Creating Inclusive Event Messaging

Creating Inclusive Virtual Event Messaging

An accompaniment to the Designing Inclusive Virtual Events E-book

In this sheet, you’ll learn more detail about creating inclusive event messaging in your event outreach and promotion as well as how to ensure these materials are themselves accessible. This tipsheet accompanies our Designing Inclusive Virtual Events E-Book, which includes additional communications considerations such as platform navigation and participant safety.

Statements and Messaging

Access Statement

What it is

An access statement should clearly list accommodations or assistive technologies that will be available at your event. If additional accommodations are available by request, it should also clearly list these, how they can be requested, and any deadlines for making the request.


Why it matters

If you are making your events accessible, ensure that potential attendees are aware in the first place of the availability of accommodations that may facilitate their participation! Be clear and transparent about all information that may shape guests’ decision-making around the event.


Where to learn more

Event Details

What it is

Details about how to participate in the event. This is the core information we first think about when developing promotional materials; however, there are some additional factors to keep in mind to create as equitable and inclusive an environment as possible when planning virtual or hybrid events. Some additional considerations for online events that are helpful to include:

    • Start and end times (or length) of the event, including timezone
    • Ticketing options and costs
    • Will the event be recorded and made available to attendees following the livestream?
    • Do participants need to download special software in advance?
    • Can attendees arrive late? What should they expect if they do?
    • Are attendees encouraged and/or expected to actively participate via chat, microphone, and/or video?

A note: Making recordings of the event available afterwards can support your efforts to invite in a broader audience by permitting them to experience your content on their own schedule. There are also more flexible options for providing subtitles, captions, or translations for recorded as compared to livestreamed events. However, this decision must be weighed against many other considerations about your event. Whether or not you choose to make recordings available, be clear in your communications about your decision. If you opt to not make recordings available, be prepared to receive some questions and pushback especially for informational or special feature events; however, this can be reduced by providing explanations rooted in your mission, event goals, or the comfort levels and preferences of your performers. One practice we have seen is to make livestreamed events free or discounted compared to access to the archival recording.


Why it matters

This information does more than just help set expectations for the event. It helps create an inclusive environment by sharing information from the beginning that may shape attendees’ decision-making around the event. Your guests may be joining from very different living situations, working or caretaking on non-traditional schedules, or attending from a distant time zone. Behind the scenes, they may be negotiating their private use of shared living space or traveling to secure internet access in order to attend your event. It’s exciting that virtual events extend an invitation to people who may not have otherwise been able to participate, but give them the agency to decide how to prepare by sharing as much information in advance as possible.



Code of Conduct

What it is

A code of conduct is a public statement that establishes the rules and expectations for participating in the event, as well as the consequences of bad behavior. It helps clarify whether a particular incident or behavior should be reported and how to do so. Event organizers, staff, or volunteers should all be briefed on how to respond appropriately to any reports of breaches to the code of conduct.

The process of developing a code of conduct in particular provides a helpful entryway into determining the policies and actions you’ll implement in your response strategy in the event there is a breach in conduct, just as you likely have in place for a live event. Although the virtual environment has decreased the amount of immediate physical risk attendees take on when they attend your event, it gives us an opportunity to focus more attention on other aspects contributing to a sense of audience safety, inclusion, and well-being.

Like other kinds of emergency planning, it’s helpful to include many different voices on your team in this process. Ensure everyone who is participating in the event is then trained on how to respond in the event of an incident.


Why it matters

A code of conduct backs up your commitment to a safe space with the authority of an implementable plan. In virtual events, the fact that such incidents may occur via private chat messages or move to a social media platform may make it even more difficult compared to live events for witnesses to intervene on the behalf of the person experiencing harassment. On the plus side, compared to as in a live event, a person experiencing harassment can much more safely and easily report the experience to organizers without concern of retaliation.


Where to learn more

Statement of values and inclusivity


What it is

This statement communicates the values of your organization, and potentially other actionable ways attendees of the event might make requests or otherwise be impacted by work your organization is doing towards these goals. This statement may be incorporated into your accessibility statement or code of conduct.

Why it matters

As Paula Sotnik, Project Director for the Institute for Community Inclusion, explains, “When the messaging is inclusive, people feel more comfortable identifying accommodations they would like to request.”

The process of devising a values statement helps center these values into your organizational culture. Ideally many people from throughout all levels of your organization are involved in crafting such a statement. It also builds in the objectives by which you might prioritize and measure your efforts related to equity, access, and inclusion.

Of course, this is only valuable if your organization is genuinely taking on this commitment. Publishing inclusivity or access statements can help direct your own focus as you build more equity and accommodations into your event structure but is not itself a substitute for doing this work.

Making digital and print materials accessible

Video and audio are the predominant online media used by the folk music community in virtual events, and our resource guide “Captions, subtitles, transcriptions, and translations for virtual events” covers basic accessibility services you may want to build into these media.

However, your event communications and other materials you provide as part of your event should be accessible as well! There are many resources out there to help you design accessibly:


Access considerations are likely woven into every aspect of your organization. The Accessibility for Teams quick-start online guide from the US government outlines accessibility considerations to include in the design process for various kinds of roles. Make accessibility part of your team meetings and planning processes! If you have a dedicated website manager, graphic designer, or communications specialist on staff, ensure they know common best practices related to their field of work, or provide paid time for them to learn. If you hire this out externally, ensure you are working with providers who prioritizes accessibility. For smaller organizations without dedicated support staff or contractors, add these practices bit by bit into your work! Non-profit organizations may be able to build additional support into their grant application budgets for future years.


Additional resources for digital accessibility