Meetings Canada


Accommodating Diversity

Sandy Biback

By Sandy Biback, CMM, CMP

We all know the horror stories of groups planning a meeting during religious holidays. As we live in a more diverse world, the planner must be more cognizant of determining dates.

Online calendars abound (see links at the end of this article).

And now there’s an app for that.

You plug-in your dates and locations and see if it’s a ‘safe’ date, if even for a conference call.

So, should we not plan our events during religious holidays?

It’s a fine line. As a meeting and event planner, it’s your job to know and understand the demographics of who will be attending, to understand the objective of the event, to understand the culture (business and diversity) of the organization.

Certainly, major religious holidays are generally a good time to get highly favourable hotel rates. I’m going out on a limb here, but salespeople who say they have a great rate on such-and-such a date could be suggesting that date because it is during a major religious holiday.

As a planner, your job is to check the date for conflict.

We live in a world of global diversity. It is our job as planners to be prepared for all possibilities.

Have you considered a prayer room for your Muslim attendees? Have you considered menu choices not only for those with allergies, also for those with religion-dictated food requirements?

Have you considered not doing an event on Friday or Saturday if you have a large attendee base of observant Jewish people?

How are you gathering this information? By law, in Canada, you cannot ask about religious persuasions. We all ask about food allergies, etc.

The time to do your homework is before you even set the date. Research who your demographic might be. Use historical documentation (sometimes those food requests will reveal a lot more than you think).

If it’s a corporation for which you are organizing the event, look around the office, listen to discussions. Look for clues. An association? Look for clues in your membership database. A gala where you don’t know who will be coming? Look at the cause; look for clues.

The dates are easy. The rest is research, being a detective. Add detective work to your job description.

Wishing you all a peaceful and healthy holiday season—whatever your personal persuasion.







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