Words You Should Stop Using in the Events Industry…And Everywhere – Part 3

June 12, 2024

Daria Knupp

Daria Knupp is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at A2Z Events by Personify. Knupp has spent most of her career in the association world handling content creation and digital marketing and recently decided to take that expertise to the events industry. She recently achieved her CEM designation and is an active member of IAEE.

We’re pleased to present the final part of our series that aims to reevaluate the terminology commonly used within the events industry. Our journey towards enhancing the event professional vocabulary has been quite enlightening. If you missed our previous discussions, fear not — we share the previous article links at the end.

Furthermore, it’s essential to acknowledge the emerging role of AI content-generation tools in event management and communication. While these tools offer efficiency and innovation, they might unintentionally generate content containing insensitive or inappropriate terminology. This is why exercising careful human oversight when using AI technologies is extremely critical. So, let’s get into the list, shall we?

Blacklist/Whitelist

Old Vibes: Traditionally, email marketing is often leveraged to heavily promote events. It is always important to send emails to safe domains so that your IP address isn’t triggered as spam. In the past, when it comes to these email contact lists, the term “blacklist” (risky domain) or “whitelist” (safe domain) may have been thrown around to describe these lists.

The Refresh: But, “black” and “white?” It’s not the best duo when you think about the connotations.

The Swap: It’s simple - stick with “Safe list” and “Risky list.” It gets the job done without any of the baggage.

Mumbo Jumbo

Old Vibes: In the realm of event organization, “Mumbo Jumbo” can be often used as the default descriptor for any event-related talk or documentation that seemed more twisted and confusing than a pretzel. Event contracts anyone?

The Refresh: Its heritage? The origins are believed to be rooted in mockery and discrimination towards African languages and religious rituals, characterizing them as unintelligible. Not something we’re proud to give airtime to.

The Swap: “Nonsense,” “gibberish,” or “jargon” – they pack the punch without the poor taste.

Peanut Gallery

Old Vibes: Some of us may have potentially referred to less constructive feedback during certain events as “peanut gallery” remarks.

The Refresh: The term, though, refers to a time and place of division and exclusion. It originates from the days of vaudeville, where the “peanut gallery” denoted a section where individuals of lower socioeconomic status sat – often where black Americans were segregated.

The Swap: Good old “unsolicited feedback” or “comments from the crowd” are plain and simple.

Cakewalk

Old Vibes: Imagine yourself in the bustling world of events, where, as we know, some tasks can be harder than others. When a task is simple, you may feel inclined to refer to it as a “cakewalk.” This term, sweet on the surface, has a not-so-sweet backstory tied to a painful past.

The Refresh: Turns out, “cakewalk” can be rather offensive, with roots in a past we’re not keen on repeating.

The Swap: “Easy task” or “piece of cake” keeps things light and history-free.

Spirit Animal

Old Vibes: In the past, at an animal-themed charity event, attendees might have been asked to share their “spirit animal” — that creature they felt a deep, almost cosmic connection with. Or perhaps a workshop instructor tasked attendees to name their spirit animal. This phrase has been commonly used lightly to encourage engagement and conversation.

The Refresh: But it borrows from cultures where spirit animal isn't just casual chatter, but something sacred.

The Swap: Try “favorite animal” or “kindred spirit” on for size. Same sentiment, no cultural misstep.

Special Needs

Old Vibes: In the world of trade shows and conferences, it was common to refer to accommodations for individuals needing extra help as “special needs.”

The Refresh: We want to shine the light on people, not the circumstances that make them unique.

The Swap: “Attendees with disabilities” or “attendee accessibility services” flips the script to focus on actual folks first.

Master Recording

Old Vibes: The term “master recording” has often been wielded in the music and events industry to describe the original recording from which all copies are made. It suggests control, ownership and superiority, much like the outdated and unacceptable connotations tied to “master” in other contexts.

The Refresh: The implications are hard to ignore, resonating with historical power imbalances we’re actively striving to move away from.

The Swap: Simplicity wins with “original recording” or “primary recording.” Clear, efficient and devoid of unsavory connotations.

Gypped

Old Vibes: Used flippantly when you feel short changed but packing more punch than you’d think. For example, show organizers previously might have expressed dissatisfaction with vendors or partners by saying, “We were gypped on the lighting equipment rental,” implying that they received less value than expected.

The Refresh: Who knew? “Gypped” comes from “gypsy,” a term that doesn’t sit well with the Romani people’s proud heritage.

The Swap: Stick to “cheated” or “swindled.” Direct and stereotype-free.

There you go – more tools for your event prof toolbox! Words aren’t just sounds and letters; they’re little building blocks of culture, and we’re here to make sure they’re only creating good vibes.

Conclusion

Our job in this vibrant world of events goes beyond the excitement of an event opening. We’re in the people business — all kinds of unique individuals. In our roles as event professionals, the responsibility lies on our shoulders to cultivate an environment that transcends just mere compliance with standards of political correctness. Our objective is deeper — to foster authentic respect and understanding for the diversity and individuality of every person we engage with. The simple act of choosing our words deliberately and thoughtfully can make all the difference in creating an inclusive atmosphere. Remember, change starts with us, one word at a time.

Challenge of the Day

For the next week, catch yourself whenever you’re about to use one of the problematic terms we’ve listed. Pause, think and replace it with one of our suggested alternatives. We are positive you will be surprised how quickly your vocabulary changes for the better.

If you missed our earlier words, catch up here for Part 1 and here for Part 2. Your thoughts and comments are welcome as we continue this critical conversation together.

 

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