Communication tips for face to face meetings
We all have a responsibility to ensure that we are creating accessible and inclusive spaces for all. Making simple changes to the way you communicate with others can help to avoid unknowingly excluding someone or making their daily life more difficult. Where possible, be anticipatory and adopt inclusive communication practices as standard.
Group discussions and meetings can be extremely difficult to follow and participate in, as it is only possible to lip-read one person at a time. Following the guidance below should help to remove some of these communication barriers for deaf and hard of hearing attendees.
Before the meeting
- Check in advance if anyone requires communication support and confirm their preferred communication strategies. It can be helpful to include this as part of the registration process or email invitation.
- Deaf or hard of hearing people may use assistive technology such as a hearing loop system, infrared transmitter or assistive wireless microphones, others may lip-read, and some may use signing, or a combination of these.
- Check whether any audio/video meeting materials have captioning, subtitles or a written transcript available.
- Prepare a meeting agenda and provide this in advance to give deaf and hard of hearing attendees the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the structure and content of the meeting. This will also alert them to specialist terms and acronyms.
- If the meeting is longer than an hour, schedule a short break (10 minutes).
- Read the EPU’s step by step advice for booking a sign language interpreter.
On the day of the meeting
- Consider adjusting the layout of the meeting room so that there is an unobstructed line of vision for all participants, as much as possible. Sitting in a semi-circle shape will usually help deaf and hard of hearing attendees identify more easily who is speaking, providing a better opportunity to lip-read.
- If possible, it may be helpful to allow deaf and hard of hearing attendees to choose where they sit or stand for optimal communication, preferably allow them to do this 5 minutes or so before the meeting is due to start so they can also ‘adjust’ to the acoustics.
- Familiarise yourself with the assistive technology available in the room. Test any equipment to make sure it is working properly and switched on for the meeting. Read the EIU’s information about the assistive listening systems available on campus.
During the meeting
- Ensure that the session is well chaired with clear communication principles included in the meeting ground rules from the outset. These rules should be reiterated when necessary throughout the meeting.
- Meeting chairs and presenters should make use of microphones, where available.
- When you are talking, make sure you face your audience, speak clearly and try not to cover your mouth.
- Use the agenda and stick to the order, to provide context for what is being said.
- Provide a regular summary of key discussion points.
- If you are reading from a document, try to hold it so that you can still face the attendees and try to avoid covering your face with the document where possible to enable effective lip-reading.
- If you are asking attendees to refer to handouts, remember to leave time for deaf and hard of hearing attendees to read these before continuing to speak.
- Where possible, try not to have more than one person speaking at any time and ask speakers to identify themselves e.g. by raising their hand, so it is clear who is speaking to aid lip-reading.
- If someone asks you a question, repeating the question before answering it helps to ensure that deaf and hard of hearing attendees hear the question.
- It can be helpful for participants to avoid making unnecessary background noise e.g. pen clicking, paper-rustling, finger tapping or other noises which may be distracting.
- Remember to make sure any audio/video materials used have captions or subtitles turned on.
- If possible, use visual information to indicate the main points of the discussion i.e. note key discussion points on a flip chart or electronic board.
After the meeting
- Follow up in writing the key points of the discussion and any agreed outcomes or actions.
- Provide copies of any documents discussed in the meeting. It can be helpful to share as much written information as you can, as it is difficult to look down to take notes and lip-read at the same time.
- Follow up with any attendees that required communication support to find out what worked well and what could be improved for next time.