In this era of endless video calls, we’re now accustomed to mic checks and camera framing. Does the audio work? Does the background look presentable? Are the slides in order?
While you’re sorting out the content and technical bugs, also consider the needs of your audience. If you’re like the majority of presenters, you may be inadvertently adding barriers that exclude rather than engage.
3 habits to adopt for inclusive meetings
Go full frontal. When your audience has an unobstructed view of your face, they can appreciate the enthusiasm that comes across with your facial expressions. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, seeing your mouth is essential for lip-reading. They lose that ability when you turn off your camera. If you're inclined to transmit audio only, ensure that the meeting is captioned. I recently used the live captioning function in Google Meets. It’s pretty impressive, even with the comical typos.
Make introductions. Shut your eyes for just a moment and imagine you’re hearing a conversation but can’t identify the speakers. That’s the reality for people who are blind or partially sighted. Make it easier for them to follow your meeting with a very simple habit. Have everyone introduce themselves at the start of your meeting, and again whenever they speak. This gives everybody a name, role and function to attach to a voice.
Show and tell. Some speakers like to punctuate their presentations with an image. It works great if your audience can see it. If they can’t, you’re excluding them and their valuable input. I’ve been in meetings where the presenter starts with a funny visual. People in the front row can see it and let out a big laugh. But those in the back can't see it, and are left wanting and wondering. No one wants to feel like the outsider who isn’t in on the joke. If you’re showing an image, take five seconds to describe it. Here’s an example, and a shameless promotion for my new podcast.
If I was showing this image, I would describe it like so: “We’re displaying the logo for More Talent Untapped podcast, with the profile of a white faucet on a purple background. White tiles pour out of the tap. Each one represents a disability, including a wheelchair in motion, a service dog, hands signing, a brain, a person with a stick.”
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s an easy start to include and engage some of your brightest colleagues on your next video call.
If you you want to learn how be a better ally to a colleague with a disability, subscribe to More Talent Untapped. Here's a preview: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/trailer/id1530607177?i=1000490093842
Anna-Karina Tabuñar is an award-winning communications strategist and community advocate. She uses the power of storytelling to help build more inclusive workplaces.