Should I write a code of conduct?

Without concrete actions to eliminate harassment and other bad behavior, a code of conduct for your event is quite meaningless. Some companies use this as a lazy way of dealing with harassment.

“See? We have a code of conduct. We care about inclusivity. Moving on.”

You can write one, but don’t pretend like it will actually solve anything. Well-behaved people don’t need a reminder and bad-behaved people won’t bother reading the code.

Codes of conduct aren’t a bad thing, it’s just that on their own they don’t do anything. Here are concrete steps for you to implement before you write a CoC:

  1. Make sure that you have adequate surveillance at both the main venue and social outings. Watch for bad behavior and be visible in case somebody needs to complain. Uniforms and training for staff is highly recommended, even if they are volunteers. Always be the last to leave.
  2. Control the alcohol at your events. Don’t ever have an open bar. If you want to provide free alcohol, use coupons to control how many drinks each person can get.
  3. Explicitly tell your sponsors and speakers about what kind of language or imagery is inappropriate in their materials.
  4. Plan your event so that you’re not 100% busy. You need to be available to manage any potential conflict.
  5. Make sure that everything you say and do is in good taste and inclusive. Set a good example: provide alcohol-free/vegetarian alternatives, gender-neutral entertainment, smoke-free environments, accessible venues, avoid stereotypes in all forms of communication, etc.

That’s a good start. Once you do these, write a document that will shed light on what you have done to make your event safer and more inclusive. This will reassure your audience. Any more tips?

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