Nearly 30 percent of working professionals have a hearing or vision disability.

If your presentations aren’t accessible, roughly 30 percent of the audience will struggle to understand your message.

During live presentations, those with disabilities may have learned how to deal with their condition by sitting closer to the screen or even lip reading the presenter. Unfortunately, virtual presentations take away most of these crutches and it’s up to the presenter to create a positive experience.

Here is a step by step guide to create accessible virtual presentations.

Understand Your Audience’s Needs

While planning an event, consider what your audience will need. In some scenarios, you may not need to make your presentation accessible or you may only need to make it accessible for just one disability.

You can use a survey tool like Survey Monkey to ask your participants if they have any specific needs before creating your presentation.

Discover Accessibility Features

Once you know what kind of accessibility features you will need, discover the features available in the software you will use. For example, if you’re using Zoom, they offer keyboard accessibility, closed captioning, and screen reader support.

Other software including Microsoft Teams, Google G Suite, and Adobe Connect offer accessibility options specific to their platforms.

Prepare Your Slides to be Accessible

Your slides are an opportunity to help make your virtual presentation more accessible. Use only large fonts (15pt), use only 3-4 bullet points per slide, and utilize your colors mindfully (for those with colorblindness). Embrace white space and don’t overcrowd it with pictures and information.

Additionally, consider checking that any sources you link to are also accessible. For example, the website should be compatible with a screen reader and there should be subtitles on videos. 

Make sure that you also provide a transcript of the audio or captions for those with hearing disabilities. Most software allows you to do this automatically. For example, Zoom has a closed captions button in its advanced settings that allows you to save the audio transcript.

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This will also help people with a different first language better understand your presentation.

If your software doesn’t offer transcriptions, consider hiring a CART writer to create transcriptions for you.

If you’re creating your slide with PowerPoint, you can also use their accessibility checker to audit your content.

Reduce slide animations, flashes and other movements as much as possible as this is a major trigger for many people and can even cause seizures.

Present in an Accessible Manner

While actually speaking during your presentation, be sure to speak clearly and slowly.

Statistics show that the average talking speed for presenters is about 100-150 wpm (words per minute) whereas the average talking speed for audiobooks, radio hosts and podcasts is roughly 150-160 wpm.

To calculate your average speech speed, consider doing a test presentation for a few minutes and record a transcript. From the transcript, take the average number of words and divide it by the number of minutes you were speaking for.

Speaking slower will also allow people reading your captions to better digest the information.

Conclusion

Creating accessible presentations will not only help you deliver your message to 30 percent more people, but it will also build goodwill for your brand.

Imagine delivering a presentation to a key decision maker only to realize that they require more accessible information. Using these tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating presentations that excite 100 percent of the audience.

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Ljana Vmont
Ljana Vimont is the managing director of Stinson Design, a design agency specializing in customized, professional, and on-brand presentations for companies across all industries. Ljana's leadership has taken Stinson from a hobby to a well-respected creative agency working with big global brands like McDonald’s, Microsoft, Google, and Coca-Cola.
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