Inclusion in the events industry. Improving the visitor experience for all.

A recent personal experience highlighted to 52eight3 founder, Katie Crocombe, the importance of looking deeper into our industry’s hot topics, to the real challenges behind them.

Katie explains how it all started on a recent trip through Gatwick Airport...

“On my way to the gate, I saw signs that informed us we were going to be using the new self-boarding gates and have to admit, I was a bit excited! If we ignore the awful queues, stressed out passengers and sadly terrible customer service, there was one issue with my self-boarding experience which really hit home.

I had to remove my glasses so the camera could take a photo to verify my face: so far, all good. In a feat of fantastic design, the instructions for the next step were written below the camera screen and, without my glasses, I couldn’t read them. Someone even had to tap me on the shoulder and tell me to put in my passport! I’m not someone who embarrasses easily but, in an airport security environment, it definitely made me turn red.

Thinking about my faux pas further I realised that the design of the gates were just as much of an issue as my poor eyesight. What’s more, I realised that none of the experience had been designed for people with mobility requirements or had taken into consideration that the users may require any additional assistance.

As an events professional, this realisation got me thinking about how we use technology in our wider industry. I often hear from organisers that certain tech products aren’t right for their audience which they usually qualify with the age or assumed technological capability of their average attendee. But have you heard of an event organiser using tech to support those who need more assistance to get the most out of the event or even to enable them to attend in the first place? Because I haven’t. This got me thinking even deeper, about whether we are unintentionally marginalising a whole group of people who might want to attend our events but perhaps, physically can’t?

We all talk about ‘improving the visitor experience’ time and time again but what really do we classify as experience and really should we be rethinking this common marketing ‘strategy’ with something that enables our events to be open to everyone? Perhaps the ‘improving the visitor experience’ should become ‘creating a visitor strategy for all’? Are we being too narrow minded when we define who our ‘visitor’ is?

 I think this is a fascinating discussion and a shift that’s needed in our industry and I believe technology can support us with this shift.

Despite my experience at Gatwick, I know that truly great, well thought-out tech can improve lives. I’ll never forget the moment when I witnessed a deaf person using FaceTime and saw the transformational quality of the technology.

In my mind, there are already fantastic #eventtech solutions which applied with thought and sensitivity, can have the ability to transform visitor experiences - but are we using them correctly and widely?

 Some ideas spring to mind:

  1. Interactive conference tech such as Glisser and Sli.do can support those with speech challenges, and also anxiety of public speaking to participant in Q&As.

  2. ‘Silent Disco’ tech can be used to support those with mobility requirements to listen to content from a remote part of the event space. (Think about it – how many people build stages and platforms for their theatres but don’t think about access?)

  3. Badge data capture tech such as Poken can support visitors by capturing data from exhibitor stands meaning those who aren’t able to physically carry vast amounts of material are still able to collect important information about exhibitors. 

I wonder if there are other areas we can look at as an industry?

  • Are we building accessible registration desks?

  • Is it an industry norm to share accessibility info on your event website?

  • Are our websites fully prepped and ready for screenreaders?

You might be reading this, shaking your head that it’s taken me so long to appreciate this important element of our work. But sometimes there are small moments in life which give us a new appreciation and a greater compassion for our fellow human. For me, this was one of them.  

At Event Tech Live next week, why not take a fresh approach to sourcing products and services on offer and not judge the tech suppliers exhibiting on whether they would improve your bottom line or get you more numbers through the door, but ask, could this tech open up your event to become more inclusive and an experience for all?”

This is a topic at 52eight3 that we are deeply passionate about exploring further and openly welcome comments, input and insight that others can bring to this subject. Please email katie@52eight3.com to share your thoughts.