How Digital Platforms Can Ensure Increased Accessibility
A year of COVID-19 restrictions has forced an increased reliance on technology across almost all sectors, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the turn towards virtual events. This shift has had a marked impact on audience engagement, as online platforms have been able to sidestep factors that have historically limited attendance for several under-represented groups.
The accessibility of virtual platforms should be foundational to the evolution of engagement as global lockdowns begin to ease. Businesses should be alert to how digital hubs can address inequalities, opening up events and allowing people to engage in a way that suits them as individuals.
How Virtual Methods Can Be More Efficient
Pre-pandemic, the majority of engagement was in-person, and attendance was often determined by logistical factors that could be limiting for many individuals. Travel to events could be time-consuming and expensive – not to mention environmentally damaging – and these additional costs on top of ticket prices meant that such occasions were not a viable option for many people. In addition, important considerations such as childcare arrangements often denied access for parents.
Digital platforms can navigate these difficulties by removing expenses and minimizing necessary time commitments. Virtual events can ease logistical pressures and tap into a previously unreached audience who are operating within budgets and around other responsibilities; all that is needed is a personal device and a comfortable chair within reach of a charger.
Tackling Audience Inequalities
In-person events were often built around models that were suited to a limited demographic, with resulting behaviors that could be discomforting for many potential attendees. Indeed, a recent survey found that 90% of professional women had witnessed sexist behavior at company off-site and industry conferences.
Societies across the world are increasingly aware that immediate action needs to be taken to address such issues. Digital platforms that enable virtual engagement are excellently positioned to play a key part in these efforts, enabling people to participate as part of a level playing field with only a digital presence and removing elements of physical attendance that some may find uncomfortable.
Breaking Down Barriers
In 2020 in the US, 17.9 percent of persons with a disability were employed, and more than 4.1 million disabled people are in work in the UK. Professional opportunities should be accessible to the entirety of the workforce, and virtual engagement can ensure that all potential attendees can participate from wherever is most comfortable for them as individuals, removing physical barriers that may be present at in-person events.
Furthermore, digital event platforms can easily integrate resources that support those with non-physical disabilities. Content can be built from the outset to include facilities like closed captions, easy-read text and channels where participants can submit pre-prepared questions. Online portals have significantly higher capability than face-to-face events to adapt as other new technologies emerge to support the needs of attendees with disabilities, ensuring that engagement remains open and productive for all in the long-term.
Defining Your Own Engagement
By nature, digital platforms have the potential to offer much more flexible engagement than in-person events. Livestreams can be saved for on-demand viewing, audience members can participate in Q&As as it suits them, and participants can jump in and out of scheduled events depending upon their own interest throughout the event lifecycle.
Operating on a virtual platform means that audience engagement comes with significantly reduced social pressure. Attendees can interact through whichever communications channels suit them best, maximizing potential for a much more productive learning and networking experience.
Moreover, businesses who are running the event can use audience data to inform how content can be tailored to personality types, and to priorities methods of engagement that have proven to be impactful. This can establish a more meaningful relationship between their brand or message and those who are interacting with it – a key marker of success for long-term business development.
An Accessible Future
COVID-19 has taught businesses a lot of valuable lessons about how operations can be adapted as we look towards a post-pandemic future. The increased reliance on technology has revolutionized working models, and a turn to virtual has spotlighted values of inclusivity that shouldn’t fall by the wayside as recoveries begin and we see a return to in-person events.
Digital hubs are in a prime position to ensure that global engagement is built upon principles of equality.
This will be of huge personal benefit to many individuals, but also to many companies who can use online software to optimize interactions with consumers. Looking ahead, virtual platforms will be key to creating accessible content and opportunities for all.