Adapting Your Code of Conduct for Virtual Events

You might have seen that we’ve been running our first fully-virtual series for event organisers, Admission Online, on our new platform, Vito.

We’re intentionally designing Vito to facilitate inclusivity by default. And, when we started running Admission Online, one of the first pieces of content we populated in the system was the code of conduct (CoC).

At first, we (spoiler: naively) thought it’d be fine to re-use the document we’d produced for our in-person conference in 2018. We’d worked hard on it, used reliable references, and were able to create a safe environment for our guests. Why fix what’s not broken, right?

Then, we remembered we weren’t in a loft in Chicago any more. We were in our bedrooms, spare rooms, dining rooms; homes. And so were all of the participants.

We had to adapt the code of conduct to reflect the changes happening around us and acknowledge that safety is just as important in online spaces as it is physical ones.

As such, I wanted to share some of what we altered and what we learned during this exercise in the hopes that it helps others who are also adjusting to the new normal in our industry.

Changes to Make to Codes of Conduct for Virtual Events

1) Remove references to physical spaces

This difference is probably the most obvious one. Most traditional codes of conduct mention venues, booths, badges, staff wearing particular t-shirts, and so on. When adapting your code of conduct for virtual events, it’s important to comb through your usual document and remove or alter this phraseology to suit your online situation.

2) Add references to online spaces

This may seem counter-intuitive based on our first point, but acknowledging that there are new spaces where individuals can commit code of conduct breaches is important too.

Regardless of what system you use to facilitate your virtual events, it’s vital to tell your participants that harassment isn’t tolerated on that platform, or anywhere else where an interaction between participants can take place online.

For example, if someone were to screenshot something a participant said or did during a virtual event and then mock them on their social media accounts, that’s still harassment associated with your event, and should never be tolerated.

3) Disallow posting without consent outside of your virtual space

To counter-act the example above, you may want to consider adding a clause in your code of conduct around cross-posting.

Whether that looks like a note telling attendees not to share anything from chat areas or any information shared by attendees generally without their consent, by doing this you mitigate any opportunities for people to be harassed or singled out in the wider web.

4) Define harassment and make it specific

This notion underpins everything that will go into your code of conduct and how your attendees will respect it.

A strong, detailed statement about what constitutes harassment and generally unaccepted behaviour relating to your online participants is key to ensuring your audience’s safety when adapting your code of conduct for virtual events.

As a practical example, Kim Crayton’s “Introduction to Being an Antiracist” event — which ran recently on Vito — lists the following behaviours as unacceptable and constituting harassment:

Violence and threats of violence.

Incitement of violence towards any individual, including encouraging a person to commit suicide or to engage in self-harm.

Derogatory comments related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, mental illness, neuro(a)typicality, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, or socio-economic status.

Gratuitous or off-topic sexual images or behavior in spaces where they’re not appropriate.

Posting or threatening to post other people’s personally identifying information (“doxing”).

Deliberate misgendering or use of “dead” or rejected names.

Inappropriate photography or recording.

Physical contact or simulated physical contact (e.g. textual messages like “hug” or “backrub”) without affirmative consent.

Unwelcomed sexual attention. This includes, sexualized comments or jokes; inappropriate touching, groping, and unwelcomed sexual advances.

Deliberate intimidation, stalking or following (online or in person).

Sustained disruption of community events, including talks and presentations.

Advocating for, or encouraging, any of the above behavior.

Introduction to Being an Antiracist, Kim Crayton

For more pointers, check out:

Additional Benefits of Virtual Codes of Conduct

1) Opportunities for a solid opt-in

Many events have made the shift to requiring their attendees to consent to their codes of conduct at the point of purchasing tickets. Indeed, we built it right into the Tito checkout process. And the shift to online events presents an additional opportunity to showcase your CoC and get active consent.

We’ve built Vito so that the code of conduct is displayed as part of the onboarding process, so that the expected behaviour of participants is top of mind before the event begins.

Whether you choose to go the route of making the CoC mandatory at the point of requesting access to your virtual events, or combine that with making it an introductory piece upon entering the virtual platform your content sits on, it’s always a net positive to reiterate the standards you expect from your participants.

2) Constant visibility

While of course everyone who’s attending an event should see the code of conduct and have the opportunity to refer back to it, at physical events, it can be hard to reference the code of conduct unless the organisers add it to an event app or a physical resource pack they’ve put together for participants.

When adapting your code of conduct for virtual events, you have an opportunity to have it to hand for attendees at all times within your online event software, so that they can know what measures are in place to protect them.

3) Real-time reporting and responding for issues

Organisers usually handle code of conduct breaches well and in a timely manner, but sometimes it can be hard for the average attendee to quickly identify who they should approach with concerns.

When it comes to virtual events, it’s important reduce friction for concerned folks to connect with a member of the organising team.

In Vito, we provide options for Admins to ban and restrict participants. We also provide an option to report violations anonymously, or to share your identity. If you do share your identity, you can choose whether or not to receive an explicit follow up on your report.

I hope this information sheds some light on the to-dos and benefits that come with adapting your code of conduct for virtual events.

If you have any additional suggestions as to how you’ve approached this change, we’d love to chat with you about them on our new Vito Twitter profile. Until then, we hope you stay safe, and continue to do your best to keep others safe too.