by Matt Franks
Inclusion is high on everyone’s agenda and should be ever present in the world that we live in.
In recent years Inclusion has become buzzword, but how much action is being taken still remains in question and I believe there is still so much more we can do.
From an event perspective those involved in the design, planning and delivery stage all have a responsibility to challenge themselves to create an inclusive experience. Common practice in our industry is to have a check list to make sure things are being considered and implemented. Whilst this makes some difference, we need to remember that we work in agile environments with many influencing factors and variables, so for me creating a world of Inclusion must be something that’s hardwired into our everyday thinking.
In relation to events, Inclusion is about providing equal access to resources, opportunities and experiences for people who might otherwise be marginalised or excluded. It means making sure everyone has the best possible experience, and that potential barriers are removed.
Whatever the experience, whether virtual or in person, addressing your audience’s needs is imperative. Why? It ultimately will have an impact on audience engagement. Whether you want to influence a behaviour change for a more environmentally focused workforce, to inspire your team to increase sales, or to increase brand advocacy, whatever the reason the one thing that remains a number one priority is you need the message to land without obstruction or without isolation. You need each person to feel that they are welcome and valued at your event.
We all want people to be involved and completely immersed when we hold an event, so this means looking at the things which could limit certain participants from being one hundred percent engaged and included, here’s just a few things for consideration:
Representation on stage and screen
From your panel of speakers to the look and feel of graphics throughout an event, consideration must be given to inclusivity. This is not limited to the people used in imagery, on film and the speakers/hosts themselves. They should all be reflective of the audience, and the demographic that the brand represents or targets.
Content and the supporting audio visual
Closed captions should be essential on pre-recorded content, but also think about live captions or simultaneous translation to be displayed alongside the speakers on stage.
Think about setting the scene with your presenters for those with additional visual needs: can the scripting include a brief description of what they are wearing and how they are presenting themselves on the day? It will provide an accurate picture of who is talking and engage those members of the audience more.
Utilise your CRM or internal comms platform at the very beginning concept stage of an event. Not only does this provide a teaser touchpoint in your overall event marketing campaign, it allows you to ask the questions around accessibility and inclusivity in events. If it’s a repeat event, dust off the feedback from the previous one and conduct a survey on what people expect as a minimum level of provisions this time around, as well as what they would like to see.
Venue and physical accessibility
When searching for a venue, we need to look further than ramp and lift access. The whole delegate journey needs to be thought through from transportation routes to the venue through to parking availability. The delegate experience may be jeopardised if the only access for wheelchairs is through a service lift at the very back of the venue. There also needs to be clear signage as well as a wide spread of catering options to consider all dietary requirements.
The tech that’s helping us
Whether it’s HOLOPLOT or Ghostframe advancements that we’ve recently been utilising, technology turns up the dial when it comes to inclusivity in events.
For example the use of HOLOPLOT and Ghostframe technology creates new possibilities in ‘spotlighting’ audio and visual for live and virtual event audiences, catering for delegates who do not speak the language of the event they are at, including those with additional audio needs. This means a non-intrusive, but highly personalised experience.
These are just some ideas but there are many more things that need to be considered. Inclusion forms part of the wider DE&I consideration and therefore so should our thinking throughout all stages of designing and experience. One of the best examples to describe the application of DE&I that I’ve heard is:
- Diversity – is being invited to the party
- Inclusion – is being asked to dance
- Equity – is how much space on the floor you get
- Belonging – is who gets to choose the music
If we just keep this analogy in our minds it will help us in our thinking.
As we continue to navigate our journey to creating more inclusive experiences there are going to be some great, and some not so great experiences. As an industry we must not be afraid to try new things, push boundaries and learn from each other.