Do you remember a time when people around you broke out in laughter, but you missed the joke? Or you were watching a movie at a theater and missed an important dialogue? This is not an uncommon situation, but it does cause frustration, doesn’t it?

This is exactly how people feel when they are in a virtual conference room and are not able to understand the content being delivered on the online conference platform.

Surely when you are putting in all that effort to craft the best possible attendee experience, you wouldn’t want to lose attendees because of an inaccessibility factor.

Hosting online events brings with it a number of unique challenges to accessibility and inclusion. While you may no longer have to worry about physical access, you still need to think about the overall psychological comfort of your attendees. 

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Here are some of things you can do to foster a healthy and welcoming environment, at your virtual event:

Before the Event

1. Designing the Event Structure

Before hosting the online event, plan out your agenda in such a manner that you include sufficient break time. This will allow everyone in the virtual conference room to have time to voice their opinions and queries. And especially for people with learning disabilities, these breaks will give them the opportunity to process all the information.

Also, try to offer a variety of event activities. While not everyone will be comfortable with all the planned activities, having a good mix can ensure that there are at least one or two they like. For this, it is best to conduct a pre-event survey to understand different tastes, styles, personalities, likes and dislikes of your target audience.

2. Sending Invites

While sending email invites to people asking them to join your virtual conference, ensure that the images and logos you use have alt text. This makes it easy for people who have visual impairment and use screen readers, to comprehend your message. Also, provide an option for them to open up a plain text version.

Additionally, list out the event details, such as the length of the event, the format, options available for attendees to communicate with others, availability of live Q&A etc.

Encourage attendees to send in their questions in advance and include an accessibility checklist. 

For example,

I require the following in order to successfully participate in this event:

  • Session Interpretation in ____________ (Yes/No)
  • Captioning (Yes/No)
  • Advance copy of the slides used in the sessions (Yes/No)
  • Other: _____________________________

Try to accommodate the requests as much as possible and in case there are certain limitations, follow up with the responders to discuss an alternate arrangement.

3. Adding Diversity in Event Planning & Execution

For your virtual event to reach its full potential, diversity is essential. And this doesn’t just mean gender diversity but also incorporating individuals of different age groups, cultures, ethnicities, economic classes, physical/mental abilities and disabilities, etc. 

One way to do this is by building a diverse team. This helps to bring varied perspectives onto the table, and helps to communicate to the audience that inclusivity is the essence of your organization. Similarly, you can include disabled people at various stages of the event planning process and the event itself. Another great way to be inclusive, is to feature diverse speakers. This can help to make the event more welcoming for your attendees, as they will feel represented. 

You must also consider economic accessibility. Providing registration tiers at different prices allows people to choose a ticket that they can afford, instead of missing out on the event due to a cost factor. Also, ensure that your online conference platform has a mobile app version and not just a desktop capability, to host your online event.

Adding diversity in event planning

4. Streamlining the Attendee Onboarding Process

Once attendees have registered for your virtual event, make sure you clearly communicate the joining instructions. Share a step-by-step guide with images and instructions. You can supplement this with an introductory video that enables them to find their way around the online conference platform and take maximum value from their experience.

5. Pre-distributing Event Presentations

If your speakers are using presentations in their sessions, send them out to your attendees in advance. This will be especially beneficial for attendees who have visual impairment and use their screen readers to familiarize themselves with the content ahead of the event.

During the Event

6. Advocating for Inclusive Presentations

Ask your speakers to follow presentation best practices such as:

  • Submitting their presentation materials well in advance, so that they can be forward to attendees who are blind or have visual impairment
  • Following a clear presentation structure with proper headers/captions
  • Speaking clearly and at a decent pace, while using a microphone for good audio quality
  • Having a strong internet connection to prevent their video from being choppy
  • Verbally describing the visual elements showcased on the screen, such as the charts, graphs and images
  • Using readable font sizes 
  • Avoiding the use of jargons
  • Using proper color combinations that are legible
  • Avoiding flashy gifs and videos and excessive animation
  • Providing sufficient time for attendees to read slides
  • Offering live captioning
  • Allowing attendees to ask questions using the online conference platform’s Q&A section or chat box and reading them out before responding. 
  • Reading out polls and comments, so that everyone can understand the context.

Advocating for Inclusive Presentations

7. Implementing Interpretation

Hire American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters for your event, so that those with hearing impairment can understand and participate in your event more actively.

Ensure that the platform you choose to host your online event on is compatible with assistive technology. For example, you can check with your online conference platform if they provide support for connecting your event with a real time interpretation platform like Interprefy. This can be a cost-effective way of catering to a multilingual audience. 

After the Event

8. Providing On-Demand Content

After your event has concluded, share the session recordings with your attendees, so that they have a chance to refer back to something they missed or want to recheck on. It is highly recommended that you add captioning to your recorded content. You can either do this yourself or use a captioning vendor. These videos could also be accompanied by transcripts, to accommodate those who prefer a written version of the delivered content.

9. Collecting Post-event Feedback

In order to make your event truly accessible, feedback is crucial. It helps to gain insights on what you did right and what could have been improved. 

You can send a post-event survey popup that opens up on the online conference platform or send an email survey to ask attendees about inclusion and accessibility at the event. Some example questions could be:

  • The event speakers and moderators were representative and diverse. (Rate from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree)
  • The event included a diversity of thought. (Rate from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree)
  • My accessibility needs were met during the event. (Yes, No, Not applicable).

These surveys could also be populated session-wise, along the course of your event. You just need to check with your online conference platform whether they have this capability. 

Collecting Virtual Event Feedback

Conclusion

Accessibility and inclusivity isn’t something that’s just nice to have. It must be a core element of your event and consciously incorporated into your event planning and execution process. 

As an event organizer it is your responsibility to craft an event that caters to the diverse needs of attendees and provides them a wholesome experience. 

After all, accessible events are better events!

In this, the role of a reliable online conference platform is paramount. Because it provides you with the technology that lays out the event’s foundation and enables you to host an inclusive event.

Looking for an online conference platform to make your event accessible and inclusive? Book a demo with us, now.