There’s nothing worse than feeling lost and bewildered at a conference. A significant benefit of virtual and hybrid events is the boost to accessibility and inclusivity; enabling everyone to feel part of the action.
Access via an online event platform means that people, no matter what their circumstances, can participate in events previously unavailable to them. A virtual event allows more people to access information, have a voice in interactive sessions and chat channel discussions, and importantly, network with peers.
Increased accessibility was a key success factor for CrowdComms’ client ACEL (Australian Council of Education Leaders) who ran their 2020 Global Conference as a virtual event. The online attendance almost tripled that of the in-person event attendance. ACEL were delighted with the extended reach virtual gave them, which included attendees from remote and rural Australia who normally wouldn’t be able to travel to the on-site conference.
The Importance of Quality Content
While this greater accessibility has been a positive and important upside to virtual and hybrid events, it wasn’t necessarily by design and more of a well-needed response to a global issue. It’s therefore critical that event planners and organisers continue to accommodate the needs of their diverse attendees with accessible, premium quality content and structure.
Before Your Event
What do Your Attendees Need? Ask Them!
Event registration is a good time to ask about specific attendee needs. Hearing, learning and sight differences, for example, do not necessarily present in exactly the same way for every person. Finding out if there are accommodations you can make ahead of time will already go a long way to making your attendees feel welcome.
Distribute Content, Access Guides and Presentations in Advance
Sending as much information in advance gives people extra time to digest the content before they hear or see it in the event context. This is an important feature for people with learning differences who may need more time to process content, or allow those with sight impairments to understand visual material using screen reader technology.
It’s a great idea to make sure event login and navigation guides include images and clear instructions in a readable font, plus a video or audio guide.
During Your Event
Incorporate Live-Captioning and Live Translations
Live-captioning and/or live translations by a qualified sign language translator helps hearing impaired attendees access every content.
Your chosen virtual event platform must have the capability to broadcast real-time live captions, including recording for content-on-demand services. Live translations require translator/s to be visible via a pop-up screen during session presentations, speeches and keynote addresses.
Be mindful that sign languages can vary across countries. For example Britain, the US and Australia have sign languages that incorporate country specific phrases and words.
For attendees whose first language may not be the primary one used at the event, a multilingual event platform will support content access to a wide range of languages.
Invest Time in Speaker Briefings
Just a few tweaks here and there can make a huge difference to the accessibility of speaker presentations.
Ask that speakers identify themselves before they begin and reintroduce themselves if any content break is required. Compile a short style guide that supports inclusive presentations. The guide can include ideal font and size, visual representations and structure tips.
During rehearsals, encourage speakers to speak clearly and at an unhurried pace. Quality microphones will help with audio clarity and volume. Ask speakers to describe visual elements, e.g. images and graphs, and allow enough time for attendees to read on-screen information.
Create Space in Your Agenda Planning
In addition to supporting reading time during sessions, build sufficient breaks into the event agenda to allow everyone, especially people with processing speed challenges, to take in and digest the information.
Include Alt Text
Alt text is the use of words in the place of images. Wherever there are images, make sure there is also supporting alt text so relevant attendees can use screen reader technology to access the information and messages.
After Your Event
You’ve Worked Hard on Your Content – Make it On-Demand!
An event platform that supports on-demand content is great for providing attendees with content they can revisit post event. Whether that’s for missed information, checking points of interest or just enjoying brilliant content as many times as they like, whenever it suits them.
This is also a good opportunity to add captioning if it hasn’t been recorded during the live stream.
Utilise Post Event Surveys
Getting feedback about what worked well and what can be improved is as valuable for event inclusivity as it is for the general attendee experience. Ask specific questions about the accommodations you provided to check how effective they were and ask for suggestions on alternative or complementary supports for future events.
Virtual access is a revolution for event inclusivity. Making event agendas and content more accessible doesn’t necessarily require a huge investment in terms of time or money. An experienced event platform provider, such as CrowdComms, can help you deliver these goals with ease.
Get in touch with us to talk through your next inclusive event!