Pivoting to a virtual and hybrid event strategy is a great way to expand your reach and make your events more accessible to more attendees. Be sure that everyone that attends is able to fully enjoy your event content and activities by making your virtual event inclusive to people of all genders, backgrounds, and abilities.  

Here are nine steps you can take while planning a virtual event to make it a more positive and inclusive experience.  

1. Pick an Accessible Virtual Event Platform

Don’t overlook accessibility when choosing your event platform. Regardless of the intended audience of your event, there will be people with disabilities there that want to engage with your content, speakers, and sponsors.

26% of adults in America live with some form of disability. That means on average, about 1 in 4 of your event attendees will have a disability. You do not want one-fourth of your attendees to have a subpar experience because you picked an inaccessible platform!

Web accessibility is a major concern. Your chosen event platform should meet WCAG guidelines for online accessibility for people with disabilities. 

The key principles of WCAG are centered around making content:

  • Perceivable: Provide text alternatives and captions for non-text content and multimedia; make it easier for users to see and hear content (font size, color contrast, etc.), including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning. 
  • Operable: Help users navigate, find, and consume content using keyboards and non-keyboard inputs. 
  • Understandable: Make content readable, understandable, and appear/operate in predictable ways. 
  • Robust: Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools. 

Ask about captioning, chat and communications accessibility, and platform support for accessibility-related concerns throughout the event. You should also work to make your event website and social media posting accessible by following WCAG for your website and incorporating captions and alt text for all video and image postings.

2. Invite a Group of Diverse Speakers 

Engaging speakers from different backgrounds and cultures will bring diverse and interesting perspectives to your sessions. 

Hosting panels is a great way to bring multiple thought leaders together to offer different opinions, experiences, and knowledge around key topics. Build panels of speakers with different racial and ethnic backgrounds, gender expressions, career trajectories, beliefs, and life experiences. This adds more depth to the sessions and allows attendees to gain a better understanding of the concepts and issues being discussed.

At the minimum, your speakers should reflect the diversity of your attendees.  

There are so many amazing speakers out there, so spend some time looking for new speakers rather than consistently using the same people. Work with speakers that are women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, have disabilities, or are from other underrepresented backgrounds and communities. 

4. Use Inclusive Language

Be considerate of your language and encourage your speakers to use inclusive language as well. Using gender neutral pronouns and greetings can be more inclusive. For example, a speaker could start their session by saying “Welcome Everyone” instead of “Welcome Ladies and Gentleman”. 

Invite attendees to specify their preferred pronouns – but don’t require it. Some attendees may not feel comfortable sharing their preferred pronouns, particularly if they are attending the event with coworkers and not yet out to them. You do not want to force someone to pick pronouns and misgender themselves if they are not comfortable or safe in selecting their preferred pronouns on their public profiles.

Attendees also love to hear motivating stories and content – but be sure that people from all backgrounds are being highlighted as success stories. 

4. Sliding Scale Event Registration 

The past two years have been hard for many people. While the economy is rebounding, some attendees may not have room in their budgets for high event registration costs. In response to this issue, many event organizers have been offering sliding scale event fees, donation-based or pay-as-you want registration, or an option on their registration page to request free admission if you’ve faced financial difficulties over the past year. Alternately, you could charge regular price but offer scholarships to those who need them.

Whether this option is necessary may depend on your event’s purpose. Education and training workshops or events may be able to help a lot of people by offering a discounted entry option.  B2B events and trade shows may want to continue to charge regular registration fees.

5. Make Q&As Inclusive 

Whenever you are incorporating attendees into your sessions or content, be mindful of which attendees you are selecting to showcase or speak. 

On Social27 Virtual Event Platform, speakers and moderators can use Social27 Stream to invite attendees to join the video session to ask their questions on-camera. This is a great opportunity to encourage attendee participation. Be sure to include a diverse group of attendees to ask questions and consider the order in which you select attendee questions. For example, if you are hosting a session at a conference in a male-dominated industry, inviting a woman to join the stream to ask the first question may help encourage more women to feel comfortable joining and speaking.

6. Schedule Considerately and Leverage On Demand Content 

Everyone’s schedule is different and one of the great things about virtual events is the flexibility provided. Be sure to build in adequate breaks throughout the event schedule.  

Zoom fatigue is a problem for many virtual event attendees, but fatigue is also a common symptom of many disabling conditions. Building in breaks will help with attendee engagement. It also helps those with disabilities or childcare responsibilities avoid missing out on event content if they need to step away.

Event owners can also choose to make event content available for on-demand viewing after the session. This is really helpful for attendees that cannot attend the full event day due to medical conditions, family duties, scheduling conflicts, or other issues that arise. On demand content is also helpful for people who want to revisit the event content or may have missed some of the information due to auditory processing challenges, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, or other challenges presented by medical conditions. 

7. Moderate Chats and Discussions

Moderating session chats, social media comments, and in-platform event communications will help you maintain a safe, respectful, and inclusive environment for your speakers and attendees.  

You want to facilitate thought-provoking conversations throughout your event – and that can lead to some friendly debates and the sharing of many different perspectives. It shouldn’t lead to hateful, violent, or discriminatory speech, however.

To ensure that all events hosted by Social27 are safe and inclusive spaces and adhere to the communication policies set by event organizers, attendees have the ability to flag chats sent by other users that they deem to be inappropriate, offensive, or abusive. Moderators can decide to remove the content if it is deemed harmful. To best make use of this feature, moderators should be quick and responsive to flagged content reports.

8. Don’t Be Afraid to Approach Sensitive Topics 

You may want to keep your events light and positive, but don’t be afraid to address serious and sensitive topics. Host sessions around important and relevant diversity and inclusion topics. For example, an HR conference may want to run a session on recognizing unconscious bias or how to improve diversity in recruiting.  

It can also be worthwhile to acknowledge important social and cultural movements or events going on at the time of the virtual event.  

Some of our clientele of event owners chose to dedicate time during their events in 2020 to acknowledge George Floyd’s horrific passing and support the Black Lives Matter movement. Acknowledging tragedies and sensitive issues that are at the forefront of your attendees’ minds can add a human element to your events and make them more inclusive by demonstrating that you support impacted communities. 

9. Create an Inclusive Virtual EventWith Social27 Virtual Event Platform

Social27 Virtual Event Platform takes inclusivity and accessibility very seriously. We strive to help event owners create welcoming events for all attendees. Feel free to explore our accessibility policy to learn more about this commitment. 

Set up a demo to learn more about how we prioritize attendee safety and accessibility.