In a pre-Covid world, startup accelerators would organise events for a few hundred people at a time looking to grow their business network. Any demo day would have a bunch of enthusiastic, enterprising young folks who came together from different places with different goals. This was accompanied by pre and post-event social media campaigns, as well as live streams on YouTube and other social platforms. The main focus remained on the physical form of the event.
On any given demo day, you would find startup booths with bold banners and flyers handed out to anyone who walked by. Imagine a large indoor and outdoor setting with lights, seating, booths and a huge crowd. The focus of the event would be the pitches and their performance, with the option of consulting experienced presenters and industry experts on how to network and engage people.
The Effects of the New Normal
With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, life was disrupted across almost every sphere for everyone. Staying less than six feet away from your family members was frowned upon. Everything was a health risk, from leaving home to touching another person to even breathing incorrectly. Considering this was the ‘way of life’ now, hosting any kind of event was out of the question.
The world shifted completely online. Virtual events, meetings and classes became the norm. Hosting a virtual event while ensuring inclusivity and diversity is not easy. It requires a conscious effort and requires the consideration of various needs and perspectives.
Diversity in an event begins with diversity in the organisation:
Establishing a core value system of diversity begins at the start of any event’s lifecycle. If you are responsible for organising an event, your team and the important guests and speakers you have invited must be representative of a spectrum of diversity. This includes ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, race, socio-economic status and religion. This is also true for your volunteers and team members.
Like physical events, inclusive language at a virtual demo day is important. Avoiding any language, slurs or slang that is in any way ableist, homophobic, sexist, transphobic or racist is a must. Language that revolves around identities is complex and requires attention and deliberate effort.
Issues of Access on Online Platforms:
An online event comes with many challenges, especially pertaining to inclusion and diversity and the physical accessibility problems are mostly overcome, however, psychological comfort is relatively new and much harder to ensure.
Hosting an event online poses new ableist challenges as well. For example, a visually impaired person might find it hard to read slideshows clearly through a video conferencing app or mobile screen. A hearing-impaired person could find it hard to understand the audio in case the visuals lag. Ensure that the audio, voiceovers and transcription are done in a manner that makes it easily accessible to physically handicapped audiences.
Inclusivity can be achieved to a great extent by putting yourself in your audience’s shoes. This will ensure you know what to fix and help you reach a wider audience.