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Planning Your Virtual Presentation
We hope you are looking forward to the first virtual conference of the International Planetarium Society! In preparation for creating an experience that is meaningful and accessible to all participants, we are offering some guidelines on how to ensure your ideas are communicated as effectively as possible to all attendees.

You put a lot of work into your presentations, so why not have them reach and impact as many people as possible? Each of the ideas listed below involves investing a little extra time in preparing your presentation for the conference. However, that investment has huge payoffs.

We design visual content all the time for our audiences, so these ideas should sound familiar! Make your presentations readable to wide audiences by considering color choices, contrast, font sizes, and other factors.

Here are seven suggestions to help make your presentation more accessible:
  1. Language: Speak slowly and clearly
  2. Closed Captioning: Turn on closed captioning for your presentation
  3. Font Choice and Slide Design: Use a sufficiently large point size and sans serif font
  4. Color Contrast: Maintain high contrast between text and background
  5. Colorblind-Friendly: Choose a colorblind-friendly palette
  6. Alternative Text Descriptions: Create alternative text descriptions
  7. Content: Be mindful of how your content may impact people

Language

The IPS conference is conducted in English, but attendees often speak English as a second language—and some participants may have hearing impairments. By choosing your words carefully and speaking slowly, you will help your audience keep pace with your ideas.

Closed Captioning

It’s easier than you think! With a simple setting in PowerPoint or Google Slides, you can turn on real-time closed captioning. The transcription may not be perfect (it may even become amusing), but it will help more people understand your presentation. For quick steps on how to activate this function, check out the PowerPoint closed captioning instructions or Google Slides closed captioning instructions.

 

Font Choice and Slide Design

We recommend text that is 18 point or larger for your standard PowerPoint, Keynote, or Google Slides presentation. A sans serif font (e.g., Arial, Corbel, Helvetica) is generally more readable than a serifed font (e.g., Cambria, Garamond, Times). Use headers and larger text to indicate more important information, and use changes in color to signify meaning, not just to add dazzle! Also, you may want to avoid complicated slide transitions, since they likely won’t come across well in a streaming platform.

Color Contrast

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) recommend a minimum contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for small text and 3.0:1 for large text. You can check contrast between two colors by entering RGB values on this contrast ratio checking website: just type “rgb (red_value, green_value, blue_value),” where the _values are numbers between 0 and 255 indicating your RGB color, into either or both boxes to reveal the color contrast ratio (here’s an example).

Colorblind-Friendly

About 8% of the male population has some color vision deficiency, so it helps to account for that in creating graphs and charts especially. An easy trick? Just change your color image to grayscale! If things are still readable and you can differentiate between relevant components of the image, then you’re good to go. But if you want to go the extra kilometer, try using tools such as the Color BLIndness Simulator (COBLIS), which allows you to upload an image and interactively simulate its appearance with different types of color vision deficiency, or Color Oracle, which you can install on your local machine to do something similar; Photoshop also offers tools for this, as does Gimp. If you’re designing a graph or chart from scratch, you can use one of the five qualitative colo(u)r schemes proposed by instrument scientist Paul Tol, or online tools such as ColorBrewer allow you to create color schemes with an option to select only “colorblind safe” palettes.

Alternative Text Descriptions

Most presentation software platforms (e.g., Google Slides, PowerPoint, Keynote) support alternative text descriptions (“alt text”) for images, which screen-reading software reads in place of images. This makes it easier to understand for people with visual or certain cognitive disabilities. (Alt text also shows up in place of the image if it doesn’t load correctly, which is an added bonus.) You can also indicate the order in which you’ll be talking about items on your slide, so that automated reading software can make sense of it.

Content

Make sure to review the IPS Code of Conduct for the guidelines that apply to all IPS events and activities. Does your presentation contain sensitive information? Consider adding an advisory. Example advisory: “This presentation contains discussion of sensitive situations and topics which may be difficult for some people to listen to or view.”

For More Information

Microsoft's extensive accessibility guidelines and PowerPoint's Accessibility Checker are great resources for planning your presentation. Similar information for Keynote accessibility and Google Slides accessibility is also available.

Email operations@ips-planetarium.org for additional guidance, questions, or suggestions.

Thanks for sharing your ideas at the upcoming IPS conference! And thank you for taking the time to prepare your content in a way that it can be appreciated and enjoyed by all attendees.

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