways of engaging, and their brains might work differently than yours.

Creating inclusive sessions for diverse audiences and cultures is crucial for ensuring equal participation and a positive learning experience. A generally good practice is conducting a pre-workshop survey or assessment to gather information about participants' needs, preferences, or potential accommodations required. This allows you to tailor the workshop experience accordingly and address any specific requirements or concerns.

Let's have a look at a couple of practical tips you can keep in mind when designing your inclusive virtual sessions:

👉 Tip #1: Use inclusive language

How often were you part of a session in which the facilitator addressed you as “guys” when, really, there was no guy in the group? Be mindful of gender-neutral language and avoid making assumptions about participants' backgrounds or experiences.

  • Instead of using gender-specific terms for groups (”guys”, “ladies”), use gender-neutral terms like "team," "group," "colleagues", and “everyone”.
  • Instead of using "he" or "she", use "they" or "their", unless preferred pronouns are communicated
  • Instead of using gender-specific job titles (Stewardess), use gender-neutral terms (Flight attendant)
  • Instead of “husband” and “wife”, use gender-neutral terms like "spouse" or "partner". Similarly, use "parent" instead of "mother" or "father."

Another great tip for inclusive language is to avoid jargon, acronyms, or culturally specific references that may alienate participants. Use clear and concise language that is easily understood by diverse audiences. Use clear, concise language when giving verbal instructions, and break them down into simple, actionable steps.

👉 Tip #2: Provide closed captioning and other personalization options

Use platforms that offer closed captioning and add subtitles for video content used during and after the workshop. This ensures that participants with hearing impairments or those who prefer to read the content can fully engage with the material.

In Butter, each participant can toggle on and off elements like motion, animations, GIFs in chat, chat pop-ups, big emoji reactions, and session hints. They also have full control of music and sound volume, so they can adapt to their preferences.

👉 Tip #3: Cater to different modes of participation

Too often we design workshops for those of us that speak to think. As a facilitator, recognize and accommodate different communication styles and preferences, particularly for participants that think to speak. These alternatives can be engaging in written discussions, shared notes, polls, and silent reflection, alongside verbal discussions. Use breakout rooms or smaller group activities to create a more intimate and comfortable setting for those who prefer smaller interactions. A great best practice is to allow everyone 1-2 minutes of silent reflection around the prompt before you open the breakouts. This gives everyone the opportunity to gather their thoughts and form an opinion before the conversation starts.

👉 Tip #4: Establish group norms and create a predictable environment

Emphasize the importance of active listening, valuing diverse perspectives, and creating a safe space for everyone to participate. Set clear guidelines of how participants might contribute their insights: Do they use the chat? Do they queue? Do they simply unmute and speak? Will they share anonymously in a poll?

Share a clear agenda at the beginning of the session. This helps participants prepare mentally for what to expect and manage any anxiety related to uncertainty.

👉 Tip #5: Incorporate multicultural perspectives

Use examples, case studies, or stories that reflect a range of cultural backgrounds. Moreover, encourage participants to share their own experiences and insights, fostering an environment where diversity of perspectives and cultural backgrounds is celebrated.

🧰 For your toolbox:

Inclusivity is an ongoing process, and it's important to continually evaluate and adapt your approach based on feedback and new insights. Below we gathered some great resources to help you deep dive into this important topic.

💡 Amy Luckey compiled several accessibility and inclusion reassurances in this directory.

💡 Achille Zambon shared The Intercultural Toolkit, a skill-building platform for organisations, leaders, teams and individuals to learn about and thrive with diversity and intercultural awareness.

💡 Marie Dubost hosted a ButterMixer on the topic of accessibility in online sessions and you can catch-up with the recording here.