By Nick Gold, MD at Speakers Corner
The unspoken truth is that’ Black Lives Matter’ is challenging businesses to face uncomfortable truths. Businesses, sectors and industries were moved to release statements in which they advocated, they endorsed and they espoused their commitment to the movement. But it quickly became clear that the BLM movement was not about talk, it was about change. Businesses needed to not just speak but to act and demonstrate their commitment to the words they say.
COVID-19, with lockdown and social distancing, has forced businesses to change the way they operate day to day and confront a future business landscape which looks bleak to say the least. Change is therefore a word and action that should be at the forefront and on the lips of everyone.
The opportunity or uncertainty, dependent on how it is viewed, is that the pandemic has forced change without historical precedents or indications to refer back to. This period of time is unique in that answers are not clear and opinions are varied and all equally valid. As such outcomes, decisions and actions will evolve from communal learning and consensus.
Debate is on the agenda as an action point which should bind people together and create buy in from all people involved. We can use this opportunity to move away from the polarisation and divisiveness that has cascaded through society towards an understanding that differing opinions and thoughts encourage learning and acceptance of alternative ideas.
Diversity and inclusion is being placed forefront and centre of our thinking and actions because the willingness to embrace the unknown, uncomforting and uncertainty means we are looking for guidance to ask the right questions as opposed to finding the right answers. This is a period when we are looking for thought leaders and experts around diversity and inclusivity to raise questions and highlight issues encouraging action rather than just awareness. It is understood that for true understanding, vulnerability must be shown and embedded privilege and perception be challenged.
What have we seen over time is a requirement and need for speakers to educate and inspire about the benefits of having diverse voices and ideas to help a company make decisions. There has been an increased understanding about how critically businesses can use the diverse world we live in to harness the full potential of everyone around us.
The conversation has moved on. It is now about how we take a concept, an ideal, a movement, and use its power to deliver real change. This is no easy task but it is one which business leaders understand they need to act upon.
The virtual event has its advantages and disadvantages but with this area, it appears that the benefits of virtual is ideally suited to a debate and discussion which brings people together to create action.
Firstly, the concept that everyone has a front row seat means that every person on the virtual event is part of the conversation, with the right speaker leading the conversation, then everyone should be encouraged to participate and feel involved.
This leads neatly to the second benefit of virtual which re-positions the meeting that every person in the room is of equal standing and had equal gravitas in their opinions. No longer can the body language of individuals or seating positions dictate status, no longer can the HIPPOs dominate the conversation – whether it be spoken, whether it be the chat function, whether it be a question – the virtual environment encourages an equal playing field.
This platform is thus ideally suited for a discussion where we can educate each other. This safe environment where judgement by others which can take place in the physical meeting place through unspoken actions and body language is negated by the flatness of the virtual event.
The virtual event relies on the content, messaging and interactivity to draw energy and engagement into the room. It allows everyone to be part of the conversation, to be engaged and be given a chance to contribute, therefore we’re seeing the virtual event becoming the means whereby we can all be part of the change and be engaged with the process.
Critically and specifically, the rise of the virtual event has meant the platform for education and action around diversity and inclusion driven by the Black Lives Matter movement means there is no excuse for passivity and lack of engagement.