Virtual Events


Inclusive Virtual Events: Make Your Events Accessible to All


Ashley Levesque


The professional event world is changing — nowadays, more and more workshops and webinars are going online. It’s no longer a given that the conference you have to attend every year will happen in-person.

In fact, this trend is set to intensify. Recent research shows that virtual events are predicted to grow at an annual rate of 23%* between 2020 and 2027.

One of the main benefits of digital events is that, done right, they can be more inclusive and accessible to diverse participants. But don’t take that for granted. Event marketers have to plan intentionally to ensure that their digital events are as inclusive as possible.

This article will discuss why inclusive virtual events are so important and seven solid best practices you can implement to make your event experiences enjoyable and accessible for all.

*Grand View Research, 2021

Why Inclusive Virtual Events Matter

An inclusive virtual event is an online gathering that’s designed to ensure accessibility, diversity, and equal participation for people of different backgrounds, abilities, and locations. They use modern virtual events solutions to create an environment where everyone, regardless of physical or geographical constraints, can engage actively.

A screenshot of a sample interface of an inclusive Demio webinar.
Accessible virtual events mean participants can connect with an inclusive representation of their professional community.

Inclusive virtual events matter because they enable diverse participants with different circumstances to come together in digital professional settings, interact, and learn from each other. They also mean that virtual events encompass broader communities and are more representative of what professional networks really look like, resulting in more value and engagement and more varied points of view.

Some of the main benefits of inclusive virtual events are:

  • Global accessibility
  • Higher attendance rates
  • Increased engagement rates
  • Enriched diversity and representation
  • Better sense of belonging
  • More flexibility and convenience for attendees
  • More cost-effective than in-person alternatives

It’s also worth mentioning that if you use a virtual events tool like Demio that leverages analytics, inclusive virtual events can provide you with data that will empower you to create more effective accessible virtual events and marketing strategies in the future.

👉👉Are you new to organizing virtual events? Or maybe you just want to ensure you’re doing everything you can to make your digital events as enjoyable, impactful, and engaging as they can possibly be? We’ve got a resource for that — check out our ultimate guide to virtual events. 👈👈

7 Best Practices for Inclusive & Accessible Virtual Events

The more times you host a successful virtual event, the easier it’ll become. However, it’s important to remember that you’re never really “done” when it comes to inclusivity. Rather, you should look at it as an ongoing cycle of identifying the accommodations that will enable participants to engage meaningfully and providing them.

Whether you’ve just started learning how to make your events more inclusive or are developing a more inclusive event strategy, consider the following seven best practices to make your next event accessible and engaging for as many people as possible.

1. Understand Your Audience’s Diverse Needs

First off, because inclusivity and accessibility can mean so many different things, digging into your webinar audience’s specific needs is essential. Even if you try your best to make your virtual event accessible, that won’t mean much if it’s not accessible in the right way.

For example, imagine the marketing team of a human resources software company decides to organize a virtual conference on neurodiversity. They thought they’d covered their bases in terms of inclusivity by choosing an easy-to-use virtual event platform and involving lots of neurodiverse speakers.

However, after the event, many attendees shared concerns that prevented them from fully engaging. For instance, they mentioned that the visual and audio elements were too overwhelming and overstimulating for those with sensory sensitivities. In addition, people experienced issues with live captioning and sign language interpretation, but there wasn’t any real-time support to turn to.

To avoid situations like this, virtual event organizers should proactively investigate their audience’s particular needs. They might send out emails asking about necessary accommodations ahead of time. They could even reach out to the event community by posting on a social media platform like LinkedIn.

2. Define Goals for Inclusivity 

If you’re striving to make your virtual event as accessible as possible, establish objectives that are directly related to your webinar’s inclusivity alongside your standard goals. 

When you’re intentional about defining your inclusivity goals, it shows that you prioritize diverse participation and are serious about ensuring equitable opportunities for all attendees. This breaks down barriers, cultivates a sense of belonging, and enhances the overall experience and wellbeing of participants with diverse needs.

For example, a standard set of goals for the virtual events your marketing team plans might be:

  • Increase attendance rates by 10%
  • Boost conversion rates 1.5x
  • Increased average focus time by five minutes

However, if you want to consider adding a few inclusivity-specific goals, you might add:

  • Have in-event information and materials in at least three different formats (video, audio, text, etc.)
  • Get at least an average score of 7/10 in participant feedback survey about accessibility and inclusivity
  • Include at least one speaker or host who’s from an underrepresented group

3. Choose Diverse & Representative Speakers

A photo of a professional siting at a desk, looking at a laptop screen, and engaging in a virtual event.
Making sure you include a wide range of expert hosts enriches virtual events as it gives attendees access to broader viewpoints and experiences.

When planners aren’t mindful of selecting diverse and representative hosts for their virtual events, they may fall into the trap of choosing people from their own communities and overlooking those from minority groups and marginalized identities.

Picking diverse speakers for your virtual event is essential to make it inclusive as it ensures a wider and more representative variety of voices get heard. It also provides a richer and more well-rounded experience for attendees as they will get exposed to a wider range of perspectives and have a higher likelihood of engaging with people that align with their own communities and identities.

When considering the hosts and guests you want to include in your virtual event, remember that the words diverse and representative can extend to:

  • Cultural background
  • Gender identity
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Experience level
  • Disability
  • Geographic location
  • Industry and expertise

If you’re not sure where to begin in terms of reaching out to virtual event speakers or want to make sure your next webinar is more representative, we’d recommend starting by making a post on a social media platform like LinkedIn asking for recommendations. 

Be sure to emphasize that you’re committed to diversity and inclusion and that you’d like to provide an equal opportunity to all potential hosts. That way, your network will be able to suggest some of their favorite industry experts and you may be able to connect with professionals you wouldn’t have known otherwise.

4. Use an Accessible Virtual Events Platform

A graphic showing Demio's different virtual event features.
Demio is a powerful webinar platform that has the features you need to make your virtual events more accessible.

If you’re an events professional who wants to make sure your virtual events are accessible, your life will be a lot easier if you choose a platform that prioritizes the features you need to do so. 

Demio is a dynamic digital event solution that’s easy for anyone to use without any familiarity or dedicated training. We also have lots of features that can make your webinars more inclusive, appealing, and interesting to a broad audience, including:

  • Subtitles: Virtual events that have subtitles are more accessible for several reasons. They’re more compatible with screen readers and other accessibility tools, assist people with hearing impairments, and provide support for those who aren’t as comfortable with the spoken language, just to name a few.
  • No download necessary: When people have to download or set up software to participate in a webinar, it’s a huge barrier to entry, both in terms of accessibility and time commitment. An ideal inclusive virtual event platform doesn’t require participants to do anything more than sign in.
  • On-demand events: On-demand webinars can be more accessible than live events as attendees can attend at the time and in the setting that suits them best. Keep that in mind the next time you’re debating the best virtual event type.
  • AI moderator: If you’re worried that running an on-demand event will mean less discussion and engagement, never fear. Our AI moderators mean guests can ask questions and share their thoughts even when the hosts aren’t there.

5. Make Presentations Inclusive & Accessible 

Many virtual events rely on presentation slides to some degree — most often, they’re used on-screen to support and add depth to what the hosts and guests are talking about. 

Doing this in itself helps with accessibility as it gives event attendees the ability to process the information at hand in multiple formats. However, there are several best practices to keep in mind to make your presentations more inclusive and accessible:

  • Clear and concise language: Opt for simple, straightforward language and minimize jargon. If you absolutely need to use complex terms that attendees aren’t familiar with, make sure you explain them. It’s also important to use inclusive language and avoid unnecessary gendering.
  • High contrast colors: Be sure there’s a high contrast between your background color and text color to make your slides easier to read. 
  • Easy-to-read fonts: Select clear, sans-serif fonts like Arial and Calibri rather than serif fonts. You should also use a larger font size where possible.
  • Break up text: It’s hard for people to read large blocks of text, and they’re also not easy for screen readers to navigate. Make sure to break up your text into headings and bullets.
  • Inclusive images and examples: Showcase diversity in the photos, multimedia, and other supplemental materials you include in your digital event, taking special care to feature marginalized communities.

6. Ask Attendees for Feedback

Even if you think you’ve checked all the boxes in terms of putting together an inclusive virtual event, you can never really determine success unless you ask participants. Attendee feedback is the best source of knowledge if you want to understand how accessible your events are and what you can do to improve in the future.

For example, you might have made an effort to choose a virtual event platform that has an accessible interface and provides automatic closed captioning for webinar replays. However, you may not have realized that your registration page was complicated to navigate and didn’t work on mobile devices. These are the kinds of insights you might only get when you talk to participants.

There are many ways to ask event participants for feedback, but we’d recommend asking people how they felt about the event’s accessibility in a follow-up email, perhaps alongside the recording. That way, you won’t have to make anyone feel rushed or put on the spot by asking during the event, and you’ll give them time to reflect.

7. Review Virtual Event Analytics

There are also ways to investigate how accessible your virtual event was without directly asking participants. For example, use a tool that has analytics that can tell you how attendees interact with your online events. If you discover that a significant number of participants didn’t only attend your event, but were also focused and engaged throughout the duration of the webinar, that’s a good sign that it was accessible.

A screenshot of a Demio people report interface, showing information about how participants behaved before and during the event.
Demio analytics give you granular insights into individual participants' behavior — simply click on a contact to see when they registered and when they joined and exited the event.

Demio is a webinar software solution that provides marketing teams with useful analytics they can leverage to make their events even more impactful. For example, you can see how many participants attended your event vs. how many participants were focused (and for how long).

A screenshot showing an interface of a Demio virtual event with the poll feature active.
Running in-event polls is a great way to see how engaged audience members are in the session and investigate potential accessibility issues.

Engagement features like polls and chats are also helpful in order to gauge the accessibility of your event. Demio’s polls allow event organizers to view what percentage of attendees answer questions — if you repeatedly see that many participants aren’t engaging with your prompts, you may have an accessibility issue to investigate. You can also use the chat feature to do a quick pulse check on whether attendees are experiencing any event accessibility issues during the session.

Build a Broader Community with Your Inclusive Event

The most important thing about developing truly accessible, inclusive events is the communities they bring together. Basically, when event organizers unite all different types of people in digital spaces, they provide better opportunities for professionals to connect, learn, and grow for one another. And most critically, people get to collaborate with colleagues they might not have met otherwise.

We’ve outlined seven of our top tips to make your virtual events inclusive and accessible to all — but they all boil down to one truth. Get to know your audience, find out what they want and need in a digital professional environment, follow through on those wants and needs, ask for feedback, and repeat.

Oh, and don’t forget. If you’re looking to boost your marketing ROI by running impactful, accessible virtual events that offer an inclusive experience, Banzai can help! 

Frequently Asked Questions About Inclusive Virtual Events

What Makes a Virtual Event Inclusive or Accessible?

Several different factors work together to make for an inclusive and accessible event experience. Here are a few important examples:

  • Accessible technology: Use a platform like Demio that doesn’t require event attendees to download apps or software. In addition, make sure it’s compatible with screen readers, keyboard navigation, and other assistive technologies.
  • Captioning and/or transcription: Where possible, use accessibility features like live captioning to assist people with hearing difficulties or who are less comfortable with the language. Event organizers can also support their virtual events with post-event presentation slides, recordings, or transcriptions.
  • Accessible visuals: Be mindful of how your presentation looks so as many people as possible can process the information, including those with disabilities. For instance, include high-contrast images and large, clear fonts on slides.
  • User-friendly design: Choose a virtual event platform that’s easy and intuitive for people to navigate without any training or familiarity. 
  • Testing and feedback: Ideally, event planners should carry out testing with individuals with different abilities before the first time they run a new live event. That way, they can identify and address potential barriers ahead of time.
  • Diverse representation: Make sure your events feature diverse speakers, panelists, presenters, and moderators from different backgrounds.

What are Key Accessibility Features for Virtual Events?

The key accessibility features for your virtual event largely depends on the needs of your participants. However, these are a few top accessibility features to consider for your inclusive virtual event initiatives:

  • Real-time captioning: Written text makes events more accessible for those who have hearing difficulties, use screen readers, or aren’t as familiar with the spoken language.
  • No-download platform: Having to download event-specific apps and software can be inconvenient for participants or even an attendance barrier for those who aren’t able to do so.
  • Easy to use: Many people who attend your event won’t be familiar with the platform, so be sure to choose something that’s intuitive for beginners to navigate. 
  • Accessible registration: If the registration form on your event website isn’t easy to fill out and mobile-friendly, for example, registration rates will suffer. You should also give people an opportunity to specify if they need any accommodations.

If you’re looking for the right virtual event platform to ensure that your digital events are more inclusive, check out Banzai’s comprehensive buyer’s guide for webinar platforms. That way, you can compare the different solution’s features and decide which will work best for your event planning team.

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