The following is a set of guidelines for remote speakers on presenting in a way that includes all audience members. Our goal is to make your presentation as accessible and inclusive of as many people as possible, prioritizing marginalized groups that are often ignored.
This isn’t an exhaustive guide to presenting remotely, but rather a guide to inclusive presentations, offering additional useful tips for presenting remotely.
Choose Easy-to-read Font
Serif or sans-serif is fine, as long as it’s readable. Don’t use a cursive or mono-spaced font, unless it’s for content that’s usually presented in these fonts, like code. (eg showing code in a mono-spaced font). Cursive and mono-spaced fonts are difficult for many people to read quickly, especially when they’re presented at a small size or low-resolution.
Ensure Good Contrast
Use a contrast checking tool between your text and the background and remember that readability is more important than fun. This is important not only for visually-impaired and colorblind audience members, but anyone viewing your presentation on a dim monitor or in direct sunlight.
Large Slide Text
Make your slide text as large as you can, while maintaining readability. This assists visually-impaired audience members, but also anyone watching on a smaller screen or have multiple windows open.
Don’t Communicate Meaning Solely Through Color
Try to use symbols, words, or patterns as well. Often, we’ll use red to communicate that something is wrong or in error; try also adding a symbol or words to show this also, like an “x,” sad face, or “No.”
Use Videos with Captions
Any videos that you share should have captions. This is absolutely critical for Deaf and hearing-impaired audience members, as well as people with auditory processing difficulties and other neurodivergencies. It can also help anyone watching with poor quality speakers or internet connection, people who aren’t native speakers of the language used, or people who have difficulties understanding the accent of the speaker.
Keep Slides Simple
Avoid overloading slides with too much text or imagery that can be distracting. This is especially important for neurodivergent audience members with attention or focus difficulties, but also enhances the experience for everyone and keeps your message clear. Avoid using blinking or flashing imagery, as these are distracting and can trigger seizures in photosensitive audience members.
Don’t Assume Your Audience Members Can See You
Describe the important visuals of your presentation, whether it’s images in a slide deck, graphs, or funny gifs. If you included it, and it’s not just decorative, describe the important parts, including emotional content. If you don’t think the visual is worth describing, this should be a hint to consider if you really need it.
This is essential for blind and visually impaired audience members, but also helps anyone with a poor internet connection, or someone looking down at their notes while you speak.
Avoid Making Unconfirmed Assumptions About Your Audience
Don’t assume that most of your audience is currently employed, familiar with your topic, does/doesn’t have kids, has experienced a non-universal experience, or is of a certain identity group.
For example, “If you’ve ever worked in construction, you’ll likely understand what I mean” instead of “As people who work in construction, we all definitely understand.” Avoiding generalizations not only strengthens your message, but helps audience members feel seen and understood.
Consider Your Own Identities
…especially if your presentation includes themes of diversity and inclusion. If you’re speaking from a position of privilege about the experience of others: stop. Amplify marginalized voices by quoting them directly. If your talk is about allyship with marginalized people, do your research and be humble.
Create a Clear Structure
What questions does each section answer? How does each section connect? Consider sharing the general structure of your presentation at the beginning (ex. an agenda)—this will help audience members who are neurodivergent or have cognitive disabilities, as well as improve the understanding for your entire audience.
Remember that you often will not have the absolute attention of audience members when speaking remotely. Make it easy for them to follow along.
Include Content Warnings
At the beginning of your presentation, give a warning for any particularly difficult or upsetting content. Think of content warnings like content ratings before a TV show or movie. Their purpose is not to tell the audience members to avoid the content, but rather to help empower them to engage with it mindfully. This allows audience members to emotionally prepare for the content or decide if they’re able to engage at all.
For audience members with PTSD or other disorders, a warning before strong emotional content can be critical to a positive experience. It’s common to use a content warning for mentions of bigotry, sexual assault, and systemic injustices.
Use Clear Language
Simplify your vocabulary and define terms and acronyms. It’s far better to err on the side of caution and define terms that the audience likely already knows, than it is to lose some audience members by using jargon.
Avoid Harmful Language
Don’t use ableist terms, gender essentialism and other microaggressions. If there are names “foreign” to you in your talk, learn how to pronounce them ahead of time.
Presentation & Behavioral Tips
Test Your Microphone Ahead of Time
Make sure that you can be heard clearly. Don’t assume you won’t move in place as you speak, and understand how much you can move and still be heard. For similar reasons, know how much you can move and still be seen by your camera.
Share Your Slides Beforehand
Send your slides and other presentation materials to your audience ahead of time, via Speaker Deck or a similar site. This helps audience members follow along, especially if they’re using assistive devices or have a poor internet connection.
Speak Clearly and Slowly
…and don’t cover your mouth. This is especially important for audience members who are using captions or lip-reading.
Give people time to absorb, think, and take notes.
Treat Your Audience with Kindness & Compassion
Leaving early, not looking directly at their screen, and momentarily stepping away are all fine. These behaviors are likely not about you or what you’re saying.
Accept it when you make a mistake or forget one of our guidelines. You’re not perfect, and that’s okay! If you mess up, learn from it. If you hurt someone, apologize. Give yourself the space and time you need to succeed, because making your presentation safe and accessible experience for you matters too!
Also accept that your audience members might have conflicting needs, and that you can’t make your presentation perfect for everyone all of the time. Our goal is to make your presentation as accessible and inclusive of as many people as possible, prioritizing marginalized groups that are often ignored.