We recently had the pleasure of working with Clore Leadership on their Governance Now conference. This event welcomed 230 attendees virtually using the platform Hopin. Following the event our project manager Jon reflected on his experience and learnings from this forward-thinking event.

Accessibility at association events has to become a priority for event planners. Attendees can now access events easily thanks to virtual events and removing the barrier of travel, cost, and time. Whilst this is something to be celebrated, accessibility for those with visual and hearing impairments and neuro-diverse needs in the virtual space remains a challenge for associations. Clore Leadership embraced this challenge at their Governance Now, two-day online conference in November 2021, hosted on the Hopin platform.

Clore Leadership reached out to us for help with speaker rehearsals and live streaming on the day. The conversations quickly moved to engaging attendees in virtual breakout spaces, incorporating captioning, and hosting live BSL interpretation. We were working with an ambitious agenda of content, including concurrent breakout-style sessions, panel discussions and a live game show hosted by five professional actors.

 

Engaging Live

Across the two days, topics included sustainability, inclusion, and ableism in the context of governance in the arts, culture, and creative sectors. Nine breakout sessions were offered, and attendees were encouraged to participate actively in discussions. This is of course, easier said than done, especially online when attendees can hide behind a screen. We recommended that speakers arrive early, so any technical issues could be resolved, and they could focus on the session as soon as attendees joined. Speakers were encouraged to welcome attendees as they arrived, in a similar way to greeting someone in-person, making attendees feel more comfortable turning their camera on. The hosts also brought some fantastic ideas to the table, including asking those in the session how they liked their toast, which proved to be the perfect icebreaker.

 

 

Making accessibility work

The conference went one step further to make sure visual and hearing-impaired attendees and speakers could engage with the content. We worked closely with two British Sign Language interpreters throughout the conference. Interpreting live is very demanding and requires regular breaks without creating disruption for those watching. We put together a plan with the client to make sure there was always live BSL interpretation visible on the main stage, whilst accommodating for regular breaks without creating too much of a distraction on stage. For those requiring captions, attendees could click a link pinned in the chatbox which was easily visible. This allowed the attendee to view accurate and live captioning throughout the sessions. We also worked with some incredible speakers and chairs, who opened their sessions with verbal descriptions to ensure visually impaired viewers had no issues following the content.

 

Event accessibility for the future

Governance Now 2021 was a remarkable example of prioritising inclusion and wellbeing in an online environment. It’s important that event professionals keep accessibility at the forefront of their planning, otherwise, we risk excluding members from the conversations. Soon the presence of captioning and BSL interpretation will be normalised, but online event platforms still have work to do. It will require more conferences like this one to make sure event platforms continue to build and develop features to support accessibility.

“It’s an ongoing learning experience for us in working out how best to proactively accommodate as wide a range of access needs as possible – as opposed to simply responding to requests which places the burden on the individual with access needs – something which they may feel unconfident/uncomfortable with requesting” Jonathan Mayes, Clore Leadership

 

Feedback

From the perspective of accessibility, we felt it would be remiss to not include some feedback from those who were joining the conference with accessibility needs or supporting those with additional needs.

 

Tom Fadden – Day 1 session moderator

“Regarding Hopin it is not a platform I have used before I managed ok on the day but some of the functions and menus are not intuitive and it can take some time to find where all the buttons are. My personal view is I find something like Zoom or Google Meets more accessible. Having Keith there to facilitate was essential and greatly appreciated.”

 

Heather Johnson feedback – support worker for Charlene Salter and Paul Christian

“In terms of signing up, it was less accessible than, for example, zoom, as it required several steps and we received quite a few emails with a dense amount of information. I understand this might be unavoidable for a more specialist conference software, but it could be useful to note that future participants with access needs may require a support mentor to meet personally in setting up.”

Clore Leadership’s accessibility statement

Access

Governance Now 2021 is designed to support and encourage inclusivity across cultural governance in the UK.

The Governance Code states that “diversity, in the widest sense, is essential for boards to stay informed and responsive and to navigate the fast-paced and complex changes facing the voluntary sector.”

As a result, we will be providing Live Captioning, British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation, and audio description for all sessions on the main stage.

  •  Live Captioning –provided for all main stage sessions (via StreamText). StreamText URLs will be shared with attendees prior to the conference and also throughout the conference. We will be making transcripts of all sessions available to delegates.
  • British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation –BSL interpretation at all sessions on the mainstage.
  • Audio Description – all speakers will provide audio descriptions of themselves, as well as any images, slides, and materials used throughout the conference.

If you require any other access support put in place to help you better engage with the conference, we will try out best to accommodate requests – please let us know at the point of booking.

We loved how Clore Leadership embraced accessibility at this conference. If like Clore Leadership, accessibility is high on your agenda, get in touch with our team [email protected]

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