For many people, attending an event in person can be difficult for occasional or permanent reasons. First, it can be the case for people suffering from physical impairment, whether it is motor, visual or auditory. But this exclusion can also affect young parents, persons with agoraphobia or other mental disorders, or participants with travel constraints (cost, formalities, duration, etc.)
“Our events’ accessibility is one of the biggest things missing from our industry. 1.3 billion people, about 20 % of the workforce, are suffering from disabilities, which has big consequences on accessibility. This number doesn’t even include data about mental health.”
Explains Adam Perry, co-founder and editor-in-chief of www.eventindustrynews.com magazine.
According to the World Health Organization, 15 % of the world population has some kind of disability, and this number keeps growing (data from November 2021). But the concept of inclusion goes even further: it is about not discriminating against someone because of their disability, race, gender, etc.
By nature, hybrid and virtual events are more inclusive:
- They are accessible to anybody, wherever they are physically, and offer more schedule flexibility. For example, it is possible to attend a hybrid event while being bedridden for health reasons, while honoring other commitments (breastfeeding, medical treatments), and to organize our own schedule according to personal and professional obligations.
- Thanks to this flexibility, the event planner can invite new speakers , offers diversity and broaden horizons.
- These events don’t involve travel costs, accommodation, etc. In that way, they don’t exclude for financial reasons.
- Online participation can reassure people suffering from mental disorders: people who have a fear of crowds, dread the presence of unrestricted alcohol or have a fear of public speaking.
- They can host an unlimited number of participants.
How to make these events even more inclusive
Whether you are implementing simple tips or start using advanced technology, here is some useful advice to improve inclusivity during your online events and increase your participants and speakers’ engagement.
When you are just starting to design your event, during the big day and after it is done, make inclusion your core principle. If your goal of being more inclusive is implemented too late, the participants will notice and all of the new measures might be counterproductive.
1- Choose a time that can accommodate the greatest number of people, and plan on sharing on-demand content online after the event.
2- Think about digital accessibility! Content Square offers a guide on this matter, and reminds us that 1 out of 10 people is visually-impaired, 1 out of 11 is over 65 and 1 out of 10 is dyslexic.
- Make sure that the online registration process and the use of interactive tools (chat, questionnaires, etc.) are simple and accessible.
- For the website, the speakers’ headlines or any other text displayed on the screen during the event, remember to use simple fonts, a big enough font size and contrasting colors.
- Offer an alternative to images by filling out the alt attributes for every non-text element: images, forms, buttons, including on your virtual audience platform. This information can be used by assistive technologies for people with disabilities: know more.
- Offer assistance.
3- For hearing-impaired people, here are some solutions:
- Use velotype or real-time subtitles by using Voxa Direct, AccessLOOP, who can offer their services directly on your event’s website or remotely according to your needs and facilities…
- If you are planning on having a sign language interpreter during your event, name them as a panelist so the guests can see them. AccessLOOP allows you to add a live sign language translation.
- Technologies such as Descript (free) or Speech-to-Text (not free, Google cloud) automatically generate transcriptions of audio recordings that you can quickly make available online after the event.
Sign language interpreter during a conference - AccessLOOP
“ We developed AccessLOOP to break down barriers around the delivery of accessibility. We wanted to create a solution that was simple, with the expertise built in. Anyone can use it. It’s a simple set up and workflow, you can deliver all kinds of accessibility within mins, all within a browser. With AccessLOOP there are no excuses for not making your events inclusive!”
Orla Pearson, Co-Founder at AccessLOOP
Keep in mind that videos with subtitles for the hearing-impaired (“closed captions”) generate on average 12 % more views (Guide Content Square).
5- Inclusion also has to show in the content and has to be reflected by your speakers. Keep that in mind when you are planning your panels.
6- Look for sponsors who promote inclusion.
7- Facilitate engagement and participation by paying attention to participants with speech problems such as stuttering or public speaking anxiety:
- Train your moderators so they can interact with them with kindness and patience: never force someone to speak.
- Use apps or interactive tools that will allow them to react or interact using text or emojis, such as Sparkup.
8- Make sure your team uses inclusive language during the event and in every promotional material. Offer personalized assistance:
- Online and by phone or videoconference, if possible, so that visually-impaired people can speak to someone
- Live during the event
- In different languages if your event is international
- Plan alternatives to the chat and make them visible to everyone
9- Ask for advice, do some training, test your tools with disabled people, stay close to your community to be familiar with their needs. Do your agency and your team follow the principles of inclusion and diversity?
Warning! If your event is hybrid, your efforts to make it more inclusive online have to be associated with the efforts you make for your in-person audience: for example, remember to make the venue more accessible for everyone.
By offering more inclusive hybrid and virtual events, you will also create opportunities and increase engagement, and therefore make your event more successful. Rely on the many technologies and apps at your disposal.
According to a study led by the global management consulting firm McKinsey, companies who invest in diversity and inclusion initiatives always financially outperform the competitors who decide to stick to the status quo.