Inclusivity and Accessibility in Hybrid and Virtual Events

Virtual and hybrid events a year ago were often considered uncreative, a one way flow of information and often people would attend whilst unloading their dishwasher or putting their children to bed. The pandemic changed this, the industry was forced to come up with innovative techniques that engage audiences in order to achieve the event objectives. A by-product of the pressure imposed on the industry has been these types of events are now a fantastic way to connect with a wider audience than a regular live event in an immersive way. They are being used more than ever during the current pandemic, and here at emc3, we realise that this is incredible news for those who may not have been able to access live events in the past. 

Here at emc3 we recognise the everyday barriers to attendance for both speakers and attendees, we all suffer from there not being enough hours in the day and jet lag from flying from continent to continent. Virtual and hybrid events mitigate these concerns but these types of events also give an opportunity to people who wish to attend events but in normal circumstances are unable to do so. Pre-pandemic some people would not be able to attend live events because of the reasons set out below: 

  • The venue or stage not being wheelchair accessible. 
  • People with additional needs, such as those with agoraphobia, anxiety or eating disorders. 
  • Parents and carers who may have children at home and limited access to childcare. 
  • Those with a fear of flying. 
  • Deaf and hard of hearing attendees, as well as visually impaired attendees. 
  • Those at risk of domestic abuse. 
  • Those shielding or isolating due to COVID-19. 
  • Those without the financial capacity to attend events. 

The above is a non exhaustive list and from feedback from previous attendees of shows there appears to be a multitude of other reasons.

Hosting part, or all of your event virtually is a great way to overcome some of these barriers and ensure that your event is the most inclusive it can be for both the audience and speakers. 

Below are some of our key findings which demonstrate why hosting a hybrid or virtual event can help to overcome these barriers;

  • An online component to an event means that you are able to welcome attendees and speakers who may otherwise not have been able to attend in person due to timezones, and excessive travel times. This is especially relevant for high profile speakers, who are more likely to be able to carve time into their diaries for a speaking slot if they can attend from the comfort of their own home, or a nearby studio. 
  • The networking opportunities provided with an online component open up a whole new network to attendees. Instead of having to track a partner or delegate down on a busy and crowded expo floor, they can meet with them just by clicking a banner. This will also help attendees who may have anxiety around approaching other attendees in a live event setting. 
  • Recordings of the event can be played again for other timezones to have a better event experience without having to adjust their daily routine to accommodate the event, and can be used for local watch parties. Recordings can also be offered on-demand after the event, so that attendees can watch at their own leisure again increasing the reach of the event.
  • Closed captioning, a sign language interpreter or audio description can be offered on an alternative stream. 
  • An online component offers multiple methods for communication, some attendees might not wish to share their audio or video, but are now able to network via text chats. 

We are working continuously to improve the inclusivity and accessibility of our live, hybrid and virtual events. As we have said in the past, we believe that the online component of the events are here to stay, and we are celebrating the impact this will have on those who previously struggled to have a great event experience, often through no fault of their own.