Effective communication is rooted in connection. Truly connecting with your audience – and increasing your likelihood of being heard – means ensuring they feel included, valued, and safe.
CWB’s Inclusion and Diversity team recently developed a toolkit to support employees in delivering more inclusive presentations at work. Gathering input from the organization’s 11 Employee Represented Groups and broader People and Culture team, this resource reflects proven best practices as well as employees’ real-life experiences as presenters and audience members – like this story from Uppi Doshi, Senior Manager, Inclusion and Diversity.
“I once started a presentation by asking everyone to turn their camera on. Yet I noticed that, even with my request, only about half of them did,” she says. “I continued – albeit a little disheartened – and assumed that maybe they weren’t interested in what I had to share. Afterwards I asked for anonymous feedback. I was surprised when people said they enjoyed the content but felt pressured by the camera request. Those who didn’t turn on their camera said they worried I would perceive them as disinterested and disengaged."
"This was really eye opening. I now start presentations by inviting the audience to come on camera if they’re comfortable and I let them know that being off camera is ok, too. I’m also mindful of other ways to engage them. I use interactive polls, invite people to use the chat, and pause for questions.”
Here we borrow from the toolkit. These 7 insights can improve anyone’s communication – including entrepreneurs who want to better connect with their employees, clients, or other stakeholders. This of course isn’t an exhaustive list, and so we’ve included more resources at the end.
Pro tip: Take time to know and understand your audience in advance. Are you assuming everyone has a certain lifestyle, level of ability, background, or cultural understanding? As you move through the following steps, consider how audience members might consume your content before, during, and after your presentation.
1. Plan for format and delivery.
- Set time aside at the start to build relationships.
- Record the meeting,
- Use captions and provide transcripts of video recordings.
- Use a simple, step-by-step flow of topics and information.
- Use a microphone, even if you think you’re loud.
- Use slides even if only part of your audience is virtual (hybrid).
- Show an outline of your presentation at the onset and make it available as a handout.
- Refer to the outline as you begin each new section of the presentation.
- Consider having an ASL interpreter.
2. Design your slides to be understood.
- Use bulleted or numbered lists rather than hyphens (-) or asterisks (*).
- Use bold instead of italics to draw attention to some words.
- Don’t rely on font or colour to convey meaning.
- Use sans-serif fonts designed for projectors and online viewing.
- Use text for hyperlinks rather than pasting the URL.
- Avoid using all caps.
- Use imagery that reflects/represents your audience.
- Use photos of actual employees if you can/it’s appropriate.
- Consider using visual cues.
- Don’t bottom-align slide text unless you know the bottom of the screen is located well above the audience, or the audience seating is tiered.
7 insights on accessibility in business.Read article
3. Share information beforehand – and allow enough time to review and respond.
This might include providing:
- An agenda
- The slide deck (if you’re able to provide in advance)
- A backgrounder or other context
- Questions, ideas, or concepts you’d like the audience to contribute or be ready to discuss
4. How you start matters.
- Confirm attendees can see and hear you.
- Not all participants will be able to see you. Include a description of yourself in your introduction. This serves a similar function to adding alt text to images: ‘I’m Amy Ort, and I use she/her/hers pronouns. I am a white woman with short brown hair and glasses with a black frame. I’m wearing a pink polo shirt. I am in my office.”
- Share your pronouns and ask others for theirs when addressing them.
- List the options for participating, e.g. comments in the chat, mic on, camera on and off, etc.
- Include a land acknowledgement.
How accessibility enhances your talent pool.Read article
5. Be inclusive in your suggestions, activities, and requests.
- Provide options when recommending actions, e.g. “There are many ways to do X, and some common examples are Y and Z.”
- Camera on/mic on requirements.
- Timed tasks (e.g. first response gets the prize).
- Movement tasks (e.g. scavenger hunts).
- Mandatory social engagement (e.g. everyone will share one fun fact about themselves).
- Asking people to make eye contact, sit still, or have a firm handshake.
6. Learn and use inclusive alternatives for common phrases.
- Try saying this: Hi everyone
Instead of this: Hi guys
- Try saying this: This is important to me
Instead of this: I'm so OCD about this
- Try saying this: Legacy
Instead of this: Grandfathering in
- Try saying this: I will regroup with the team on this
Instead of this: I'll circle the wagon on this
7. Send content and action items after the presentation.
This might include providing:
- A slide deck (especially if you couldn’t send it in advance).
- A summary of key points, minutes, or decisions.
- Any recordings or transcripts.
- Action items, including who’s responsible for what and when.
- A tracker for action items that keeps everyone updated on progress.
- Accessible Fonts – Accessibility and Usability at Penn State
- A11y Cat: digital accessibility resources
- McMaster University – Accessibility Hub – Presentations
- Top 10 Tips for Accessible Slide Presentations – University of Wisconsin
- How can you make your presentation accessible? – University of Washington
- Inclusive Design For Accessible Presentations – Smashing Magazine