Bulletin 14

Considering safety when conference planning  

Safety is a key principle of trauma-and violence-informed care and it encompasses physical, emotional, spiritual and cultural safety. In this bulletin, we will focus on what we can consider to create a safe space for conference participants and speakers.  

From a service provider perspective, fostering safety entails the following:  

  • Taking a non-judgemental approach (making people feel accepted and deserving)  
  • Fostering connection and trust  
  • Providing clear information and predictable expectations about programming  

Source: www.projectVega.ca 

Questions to consider when organizing conferences & events:  

  • Does the physical environment promote a sense of safety, calming, and de-escalation?  
  • Are we providing space where participants can go to practice self-care?  
  • Have we developed mechanisms to address gender-related physical and emotional safety concerns (e.g., gender-specific spaces and activities)?  
  • Strategies that the Knowledge Hub is working towards adapting:  
  • Develop and include a conference code of conduct in the conference program and registration webpage Maintain communication that is open, respectful, and compassionate.  
  • Allow ample time for potential conference participants to make the necessary arrangements to be able to attend.  
  • Incorporate a traditional Indigenous opening and closing.  
  • Identify Elders and support professionals in the conference program and where they can be reached during the event.  
  • Use welcoming language on all signage .  
  • Welcome conference participants and presenters and ensure that they feel respected and supported.  
  • Parking lots, common areas, washrooms, entrances, and exits are well lit.  
  • Gender neutral washrooms are clearly marked with proper signage.  
  • Provide microphones to meet accessibility standards  
  • Adhere to the conference program to meet attendees’ expectations.  
  • Provide opportunities for self-care activities, such as mindfulness, colouring and playdough activities.  
  • Offer preferred pronoun and “no photos” buttons. 


Why a conference code of conduct?  

Various guides, blogs and articles on inclusive conferences and events recommend developing a code of conduct that sets the ethical expectations of the event. For instance, Pendergrass and colleagues (2019)1 note that a conference code of conduct creates a structure of accountability in the event of inappropriate behaviour. It often includes a diversity statement and an anti-harassment policy. A code of conduct conveys the message that conference organizers care about making their attendees feel safe. 

Resources to consider

Guide to planning inclusive meetings Guide to Planning Inclusive Meetings - Canada.ca 
Diversity through inclusive practice: An evolving toolkit for creating inclusive processes, spaces & events Diversity through Inclusive Practice: An Evolving Toolkit for Creating Inclusive Processes, Spaces & Events (dawncanada.net)