How Do You Create an Inclusive Environment at Your Event?

by Mar 7, 2022Virtual Event Production

The advent of virtual and hybrid events has ushered in a new era of event inclusivity. They are more accessible because virtual events registrations are typically cheaper and attendees can join in from home.

However, cultivating an inclusive environment for your event entails more than just including a virtual component. It’s also important to respect diverse perspectives and keep your language inclusive across all channels. 

Create a Diverse Organizing Committee 

Your organizing committee sets the general tone for the event. So if you’re aiming to nurture an inclusive environment, it’s vital to have an organizing team with diverse perspectives. A diverse committee can help you answer pressing questions like:

  • What steps can I take to make my event more accessible?
  • Is our message inclusive across all channels?
  • Do our distribution channels promote inclusivity?

Unfortunately, people can face discrimination in different ways. They may be excluded for their disability, background, financial status, education, and more. By inviting diverse perspectives, you can proactively reduce unconscious biases with the help of balanced views.

Diversify Your Panel

Just like a diverse committee invites different organizational perspectives, a diverse panel ensures your event’s content is inclusive and caters to various audiences. Speakers can share their unique insights and experiences and cover topics in which they may have specific expertise.

However, a diverse panel offers more than a better content experience. Diversifying your panel also promotes event inclusivity by providing audiences with speakers that they can better identify with and relate to. 

Of course, diversifying your panel is easier said than done. Statistically, the events industry falls short in cultivating diversity and inclusivity. The problem persists for a myriad of reasons, including unbalanced gender ratios by industry, unconscious biases, budget constraints, and more. However, there are steps you can take to encourage a more diverse, inclusive panel. 

For example, Forbes suggests paying your speakers can encourage gender diversity. According to the publication, more female professionals struggle to leave the office and work without pay. Thus, if you’re not paying speakers, then you could be unintentionally discouraging female speakers. 

Make Your Platform Accessible

Technological advancements have brought significant opportunities to make virtual content more accessible. With the right software and best practices, you can make event content more accessible to the hard of hearing, visually impaired, intellectually or developmentally disabled, and non-native speakers. 

Here are some ways to increase access for:

Hard of Hearing Attendees

You can make your content more accessible to people who are hard of hearing by improving the sound output from the speakers’ end. This involves using headsets (if possible), minimizing background noise, speaking clearly, and using an events platform that delivers high-quality audio and accurate captioning. Captioning can significantly improve the event experience for hard-of-hearing people, but the captions must be as accurate as possible.

One of the most effective ways to improve hard of hearing peoples’ experience is to have a sign language interpreter accompany the speaker. This may not always be practical, or feasible, but it’s a great offering to consider, especially if you have hard of hearing attendees as registrants.

Visually Impaired Attendees

You can help visually impaired people connect with your event by reading out content that is text-orientated and being mindful about visuals. For example, speakers can position themselves in a well-lit area and use bright, contrasting colors to make their presentations and visual aids easier to follow.

Developmentally Challenged Attendees

Developmentally challenged attendees may process information at a different pace, so it’s important to keep your event accessible to them. Introducing captioning and alt text can help them follow your content better, but more importantly, scheduling in short breaks or taking Q&As in between can help developmentally challenged people follow your sessions better. 

Non-Native Speakers

In addition to accomodating disabilities and impairments, it’s also important to increase access to non-native speakers and attendees from different cultural backgrounds. You can achieve the former by using translation software to make captioning available in different languages, but the effectiveness depends on the quality of the software you use. 

Beyond using translation software, it’s also worth considering having live translators to help out, especially during the question-answer sessions. 

Mind Your Pricing

While virtual events can increase your reach significantly, expensive ticket prices could reduce your events’ accessibility to certain audiences. Virtual events are typically cheaper to attend than their live counterparts, and many virtual conferences are free to attend.

However, offering free or cheap tickets isn’t always feasible, especially if sponsorship deals aren’t your primary source of revenue. If you need to charge attendees, you can still consider some tried-and-tested strategies to make the event more accessible.

For example, you can introduce price discrimination by location. In this case, the ticket price is usually higher for first-world countries and discounted for developing regions. Price discrimination helps you maintain profitability while remaining accessible.

Alternatively, you can create customized attendee experiences with different corresponding ticket costs. You can pack the essential features into an affordably priced ticket, and introduce premium features and options as upsells. For example, a fairly common upsell practice is to offer free tickets but require users to purchase an ‘access pass’ to obtain recordings after the event. 

Use Inclusive Language, Consistently

In the interest of cultivating a diverse, inclusive environment, it is crucial to use inclusive language throughout your event’s lifecycle. This includes any promotional efforts, including marketing content, and the events’ content itself. 

In general, it’s best to avoid jargon and complicated language. Where possible, try sticking to plain language. For certain events, e.g. medical conferences, avoiding jargon and technical language may not be possible. However, in such cases, your speakers can explain the terms in simple language to make sure your audience can follow the discussion. 

Additionally, it’s important to avoid potentially discriminatory language, including ableist, sexist, potentially triggering, and racist terminology. You can read more about appropriate language in Self-defined’s dictionary

Collect Feedback and Suggestions

Making sure your events are diverse and inclusive is a continuous process that doesn’t finish with employing the best practices. Event organizers should prioritize continuous improvement and collect customer feedback on how to improve user experiences. 

After your event concludes, ask attendees to briefly share their experience, including how inclusive they found your event environment. They may have valuable suggestions for how to make your next event even more inclusive. 

Moreover, collecting customer feedback doesn’t need to be limited to post-event. You can take proactive measures by collecting suggestions at the ticketing stage. When attendees purchase their tickets, you can send them an email or use a popup form to collect suggestions about how to make your event more inclusive. You can also give attendees the option to share any special accessibility requirements they may have.

Event Inclusivity: The way forward

Virtual event platforms provide organizers with the tools to create inclusive events that celebrate diversity and improve accessibility. However, to achieve a truly inclusive ecosystem, it’s vital to consciously encourage diverse perspectives and work towards making your event inclusive.

Before you start planning your event, try to encourage diversity in your organizing committee. Having diverse perspectives paves the way to more event inclusivity. And after putting your team together, make it a priority to keep your event as inclusive and accessible as possible.

The event’s industry is moving towards a more inclusive, accessible era, but it’s not quite there yet. With the right technology and a commitment to do better, we can create more inclusive, diverse events.