Every guest should feel like a VIP – no matter who they are or where they come from. Creating inclusive events is a core pillar of BB Events and particularly, making events as accessible as possible for people with different needs.
Creating an accessible event involves integrating key questions from the beginning of your planning. This 9- step checklist should help you make the right decisions from the get go to ensure everyone feels included at your next event.
1. Wear A Clear Shield or Clear Mask
I don’t know about you, but I struggle to hear people through masks at the best of times! Many deaf and hard-of-hearing attendees use lip reading as a way of connecting with other guests. Wearing a clear mask is a simple way of removing the visual barrier whilst still protecting yourself.
2. Subtitles Help Everyone!
Events can be noisy places. Between mingling crowds, announcements and workshops, it’s important to make sure any speakers or presentations are seen and heard. Subtitles help those hear-of-hearing to get the most out of presentations. Ensure they are included in any audio-visual presentations as well, particularly if you’re hosting a hybrid or virtual event.
3. Hire Diverse Vendors and Staff
The San Francisco Bay Area is a true celebration of diversity. Maximize this when choosing your team. Bringing together people from different backgrounds makes for a group of problem-solvers and innovative thinkers, all bringing their backgrounds and past experiences to the table to get the job done. It’s a valuable team quality to have in events, as things don’t always go to plan!
This also means that they’ll be able to bring in their lived experiences and better inform your decisions to make an inclusive event.
4. Prep Your Staff
I make a list of any attendees who have disabilities, so my team and any partners we’re working with are aware ahead of time. This allows them to prepare any extra measures neededon the day and advise of the reserved seating options available. The personal touches make all the difference.
5. Reserve Seating For Those with Disabilities, Especially for Q&A
Seating layout is crucial to maximizing engagement. People are not going to get excited by a speaker if they can’t see them! The exact seating layout will vary depending on the venue but as a general rule, I reserve seating at the front for those with disabilities — this means they can see the stage and subtitles without obstruction, plus have access to the best sound quality if hard-of-hearing.
After disabled seating has been allocated, I opt for low seating, then high tables and standing room at the back. Staggering seating heights give everyone a chance to view the stage.
6. Ensure There Are Accessible Entry And Exit Points
When going to a new venue visit, there’s more than show-stopping original features and possibilities for the activities happening during the event. We want to ensure that we see a lift, a ramp and wide doors suitable for wheelchairs. While the Bay Area play host to some stunning historic and unexpected venues for great events, it’s important to remember how people with different physical needs will be able to get in and out – even if it means bringing in additional facilities to allow for this.
7. Remember Some Disabilities Aren’t Visible
Many disabilities aren’t visible, so it’s important to create an event space to cater to those with physical AND mental health needs.
For example, a breakout room is a quiet space for those with anxiety disorders (and any attendees feeling the need for space) to take a break. Some people find social situations overwhelming, so it’s important to have a place to reset.
8. Get Post-Event Feedback
I’m big on client feedback as it allows me to keep growing and learning from my mistakes. Post-event, I encourage clients to send a follow-up eDM to attendees as a way of A) celebrating the awesome event and B) asking for feedback. Make it fun by adding pictures, writing a thank you to those who supported your cause and setting up an open invitation to share the good and the not-so-good. And that leads me to the final point…
It’s definitely up to us to make proactive moves to ensure all communities can access our events equally. And so embrace the learning opportunity. Our partnership with San Francisco Disability Business Alliance (SFDBA) have been invaluable opportunity to have much-needed dialogues with businesses in this space that can help us do better.
Ensure you speak to people before and after the event and commit to making changes until it becomes the norm for our whole industry. Remember, they’re sharing their lived experiences!
We’re always learning ways to improve and make our events even more inclusive, that’s why the final point is vital. Keep learning, keep asking questions and try to put yourself in the shoes of your guests.
Diversity and inclusivity are two of our core values at BB Events. Contact us today to create an event with inclusion at the heart.