Experienced meeting professionals know to check the calendar very carefully when choosing event dates. Statutory and religious holidays are simple – we need to just avoid them altogether! Examples of some dates that are completely off limits: Christmas, Easter, Yom Kippur and Passover.
One of the religious holidays that causes some confusion among event planners is Ramadan. Ramadan is observed by Muslims worldwide, it falls in May/June and it lasts for about a month. The timing is different every year. It involves a month of fasting from dawn to sunset and an increased amount of prayers.
In 2018, Ramadan falls between May 15 and June 14 – add it to your planning calendar every year! It is best to avoid holding incentive events and other employee recognition events during this month as people observing this holiday will miss out on their own recognition. As these are peak months for meetings and conferences, it is not always possible to avoid holding them over these dates, but there are some simple accommodations you can offer to make your event inclusive and ensure that the experience is better for your attendees:
- Be very careful where you place food and what you order! Serve breakfast/lunch in a separate room if possible, so people who are fasting can just avoid going into that room.
- Serve breaks outside of the meeting room and don’t order foods which have a strong smell (like popcorn or bacon). It can be very distracting.
- Be sensitive about holding working lunches. Avoid these if possible, as anyone that observes Ramadan will feel awkward being the ones obviously not eating.
- As they can only eat before sunrise and after sunset, make sure food is available at the times they CAN eat. Work with your venue to make this possible.
- Provide a prayer room close to the main meeting room and have a sign at your registration desk indicating where the room is.
- Schedule sessions and team building requiring physical activity earlier in the day when employees have more energy.
- Have a water station available around the time that employees break their fast; have mints on hand as well.
Making these few simple accommodations during your meeting will be appreciated by your participants that are observing Ramadan and will make you (and your company) stand out as being inclusive and respectful of others.