With virtual events on the rise, incorporating accessibility accommodations is essential. Accessibility dramatically expands the reach of your content by allowing people who speak and learn differently to experience your brand message around the world. Beyond that, people with disabilities (of which there are over 1 billion) will also be able to connect with your brand messages, products, and services. Accessible virtual events, live-streamed product demos, executive presentations, and virtual conferences are possible when certain considerations are layered in thoughtfully.
At its core, accessibility is about seeing a situation from multiple perspectives and making a plan to address solutions for everyone. And fortunately, that’s what we live event marketers do best.
Get it in Writing: The Importance of Captions, Subtitles, & Transcriptions
Writing transcripts for videos and presentations is not only a sure-fire way to create accessible virtual events, but when you upload content to YouTube and your website, you’ll get nice SEO benefits as well.
In 2011, one of the world’s most-streamed podcasts, This American Life, committed to writing transcripts for their entire archive of shows. Their goal? To make content more accessible and improve their website performance. Organic search traffic to the podcast’s website increased by 6.86% after the transcription project completed, with a flood of unique users interacting directly with the transcripts themselves.
But before you start mapping out your script, it’s important to understand the difference between subtitles, captions, and transcriptions. Subtitles are real-time translations of the words being spoken while captions provide more context around the tone of voice, music descriptions, etc. Subtitles may be more appropriate for a live broadcast while captions work better for pre-produced videos. Transcriptions are scripts of audio recordings, good for a post-show record of the on-air interview with your CEO or keynote presentation given by your top engineer. Transcripts and captions are the SEO-benefiting content, so be sure to include them as part of every audio recording and video you upload after the virtual event is over.
Captions and subtitles also allow viewers who are in sound-sensitive environments to attend your event with the sound off, allowing them to read what you’re saying without bothering those around them. If your event is broadcast in English, viewers who have a different primary language can use your transcriptions to read through at their own pace or translate it into the language they’re more comfortable with.
Check out YouTube’s guide for creating your own captions here. For more sophisticated solutions that integrate seamlessly with your virtual event, reach out to an event partner who can coordinate it all.
Use of Color
Whether it’s on your event registration page, promotional materials, demos, or presentations, your use of color has a huge impact on how accessible your content is for your audience.
To make content more easily accessible for those with visual impairments, make sure to pair colors with at least one other communication format, rather than relying on color alone to provide direction for your audience.
For your registration page or emails, CTAs and hyperlinks should not be only denoted by color. If they are, add a box around your CTA and underline hyperlinks instead of relying only on the standard blue — that way, users will better understand where you want them to click.
When presenting important data visualizations in a presentation, a colorful pie chart or graph is an excellent way to make your point. To be truly accessible, however, be sure to include on-screen text alongside your visualizations to explain your key insights clearly. Incorporating text allows screen reading programs to convert your content into audio. And remember, screen readers do not read the presenter’s notes in your presentation. So be sure to include all key insights and information on your actual slides.
To double-check that your presentations are accessible, use PowerPoint’s accessibility tool and make note of their suggested tweaks. Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat Pro have similar tools for text documents and PDFs.
Communication is Key: How to Talk About Your Accessible Virtual Events
Before your accessible virtual events even begin, tell your audience what accessibility steps you’ve taken on your promotional materials. This pre-event communication allows people to make educated decisions about whether or not the event is accessible to them and it shows your brand’s thoughtfulness in creating an inclusive experience. Tell them about your captions, your use of color, the availability of transcripts after the event is over, and anything else you’ve layered in.
After your event comes to an end, transcript your video and audio content and load it onto your appropriate marketing channels. The content you create for your virtual events acts as an excellent supplement to your library of existing content and, as mentioned, it gives your website and other channels a nice performance boost. Communicate the availability of this content in your recap emails, social posts, and other materials for even more engagement.
To make sure the content you share before and after the show is screen-reader friendly, add image descriptions below pictures that are meant to convey a piece of information. If the image is purely decorative, this step is not necessary.
Let’s Get Accessible
As live event marketers, we curate experiences that meet the human needs of every person in our audience. Whether your event is virtual or live, your thoughtfulness will be appreciated and rewarded. Incorporate the considerations outlined here and your virtual experience will be one that welcomes broader audiences in to interact with your branded content — setting your messages up to resonate around the world.