Even before events suddenly had to start going online, there was already a movement of events going online or having an option for online participation. 

Why would event planners start doing this on their own, before it became a necessity?

Because hosting an event online is an amazing way to include more people. 

A surprising silver lining of in-person events being canceled is that many people can now join events that they may not have been able to attend in person. 

Close to half a million people from more than 69 countries joined Hay Festival for its first digital debut which featured over 100 award-winning writers, global policymakers, historians, Nobel Prize-winning economists, pioneers, and innovators in interactive events.

“The combination of intimate conversations and the global audience able to participate online has reinvented the festival. We’ve had hundreds of thousands of viewers who’ve never been to Hay before… It seems like a moment of adventure and opportunity.” -Peter Florence, Hay Festival Director 

When more people can share ideas in online events, everyone benefits. 

For in-person events, like conferences, it takes a certain lifestyle, schedule, and resources to be able to attend. Without the barriers of schedule constraints and travel expenses, many more people from diverse backgrounds can participate in discussions they couldn’t have engaged in otherwise.

At Crowdcast, we work to make sure that groups that have been underrepresented in event spaces can meet online in a space that feels safe and welcoming. We have a diverse community of creators who host events on Crowdcast, and we want to encourage you to include as broad of an audience as possible when sharing your message on live video. 

Taking steps towards inclusivity is one of the most meaningful actions you can take to reach more people and build your audience, but how can you take inclusivity to the next level and welcome more of your community to your events? 

Here are ten things you can do to create a more welcoming, more inclusive space in your online events.

1. Are Your Speakers All or Mostly White? Find BIPOC Speakers!

If you’ve noticed that having predominantly white speakers is a pattern at your events, you might have to move outside of your usual network to find more BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) speakers. 

“It boils down to research. There’s always a BIPOC that’s available in any topic but they may not be as publicly known. Do the extra work to find them. If you’re in a room full of people who are all one race, take a second to think, is there anybody we can bring into this conversation to change the narrative and offer a different perspective?” - Shantel Young, Senior Production Manager at Convene

As you think about diversity while planning your event, make sure that you don’t slip into tokenism. Tokenism is defined as diversity without real inclusion; it’s bringing someone on only to prevent criticism and give the appearance of inclusivity. You can watch for this by noticing if you only have one person from an underrepresented minority group—if you’re just getting started with your efforts at more diversity, make sure not to stop here! 

For more meaningful inclusivity, your organization will have to go beyond the speakers at your event—you’ll have to look at the culture and leadership inside your organization. By moving towards more diverse leadership, your team will benefit from more creative ideas. For meaningful change, create a culture where employees feel safe to express themselves.

When you host a conference that’s more diverse and produced by a team that prioritizes inclusivity, you’ll attract a wider audience to your event. 

2. Make Your Pricing More Accessible 

Even though online events have the possibility to include more people, sometimes cost can still be a barrier. Although you can’t directly influence your audience’s ability to get access to the internet, you can build in ways to make it easier for those with lower income levels to access your event. 

When setting up an event in Crowdcast, you can charge a fixed price, but there’s some other options for how you can set up your tickets. Sliding-scale pricing lets you set a range of prices, from a lower amount to a higher amount, that your audience can choose to pay. You can also choose to let your audience give a donation for the event, so they don’t have to pay any money to attend if they’re not financially able. 

Your message is valuable, and you and your team deserve to be paid for all of the work that you put into hosting the event. As you think about selling tickets for your event, consider options for how you can make your pricing more accessible for your audience. 

3. Have Balanced Gender Representation

Moving online expands the pool of people who are able to attend an event, but it’s still possible to leave out groups of people that have been traditionally excluded at conferences. 

For example, the all-male panel (‘manel’) is a well-known and increasingly criticized phenomenon. Even though women make up half of the population, they’re still underrepresented in many fields and women are especially underrepresented in more visible roles.  

Make a commitment to hosting events that have well-balanced gender representation. 

4. Use Gender-neutral Language When Addressing the Audience

In addition to your speakers, you’ll also want to think about your attendees. Create a welcoming environment for people of all genders by using gender-neutral language when addressing your guests to avoid anyone feeling left out. 

image with ideas for gender-neutral greetings, such as friends, folks, everyone, you, and you all and a note to avoid using gendered greetings like ladies and gentlemen, ma'am, sir, girls, guys, etc. to avoid making assumptions and acknowledge all gender identities
(photo credit: qmunity.ca)

5. Make Space to Share Pronouns 

Although you generally want to avoid asking for gender, because people may not want to share theirs unless it’s necessary, you may want to include a space for speakers and attendees to share their pronouns. About one-in-five adults in the U.S. know someone who goes by a gender-neutral pronoun, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, and that number is only growing. When you have everyone at your event state their pronouns, it reduces the risk of incorrect assumptions being made about anyone. 

6. Set Clear Expectations for the Event’s Schedule and Structure

When you’re planning for your online event, remember that about 11% of adults in the US have a cognitive or intellectual disability, according to the CDC

To make an event more accessible for people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities, organizers can work to make it clear what attendees can expect. Some ways to do this are to let attendees know ahead of time about the structure of the event, like providing information about how long the event will be if there will be built-in time for breaks and if it will be a lecture, discussion, or another type of meeting. 

7. Provide Resources for First-Timers 

In addition to sharing information about the structure of your event, you can share resources to help attendees get familiar with the online platform where the event is going to be held, like our Attendee Quick Reference Guide

It may also be useful to hold an orientation session before the event so you can introduce anyone who’s new to the platform to the basics of how to engage during your event. 

8. Include Time for Breaks and Questions

Some cognitive disabilities may involve serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions. When setting up the structure of the event, build in time for participants to take breaks and process information. And if it’s possible for your event, leave plenty of time for attendees to ask questions. 

Many of your attendees may also have kids to keep an eye on, other work they need to be doing, or other things going on while they try to squeeze in your event. All of these factors can make it hard for people to keep up with a long program. Make your content more digestible by breaking different parts of your program into different sessions. Offer a replay, so your audience can catch up on anything they missed the first time. And if your attendees are tuning in from a mobile device, they have the option to keep playing the event while their phone is locked so they can listen while doing other things, just like a podcast. 

By building in options for breaks, questions, and possibilities to access your event in different ways, you make it easier for your attendees to digest the message of your event. 

9. Plan for Attendees Who Have Hearing Impairments

More than 5% of the population has disabling hearing loss, according to WHO. When you’re thinking about how to make your event more accessible for people who have hearing impairments or are deaf, one major way to help is to add captions to your event. Here’s a short article with some options for how to add captions to your event in Crowdcast. 

Clear audio for your event makes it easier for captioning services to determine words and improves the experience of the event for everyone. Check out these tips from our blog on how you can get the best audio for your event. 

And if you have the resources, you can make plans to include a Sign Language Interpreter on the screen. But you’ll still want to keep the closed captioning, because not every person that is hard of hearing will be able to understand Sign Language.

This Crowdcast with Kazim Ali and Joshua Bennett, hosted by the Academy of American Poets, included sign language interpretation

10. Consider Putting a Content Warning in Your Event Description 

If your event is going to be discussing potentially sensitive topics, you can include a content warning in your event description. A content warning is a notice about potentially challenging moments in an event, like material that will be covered in the lecture, videos that will be screened, and topics that may come up in discussion. 

Adding a content warning allows attendees to prepare themselves to adequately engage or, if necessary, to leave the event for their own wellbeing. Content warnings are not intended to invite attendees to avoid your events. On the contrary, warning your attendees about potentially challenging topics can improve their engagement by building more trust in your relationship. 

Making Your Events More Inclusive is an Ongoing Process

If you’re new to hosting online events, you’re entering an exciting world of connecting with your community in different ways than you may have before. Take it one step at a time, and focus on what you can start putting into action in your organization. 

Creating more inclusive events is a long-term process. It’s challenging to start getting informed and making changes, only to realize that you still won’t do everything perfectly. 

But if you stay focused on your goal of hosting more inclusive events, you’ll learn more ways to improve the inclusivity of your events over time and your audience will thank you for it. 

Events are changing as they move online, and we have the power to change the ways we think about how to make online spaces more open and welcoming to everyone. 

Ready to start hosting more inclusive online events for your community On Crowdcast? Click here to start your free 14-day trial today!

Let us know which of these ideas you’re going to implement in your next event! Or tell us what you’d like to learn more about to make your events more inclusive using the social links below: