There are plenty of events these days: meetups, conferences, webinars, workshops. Speakers love sharing their knowledge. Attendees are interested in technology news, want to learn a particular skill or discuss approaches to arising problems. As a Frontend Developer and also an Event Manager in a non-profit organisation, I started to think about accessibility and attendee experience. There are several issues that your attendees may encounter if you don’t think about them beforehand. In this article, I’d like to share with you some tips you may want to implement while organising your next event.
Choose accessible venue
While choosing a venue for an event, you may have several criteria in your mind, like location or cost. However, we tend to forget about other people’s needs. To choose an accessible venue, put yourself into the position of a person that may have some physical disabilities and try to foresee situations that may cause difficulties while registration, accessing the toilet or finding an accessible place to sit.
- During one event, our speaker walked with crutches due to knee injury. We provided her seat in the front row and helped with getting around. Our venue was on the fifth floor, so the lift was here also essential.
- We also hosted a girl in a wheelchair. She came with a friend who supported her. During workshops, she sat next to a table that was easy to access. We also made sure that the toilet is also accessible to her. We placed extension cables the way that they didn’t cause any troubles while getting around. We also made sure that the toilet is also accessible to her.
Prepare legible presentations
Art of creating presentations and storytelling is intricate. As a speaker or webinar host, it’s also important to remember about accessibility. As an organiser, you may develop a set of requirements that speakers should follow to provide the best possible experience.
- Use high contrast (background and text on the slides). There are special tools like this website.
- Avoid white background on your slides; it may be too bright and quite irritating to viewers eyes. Dark modes are implemented more and more in web apps, use it in your presentations also!
- Use readable typefaces
- Provide a transcript of your presentation
Have you ever heard about lip reading? It’s a good idea to reserve some spots in the first row for people who need to sit close to the speaker. If you’re organising a large event, streaming the speaker’s face close up on a large screen might also help. Apart from that, make sure the acoustics is well-tuned. Without the proper sound system, there is no way to create a great presentation experience.
Go vegetarian, reduce plastic
If you’re providing food during your event, think about it carefully. There are many people with different allergies and preferences. I know it isn’t easy to please everybody, but with little additional effort, it’s possible. The first step is to go vegetarian for everybody. It may be a vegetarian pizza; otherwise, try to find some vegetarian catering. Before all the workshops I organised, we asked all attendees about their food preferences. This way, it was possible also to provide gluten-free, lactose-free and vegan meals and snacks.
Additionally, during girls.js events, we care about the environment, and that’s also the reason why we choose to go vegetarian. Minimising plastic usage is also essential for us. Thanks to these actions, we also manifest our values and create a positive image of the organisation. You can do it too!
Quality over quantity
A big queue for a toilet? Lost or unsatisfied people? Not enough food for all attendees? Those are big sins of event organisers. Mass events are difficult to tackle and even more challenging to provide the best attendees experience. From my perspective, it’s better to focus on quality and make the participant feel special. As an organiser, you should be focusing on creating a friendly atmosphere and providing knowledge in an accessible way. Create quality time, and you’re responsible for this as an organiser and a speaker.
During workshops I organised we work in small teams (each team consisted of one mentor and three attendees). This way, we are sure girls who take part in the workshop get the most value out of the whole training. I believe that this personal approach helps to gain trust and reduce the fear of asking questions. It’s especially important in technical and hard skills workshops. However, this approach requires the group to be in an approximate the same level of advancement in a given topic. That’s essential from the mentor’s perspective.
Other little improvements
- If it’s possible, provide a small room for mothers who breastfeed. Mothers often struggle to find a place that is suitable for such intimate moments. Baby carriages are another reason why you should provide an accessible venue.
- I also learned that a great way of taking care of your attendees is to offer rescue baskets. These handy little items will make your participants feel you care about them.
- Say big thank you to speakers and people that helped during the event. A little gift will certainly make them feel cherished.
Ask your attendees
If you have a registration form for your event, include an additional field and ask if your attendees need some support during the event. In case you sell tickets for your event, you may have a small annotation in the confirmation email or directly on the ticket. That may help both sides: you may get prepared as a host and provide excellent experience and care to your attendees. Getting feedback after the event also may help you improve and learn about people’s needs. Be open to new perspectives!
Be a genuine host
Attendees experience is all about people and making them feel comfortable during your events. You may wonder, why should you care about those details?
Here’s a quote that best answers this question:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou
Have you ever organised an event? Do you have your secret ways to surprise your attendees and provide the best attendees experience? Or maybe you learned a lesson the hard way? Let me know in the comments what your key to organising accessible events is?