Neurodiversity: The Next Frontier In Empathetic Event Design
Recent research by BCD Meetings & Events has indicated a genuine shift towards more neuro diverse meetings and events. This research backs up our own findings from the Meeting of the Future initiative and shows how quickly these seeds of trends become fully formed and fast moving.
However, while at Lime Venue Portfolio we look at the trend through the prism of the meeting room and venue, it is more helpful that it is viewed as an event trend in its entirety. The two are of course intertwined, but we do need to recognise the importance in shift, from neuro diverse venues to neuro diverse events.
In our last blog on Wellness Rooms, we focused on the rooms that are being created both as preventative areas and response areas for those with specific needs around mental health and wellness. This included delegates who have ADHD, autism, or who are in any way neuro divergent. But it also included people who don’t like crowds, or loud noises. These areas are also for people who maybe having a bad day, have a migraine or severe headache, anyone essentially who needs to escape from the stimulation of events.
When we look at Wellness Rooms, outside space, empathetic communal areas, and other spaces, we’re addressing this need to escape into safe places; this is infrastructure. When we look at those that have neuro diversity baked into the event itself, we see an important change. For this we need to ask the question, why should people need to ‘escape’ an event? Should events pose a threat to anyone in the audience? If they do, are they being truly inclusive?
This is the next part of the discussion and it’s a difficult one to have. Ask any event organiser, and key objectives will be a mixture of excitement and engagement with content. In our recent blog on trends for 2024 we talk about the growth in production values, this includes the theatre on stage, the lighting, video, sound, and drama. At the beginning of some events, we ‘warn’ of flash lighting. Again, are these productions right for a new age of event design?
The fact of the matter is that events need to be viewed through a new prism, one that doesn’t play to the past audience of people who just love events, but talks to those that desire event content, but are not so fond of the traditional event experience.
This isn’t a circle that can’t be squared either. It is not either or, event organisers can strive for both, using creativity and technology, and by working with organisations and people who see the world from a different point of view.
There are emerging technologies out there. Holoplot, the sound design business most known for their speaker installations in Las Vegas’ Sphere venue, have created technology that isolates areas for sound. Used originally to create complete ‘sound coverage’, these speakers can now take sound away from areas of a venue, right down to a square meter. This is already used in clubs so that music can be played loudly while bar staff can still hear drinks audiences. The conference industry is already adopting the technology to protect identified guests from intrusive sound. They can sit quietly while those around them don’t.
This is one example of technology supporting accessibility – another major trend identified in our projections for 2024 – and there is no doubt that technology exists to do this visually as well. If it does, the chances are it is, and should continue to be, adopted by event organisers.
There is an emerging ambition within the industry that events can be for all. That the well-known phrase on equity “… there is a difference between being invited to the party and being asked to dance …” could be a reality. As we knock down the many barriers to entry, including neurodiversity, we see our delegations rise, our engagement go up, and the value of the event to the business or organisation hosting it, rise exponentially.
This will be a major talking point in the industry in 2024. It will continue to grow, especially as solutions can be found. Through the Meeting of the Future, we’ve taken a major step in creating empathetic event environments, the next frontier is making events safe for those with every kind of need. The solutions will be stunning, innovative and exciting. And they will matter to everyone.