We tend to think of hybrid and virtual events as being easier for people with disabilities to attend than face-to-face events. However, hybrid and virtual platforms present their own challenges and potential barriers to enjoyment. That’s why, if you want to create truly inclusive online events, it can’t be an afterthought.

“Start with your event strategy,” says Samantha Evans, certification manager for the International Association of Accessibility Professionals. “Accessibility [should] be part of the beginning discussions about any event and activity … to make sure that human experience is inclusive for people with disabilities.” Then, the conversation about accessibility at events should continue through the planning, budget, implementation and post-event phases.

Encore - ProEdge accessibility session 2

The event accessibility planning timeline

“From an event planner’s perspective, the [digital] platform is your first discovery conversation,” Evans says. “Talk about accessibility, and whether or not the platform is accessible for people who use assistive technologies.”

 

Strategy

Your goal is to design an inclusive and welcoming event, with reasonable accommodations, that everyone can enjoy. And that starts with considering the diversity of needs, preferences and abilities that inherently will be present among your event participants.

Of course, you need to understand the hybrid or virtual event technology and how the digital event platform you’ve selected works, but Evans says it’s even more important for you to understand how people use assistive technologies to engage with the digital world.

“Is the platform accessible for people who use assistive technologies? Can they navigate it with a keyboard? Because not everyone uses their eyes and a mouse to do digital tech.”

After that, determine the components you want to build into your event platform. Options may include:

      • Captions
      • Translation services
      • Alternative text for images and videos
      • Alternative media for presentations
      • Sign language interpretation
      • Keyboard navigation

 

Ask your vendor partners what other accessibility options they have. Encore’s platform, Chime Live℠ offers solutions with visual, auditory, cognitive and physical disabilities. Our platform complies with international WCAG 2.0 AA accessibility standards.

 

Planning

“There are things everybody in every role in every organization can do to contribute to accessibility and inclusion.” Here are Evans’ Top-5 tips for making events more accessible of hybrid and virtual events.

  1. Visual Aid: make sure there’s alternative text or a text equivalent for any graphics, videos or presentations. Coach speakers to describe anything they’re referring to visually.
  2. Transcription: caption all videos and provide a transcript for anything that is audio-only.
  3. Assistive Technology: make sure documents can be read by computer technology. For example, assistive screen readers can read text files, but cannot read a PDF or explain an image to participants.
  4. Diverse Knowledge: assemble diverse teams and be inclusive in gathering input from a variety of peoples and identities during the planning process. That naturally broadens our thought processes.
  5. Accessible Communication: consider different types of communication methods and preferences participants have. For example, sign language and captions both serve deaf and hard of hearing audiences, but sign language is a language and a preferred communication style. So be aware that requests may come in for both, and one does not substitute for the other.

 

Budget

Once you’ve identified the components and types of accessibility accommodations you want to provide, budget for those expenses. Understand the timeframes required to secure them from vendors and services.

Also, look at the price differentials and weigh how options impact the experience. For example, AI-enabled captioning is less expensive than using a captioning service with a human, but it isn’t as accurate.

 

Implementation

During the registration phase, Evans says it’s important to communicate what accessibility features you are including, what accommodations you can provide, and how much notice you require to provide those accommodations.

Also communicate with speakers and anyone presenting the information. “Make sure [they] know how to present in an accessible format,” Evans says. For example, coach them to shy away from saying things like “as you can see” or pointing at things. Teach them how to use some audio description tips to be inclusive about how they talk about what they’re presenting. For example, “I’m a woman with gray hair and purple glasses” or “the chart on the screen right now shows a year-over-year increase of 23 percent.” If they have handouts, make sure those documents are submitted in an accessible format.

Train your team on the technology you’re using so they understand how to navigate the system. “During the event, they need to be able to support the needs of people who might encounter challenges.”

A nice touch is to allow participants and speakers to show off their home office surroundings, Evans says, describing what is present in the background. “This allows them to express their identity or identities and intersectionality of who they are. It allows panels or guests to express the diversity of the human experience, as well.” Encore can provide you with a point of contact who will help you oversee your show management, especially for hybrid events.

Learn more in our latest blog post, on the 6 Key Steps to Engaging Your Hybrid Event Participants.

 

Post-event

Don’t forget to consider accessibility issues post-event! For example, a five-star rating might be what your organization loves using, but if it’s not compatible with assistive devices, then use different kinds of questions for your post-event survey.

Collect feedback from attendees with an accessibility questionnaire, analyze it and use their suggestions to improve the next experience. If you share anything based on      their feedback, share that. People love knowing that you’re listening and using their suggestions to improve.

Learn more about accommodating disabilities at events 

For more tips on designing truly inclusive events, watch the replay of our ProEDge session, “Creating an Accessible Meeting with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Mind.” 

In our series on event Wi-Fi, we’ve uncovered the mysteries of determining bandwidth and the infrastructure that supports it.

And while those two aspects are certainly critical to the process, neither one of them would be able to function without a talented group of people pulling the strings. So, the third and final piece to the puzzle is the proactive effort from dedicated professionals both on- and off-site.

While it may not be obvious – most of us never see the technology that makes Wi-Fi work – it takes a village to keep networks running. Wi-Fi is monitored 24×7, with techs automatically dispatched to fix issues, constantly testing, and upgrading networks to ensure consistent performance.

When it comes to event space, there is also the added challenge of highly variable event needs which require trained professionals to interpret requirements, effectively deploy the solution, and deal with changes effectively.

There are a variety of support models in use around the industry which vary in effectiveness. As you’re scoping out where to host your next meeting, it’s important to understand what you’re getting – especially if internet is a critical component of your event.

Nearly all venue networks will have an on-site and off-site support element. The on-site team might be hotel IT, an in-house AV company, or a completely separate third-party network provider. The off-site group could be a central team from the in-house AV company or a third-party network provider. Occasionally, larger venues do everything onsite. You shouldn’t assume that the on-site and off-site team are from the same company and, as such, coordinating any complex needs should involve both teams.

Here are a few things to ask yourself when judging what’s most important to you about your internet service:

Onsite Team

  • What hours will the on-site team be available and will that work based on my setup schedule?
  • How quickly is the on-site team expected to respond to issues? Is that level of response acceptable for my needs?
  • Where is the transition between on-site and off-site teams?  If the off-site team is needed for any custom configuration, involve them in the planning process.

Offsite Team

  • What type of company (same as on-site or different from on-site) are they?
  • For critical events with a lot of customization, will they send a network engineer to the property or offer a more expedited support process via phone?

Remember:

  • Setting appropriate expectations for internet support is vital. If your meeting is heavily reliant on internet, having documented commitments for support hours and a plan for what happens if things don’t go well could really help out.
  • If you find inadequate bandwidth, infrastructure, or support at your otherwise perfect venue – don’t worry! All can be successfully augmented given a little advanced notice (and we’d be happy to help you).
  • Internet@psav.com will answer all of your internet related questions, regardless of venue.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

12:45 pm: And that’s a wrap on another amazing PCMA Convening Leaders! We had such an incredible time seeing everyone and sharing upcoming trends for 2020. Can’t wait to do it all again next year in Houston!

PCMA Photo Wall

10:15 am: Can’t stay long enough for a massage? Be sure to stop by our Inspiration Cafe for some relaxation on-the-go! After a long week of sessions and networking, our face masks are a quick way to unwind.

Face Masks

9:30 am: It doesn’t take a full reinvention to make your space meaningful, authentic, and innovative – especially if dollars are tight. With activations in interstitial spaces – the spaces between major displays and rooms – you can maximize attendee engagement and even revenue with opportunities for sponsorships. Get creative and create spaces within your space to encourage conversations between attendees.

Experience Design Session

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

10:00 pm: What a way to end our time in San Francisco! Maroon 5 really closed the night out in style, playing all the hits while we got the chance to network with the planners that make our industry possible.

Maroon 5

Maroon 5

Maroon 5

2:00 pm: PSAV’s Brent Rogers is giving us all the tips to keep sessions up-to-date for Millennials and Gen Z. To avoid death by PowerPoint, make the content for your educational sessions engaging for all generations by using a captivating design, keeping copy to a minimum, and incorporate visuals, video, and multimedia. For an even more open discussion, think about opportunities to get content out prior to the event for feedback for a pre-show Q&A. On the show floor, design the space so that speakers are on the same level as the audience – utilizing smart lighting – to allow the presenter to get out on the floor for a less formal feel.

Brent Rogers Session

11:30 am: When technology is adopted with a purpose, the possibilities for your event to shine are endless. Garner excitement with social media and retargeting before your event, keep attendees engaged in an immersive experience with mobile apps and second screen, and use audience analytics to improve your show for next year. #PCMACLTip

9:30 am: Day two of PCMACL – who’s ready? Our cafe is open and we’re ready for you to come over in between your sessions!

Inspiration Cafe

Monday, January 6, 2020

4:30 pm: Day one of PCMACL is officially in the books at our Inspiration Cafe! We’ll see you bright and early tomorrow morning for another day filled with things to do and learn.

Inspiration Cafe

4:00 pm: Influencer marketing combines the rapid fire, word-of-mouth authenticity that millennials love and the tried and true spokesperson method of traditional marketing. In our industry, developing niche target audiences coupled with influencers that can tell them a resonating story are key components in a successful influencer marketing strategy. Thanks, Susan Sweeney, for an eye-opening session!

Influencer Marketing

2:35 pm: How do you master the content of your event? Felix Rundel and Sami Benchekroun taught us how to avoid analysis paralysis with the right mix of show, audience, social, and content. For your next conference, consider posting content and enabling live recommendations during the show. Not only will you boost traffic and engage attendees on the show floor, but the time you normally spend on content can be allocated to creating a game-changing experience.

12:00 pm: Year after year, our favorite activity during PCMACL is assembling creativity kits. In partnership with the San Francisco Unified School District, help us make a positive impact and encourage creativity in future generations by creating a kit of your own at our Inspiration Cafe! You can even write your own personalized message, like this attendee here:

Creativity KitCreativity Kits 2020

10:55 am: It’s never too early for some rest and relaxation. We think this attendee has the right idea getting in a chair massage sooner rather than later!

Massage Therapists Inspiration Cafe

10:15 am: An attendee diving into our World of Production – an interactive, touch screen experience showing how PSAV and our family of companies bring events to life around the world. With your vision and our unparalleled services, this is one display you’ll have to see to believe.

World of Production PCMA

8:45 am: Good morning, San Fran! We’re kicking off day one of PCMACL enjoying a hot cup of coffee at our Inspiration Café, opening in 15 minutes. Swing by and join us!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

11:00 pm: It’s the roaring 20’s all over again at our client party! With art deco lighting, swanky furnishings, and drinks that aren’t prohibition-approved, Monroe is proving the be the perfect spot to celebrate with some of our valued customers

7:45 pm: Let’s talk about this incredible welcome reception! Food highlighting the different flavors of San Francisco neighborhoods, a makeup bar to touch up after a long (long!) day, and then a special guest appearance below:

3:00 pm: Check out this sneak peek of our Inspiration Café! This is how the magic happens behind the scenes. As we welcome in 2020 here at Convening Leaders with the theme of REACH, be sure to stop by our Café tomorrow in room 305 and learn more about how we’re expanding our global reach to better serve you.

Inspiration Cafe

1:00 pm: We’ve arrived in beautiful San Francisco for PCMA Convening Leaders 2020! Stay tuned right here as we cover our experiences over the next four days live and on-the-spot.

After an exciting year, it’s that time again to consider trends we can expect to see moving forward. Advances in our industry move as quickly as the technology that powers it, and vigilance is important. We polled our experts and these are four technology-powered trends you need to follow for 2020.

1. Audience Engagement

Audience engagement technologies are becoming more mature in the event services space. In the past, one or two (single function) engagement devices may have been used to deliver presentations to audiences in real time. Now, this trend is evolving into sophisticated systems of engagement devices. For example, polling, note-taking, productivity, and communication can all be part of one suite. Expect to adopt engagement systems that allow the presenter and audience to connect authentically and create shared group experiences.

2. Adaptive Spaces

We are seeing a shift: meeting planners are now considering non-traditional environments for both their character and economy. But planners also want their spaces to be flexible enough to suit various logistical needs. Well-designed spaces can do both. By thinking about how people interact, spaces can be adapted for multiple uses. Planners can anticipate solutions that seamlessly facilitate intimacy, comfort, collaboration, and the ability to share content from a variety of channels.

3. Event Measurement

It is no longer acceptable to only evaluate a meeting based on people’s recollections. Today’s digital services collect useful statistics in real time so we can see what people are doing in the moment. This allows us to evaluate the efficacy of an event plan, and consistently make improvements based on the analytics. In the future, technologies that provide additional ways to capture event data and provide even clearer insights will be on the rise.

4. Power Everywhere

Planners and attendees alike need access to power sources to keep their devices charged and ward off potential anxiety about dying batteries. Meeting planners should be aware that visible, plentiful power options are going to reduce anxiety, add value, and contribute to productivity. In addition to power strips, be sure to include plenty of wireless induction chargers, USB-A and USB-C chargers, and mobile charging stations.

Stay Connected

As technology evolves and we learn more, best practices evolve as well. These are only a handful of exciting trends in our industry that can be addressed with well-designed solutions. For more technology trends and insights, keep the conversation alive with your technology solutions provider.

In the first post of our series on meeting Wi-Fi, we broke down bandwidth and the myths around how much you actually need for your meetings. But without a quality infrastructure, bandwidth would never reach the devices – laptops, tablets, smartphones – that we all use. In this second part of our series, we’re looking at infrastructure and the questions you should be asking regarding this often-overlooked aspect of internet services.

At home, internet bandwidth arrives on a single cable, usually in the basement or somewhere else convenient for the cable guy. Then, to actually make use of the bandwidth, you need some electronics – at the very least, a Wi-Fi router. If you happen to have a larger home, you’ll know that the Wi-Fi router that comes with your cable subscription doesn’t cover the whole house, and more electronics (in the form of Wi-Fi boosters) are needed to make things work properly.

Internet infrastructure in a meeting or event venue is the same, although due to the size of the building and high numbers of people, we need significantly more electronics to make things happen. In fact, venues sometimes make the mistake of upgrading bandwidth without the infrastructure to deliver it, which results in a higher bandwidth bill for the venue but no better experience for the guest.

The most important aspects of infrastructure to understand are the wireless access points – we like to call them WAPs, for fun. Ironically enough, these aren’t wireless. These are cabled to the rest of the infrastructure and create the last “hop” wirelessly from themselves to and from your device.

There are two important aspects to understand about WAPs:

  • How many there are in a space?
  • How old they are?

Taken together, these two pieces of info determine the Wi-Fi capacity of the infrastructure or in other words, how many devices you can put in that space without overwhelming it. Often hidden for aesthetic purposes, it’s hard to know from a site visit how many WAPs there are or how old they are – so this is an important question! One of the easiest things you can do is ask for the access point layout diagram. Every venue should have one, and this will give you all the information you need.

The question I already hear you all asking next is, “OK then, how many WAPs are enough?” Well, like a lot of IT stuff, it depends. Fortunately, we’re here to help with that and other specific questions you may have, regardless of the venue you select.

Remember:

  • Ask for the AP layout diagram and the age of the access points. Your trusted techie will be able to make a call on whether the infrastructure will be able to support your needs.
  • If you find inadequate infrastructure (or bandwidth) at the perfect venue for your next event – don’t worry!  Both can be successfully augmented given a little advanced notice (and we’d be happy to help).
  • Internet@psav.comwill answer all of your internet-related questions, regardless of venue.

Internet set up wiring

This post is the first in a series on event internet from Matt Harvey, VP of Internet Services at PSAV

Internet is cited as one of the most challenging items in event planning and often leads to apprehension over using Wi-Fi dependent tech like polling, streaming, and audience engagement tools. Without the confidence that these tools will work, it’s hard to invest in their use and, in turn, this limits the meeting experience.

Connecting people is quite literally in PSAV’s purpose statement, so in this series, I’ll lift the lid on meeting Wi-Fi – focusing on how to buy with confidence and successfully connect and inspire your audience. For this post, the often-misunderstood concept of bandwidth is the focus.

Bandwidth is something we all know something about since we buy it for our homes. It makes sense to us that more bandwidth means we can do more “stuff” at once with the internet. But in an event setting, getting the balance right between too little (resulting in a poor experience) and too much (resulting in overpayment) bandwidth can be tough. In other words, how much is just enough?

Shared vs. Dedicated

The first thing to know is the difference between shared and dedicated bandwidth. You can watch our explainer video on that here. It’s only two minutes long, and we’ll be right here when you’re done.

Now that you know the difference, it’s important to note that the home internet is an example of shared bandwidth. In an effort to make us upgrade, the cable operators tell us that we need faster services for all our devices. “Ultimate Internet (up to) 300 Mbps suitable for 10 devices!” they say.

This type of marketing leads to confusion. If 300Mbps is good for 10 devices, then each device needs 30Mbps, right? Not so fast. Dedicated bandwidth is different. For large groups, we actually need less bandwidth than we otherwise might think, and in the dedicated bandwidth world of events, it’s easy to assume that the numbers are the same as the cable company marketing which leads to an overestimation of bandwidth needs.   

Calculate It

Next time someone tells you they need 30Mbps each because that’s what they get at home, take a breath and remember there’s a calculator for that. This tool will give you a good starting point for attendee bandwidth needs.

What if a presenter requests a lot of bandwidth as part of their requirements? Chances are, the presenter is also thinking about shared bandwidth in-home internet terms. Have a conversation about the presenter’s intended use of the internet and include your trusted techie. Most everything a presenter will need to do from a presentation laptop can be done in less than 5Mbps.

Remember:

  • Use the bandwidth calculator to estimate your needs.
  • Make sure your venues are providing bandwidth usage reports, showing your total bandwidth consumption over time. These will help you dial in on exactly what your needs truly are.
  • If you are concerned about running out of bandwidth, consider pre-negotiating an optional on-site upgrade with the venue. If you need to use it, pull the trigger with the confidence that the additional cost is already understood.
  • You can always email us at Internet@psav.com. We’ll answer all of your internet-related questions, regardless of venue.