10 Virtual Events
When planning an event for virtual delivery, it is important to consider if all attendees are going to be participating virtually or if a hybrid model will apply to the event. If a hybrid model is utilized then care should additionally be taken to ensure that the participants who are virtual are engaged to a similar extent as the participants are who are in-person.
*Remember that not everyone has full access to the internet and may have challenges with connection or be limited in their engagement due to the device from which they are joining.*
Included in this section: Virtual Considerations, Zoom Meetings, and Other Helpful Chapters of the Inclusive Events and Programming Guide that apply directly to virtual events.
- What is the accessibility of the platform I am using and how will I adjust or create my event to fit a virtual format?
- The University of Iowa has Zoom Live Transcript (CC) enabled as an option for Zoom users. It is recommended to use the Zoom Live Transcription feature in all meetings on campus. Auto-captions do not yet meet accommodation levels of accuracy but do assist those in equal participation in meetings and events.
- When hosting a virtual event, consider sharing participant expectations regarding camera use. Before asking recipients to turn on their cameras, consider the context and reflect on potential impact your request may have on participants. Requiring camera use in a virtual setting could cause issues of equity, inclusivity, and access.
- Consider the type of virtual event that is being planned (e.g., Webinar, Virtual Conference, Internal Hybrid Events, External Hybrid Events) and pilot the accessibility of the structure (e.g., live, one-way audio and video) with a diverse team from multiple point-of-views (e.g., host, participant, panelists). Sometimes, offering a recording or having the event pre-recorded allows for increased accessibility as captioning and others need could be addressed prior to a participant’s experience.
- To allow for optimal engagement, consider using multimodal communication strategies, breakout rooms, and other strategies to promote networking and engagement. If the content that is being discussed could be triggering, consider providing a trigger warning associated with specific content to allow participants to decide what they will chose to or chose not to engage in.
- Unfortunately, events that are virtually still take resources to make them successful. The ability of the event to utilize additional features and approaches or the level of marketing may be dependent upon how the event is funded. In the case that events are paid, one should consider whether or not cost of the event is prohibitive to participation and seek community feedback as to whether this is a barrier. If cost is a barrier, considerations should be made for lowered cost plans or alternative scholarship strategies. Know your budget and seek diverse perspectives in how that budget should be used to facilitate the success of the event.
- At the time of registration, how will preferences be noted or individuals needs be obtained to create a more inclusive space?
- At the time of registration include information about what access and inclusion will be provided. Review our Reducing Uncertainty and Sharing What to Expect section of the guide to consider what to share at registration.
- Are supplemental materials necessary to ensure engagement and help in the navigation of this event? What information is needed? How will this information be distributed? How far in advance do participants need to receive the content?
- Live polling: Will polling be used during live events? If so, how will this information be summarized for participants? How will it be recorded or not recorded to maintain confidentiality if there is potential for use in the future?
- Question and answer: Who will monitor the questions during a presentation? Do all participants see the questions or will a moderator be able to pre-screen questions or assist with answering/triage?
- Provide Note taking and favoriting slides for participants proactively so that these needs are already offered.
- Will moderators be used to facilitate the event? What are their roles and how many moderators are necessary? What training will they receive for their roles and expectations in advance?
- Bandwidth/connectivity concerns:
- What will you or participants do if the connection is lost during the time of the event?
- Who should be contacted and how?
- Is there a point person for access or inclusion needs that can be contacted digitally if there are any issues?
How are Presenters Selected and Prepared?
- Do the presenters represent diverse thoughts and perspectives?
- Does the committee that selects presenters also reflect diverse thoughts and perspectives?
- What unique assistance requirements do the presenters have?
- Do they know how to use the technology? Do they need to have technology checks in advance?
- Are all of our videos captioned?
- Have they been encouraged to include standard visual descriptions into our introductions, script, and presenter notes?
- Are they using a minimum of 18pt font on slides?
- Is there a recommended amount of visuals vs. text?
*These guidelines/recommendations are for online (specifically Zoom) meetings/webinars.
- How can your Zoom meeting be inclusive and accessible to those with a wide variety of needs and identities?
Technical Tips for Opening the Meeting
- Instruct participants on how to turn on closed captioning and pin a participant’s video.
- The host can also spotlight up to 9 participants.
- Remember that if an sign interpreter is present they will also need to be spotlight or have the interpreter in a separate Zoom to allow those who want/need signed interpretation to navigate screen viewing.
- Introduce transcribers/interpreters and tools for communication, including nonverbal feedback and reactions.
- Inform participants that hot keys and keyboard shortcuts are available and how to use them.
- Notify participants if the session will be recorded.
- The in-meeting chat of any recorded session should also be saved.
- The host should be aware of the recording layout before starting.
- Paid subscribers, including Uiowa accounts, can record to the cloud rather than their local machine.
- Inform participants if/when they are muted/unmuted by the host.
- Specify how participants may submit questions (i.e., nonverbal response/reaction; in chat; unmute; Q&A feature if webinar) and when questions will be answered (i.e., as they are submitted; at end).
- Consider having users turn off their video if/when they are not speaking to conserve bandwidth, especially if they are experiencing connectivity issues.
- Review any specific community rules (ex., code of conduct).
Setting an Inclusive and Welcoming Tone
- Speakers should always identify themselves before speaking and be using headphones (do not rely on echo cancellation).
- An introduction should include an indigenous land acknowledgement and audio description, and can include pronouns.
- For more information on indigenous land acknowledgements, visit the Native Governance Center or Native Land Acknowledgments.
- Participants can be invited to share their own land acknowledgements in chat.
- Participants can add pronouns in their username.
- Speech should be clear and not too quick (check captions/interpreter), with only one person speaking at a time with as little background noise as possible (most important to avoid constant noise close to the mic).
- Any misgendering should be identified and corrected by the host.
- Questions and pertinent comments in chat should be read aloud.
- Ask questions verbally and in chat.
- When using chat to respond to a question, include a reference to the question if it may be unclear what the response is referring to.
- Send links in chat to material that will be referenced during the session before/as it begins. If additional material comes up, send participants a revised list after the session has concluded.
- Presenters must provide an audio description of essential content for it to be understood by participants who are blind or low vision, calling in, and/or have a poor Internet connection.
- One workaround is to send in advance any material that will be shared. This allows a screen reader user to follow along using their own device, for example.
- If a transcriber/interpreter is present as an accommodation, they should be assigned to the same breakout room as the participant receiving the accommodation. To ensure this, the host can pre-assign participants to breakout rooms.
- Consider if breakout rooms need to be recorded and, if so, how that will happen.
Other Helpful Chapters of The Inclusive Events and Programming Guide that Apply to Virtual Events
- Creating an Inclusive Atmosphere
- Microphone Use
- Instruct presenters to create accessible and inclusive presentations by:
- Introducing Themselves
- When possible, record a soundbite of the moderator/speaker pronouncing their first and last name as preparation for the event. This will help others hear how to correctly say their name.
- Pronouns (as they feel comfortable)
- Visual Description (as they feel comfortable)
- See the Start Here section of this guide on Creating an Inclusive Atmosphere for setting up Inclusive Introductions.
- Request of the moderator/speaker/facilitator any relevant demographic information (e.g., gender pronouns/education level) so that they may be addressed by their appropriate pronouns and titles)
- Introducing Themselves
- Checking the order of each slide element will be read by a screen reader.
- Including alt text on all images
- Considering color/contrast choices by using a Colour Contrast Analyzer and avoiding use of flash or strobe effects.
Remind Presenters when Presenting of the Following Ways to Provide Access
- Speak slowly and clearly.
- Always use a microphone.
- Describe images and explain slide content. Include both text and visual content. They do not have to read the slide exactly as it is; just make sure that you cover the visual information in what you say.
- Digital Media Captioning and Description | Digital Accessibility @ Iowa – The University of Iowa
- How to Enable Zoom Closed Captioning (ASR)
- Brown University | Student Camera Use During Zoom Class Sessions
- Colour Contrast Analyzer
- This content was developed in part from the Society of American Archivists on Accessibility & Disability Section