Ensure your speakers can get to the stage
The best preparation in the world is wasted if the speaker can’t get to the stage.
Presenting in an unfamilar environment can present challenges. Make sure your speakers can physically get to the stage, and present their talk when they get there.
Things you might think about:
If you have a raised stage, you should provide a ramp or other step-free access from the ground to the stage. This is most visibly important for wheelchair users, but other people may have hidden disabilities that make steps hard to navigate.
Being on a stage with bright lights can be intimidating. For some people it causes migraines, for others the heat is disconcerting. Be ready to reduce the lights for somebody, and provide water for them to drink onstage.
At Monki Gras 2019, one of the speakers talked about getting migraines from bright lights, and the A/V team instantly dimmed them.
Normally people stand to give a talk, but that’s not a guarantee.
For some people, standing for long periods is a source of pain, and they’d rather sit to give the presentation. Think about how you might accommodate somebody who doesn’t want to stand. Would your A/V setup still work if they’re not standing at the lecturn? Because all your speakers use a mic, right?
Ideally you should let speakers use their own laptop: it’s what they’re most comfortable with, and is the most likely to work with their presentation.
If they aren’t plugging in their own laptop, test in advance that they can use your equipment. Having to use a strange computer is a potential source of problems and frustration.
At Monki Gras 2019, Lorna Mitchell talked about being a keyboard-only user, and had to present from the conference laptop. She never uses a pointing device, so using a strange computer might have broken her keyboard-only presentation workflow. When something like that happens, you need to allow extra time for people to try using your equipment.
If it’s a panel discussion and people are sitting down, think about the relative height of the seats and the audience. If there’s a table, considered a cloth or similar to make sure the front row don’t get an upskirt view.
- Nicolas Steenhout’s story of being excluded from the Confoo speaker dinner. Accessibility isn’t just for when you’re on stage – it applies in all parts of the conference, including the evening socials.