5 Reasons Why You Should Include Closed Captioning in Virtual Events

Have you ever thought about how accessible your online content is? How inclusive is your brand? If your organization regularly publishes videos or hosts webinars and other types of online presentations, are you truly helping out your audience with the best user experience? One way to succinctly address all of these questions is to include closed captions in your video content and virtual events.

From webinars and webcasts to OnDemand video and eLearning modules, these types of UX elements are playing an increasingly important role in today's world. That’s one reason why we’re happy to announce that BeaconLive provides full support for ADA compliance for both live and OnDemand transcription and closed captioning. 


In a nutshell, closed captions are short lines of text that sync up with a video’s audio track. They transcribe the audio to text in “caption frames” on top of or underneath the video, including not only the words of speakers but also the speakers’ names, sound effects and other elements that may not be related to speech at all. Additionally, while open captions are always on screen and cannot be turned off by the user, closed captions can be enabled or disabled in a viewer’s video or device settings.


Below, we shed light on five ways closed captions will make your content better. Particularly if your goal is to educate your audience, you won’t want to miss this post…


1. Language Barriers

If you’re regularly offering webinars—Continuing Education events or otherwise—to an international audience, it’s highly likely English is not the first language of every attendee. Language barriers make learning challenging enough, so adding closed captioning to your content is going to help break these barriers down.


Moreover, your presenter(s) may also have a regional accent when they speak (of course, in the United States alone, there are many different dialects and patterns of speech). So providing captions can help smooth over any wording or inflections that might be difficult for someone else to understand.


Finally, closed captioning services also enable you to simultaneously translate your presentation content into other languages while the live event is happening. This is particularly helpful for global companies or any organization that wants to ensure its ESL event participants don’t miss out on any important information.


2. Accessibility for Hearing Impaired Viewers

Did you know that one out of every six people in the United States suffers from some degree of hearing loss? And you might be surprised to know that a sizable percentage of that group is in between the ages of 18 and 65 years old. In light of this, closed captioning is not only a great way to make your content easier to digest but also to make your webinars more accessible and your brand more inclusive.


That being said, depending on where you work, captioning your content may not be optional. Back in 1990, the U.S. Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations for functional limitations due to a disabling condition.” Therefore, if you work for an organization that produces content that must comply with the ADA, closed captioning and transcription services may be necessary to implement for both video-based communications and online events. It’s just important to make sure you work with a provider who offers this type of support.


3. Visual Reinforcement

A previously published study out of the UK revealed that  80% of people who use captions don’t actually have any hearing impairments. Why? The reasons are numerous, but chief among them is that people have an easier time understanding and remembering content if they can read along with what’s happening on screen. Moreover, if names of people, brands or companies are mentioned in the presentation or a variety of technical jargon is being used, a live transcription can help attendees avoid any confusion about what they’re listening to.


If your organization specializes in eLearning, you may also want to consider these statistics taken from a university study in Australia…

UNSW Study: Closed Captioning Is Useful to Learning [Graph]

The graph shows that 98% of ALL students (not just ESL or deaf) have found captions useful when it comes to learning. Similar research conducted in the United States has also echoed these findings. If closed captioning helps increase comprehension and retention, why isn’t everyone in the online education industry taking advantage of these services?


4. Combating Background Noise

It may come as a surprise, but Facebook has discovered that 85 percent of video views on its platform take place with the volume turned off. Multiple other publishers have found similar trends. While this may seem odd, if you think about wearing headphones on a crowded subway or in a busy coffee shop, they don’t always work very well. Sometimes, it’s simply more pleasant and less distracting to watch a video without any sound, as opposed to waging a volume war with everything competing in your environment.


Conversely, eLearners in sound-sensitive locations—such as a quiet library—may want to avoid disturbing others around them. Headphones may reduce noise, but they don't eliminate it. In these circumstances, captioned videos provide an alternative solution once again.


5. Search Engine Optimization

Closed captioning and transcription services actually give your website an SEO boost. Search engines can’t evaluate the purpose or quality of a video’s content based on what’s being said in the audio. Therefore, after publishing a video, you should also provide an accompanying transcript on your web page. Google, Bing, etc. will index this text and get a better “understanding” of what the video is about, thereby enabling them to deliver a relevant result should a searcher go looking online for the topic covered in the presentation.


Search engines can also read and index closed captions, as opposed to open captions, and they also include them as criteria in their algorithms when weighing the relevancy and authority of a piece of content with respect to a given search. However, that’s not the only way closed captions affect SEO.


In addition to many other factors, Google also takes into consideration user experience, engagement and social signals (like shares, comments and likes) when assessing how good your content is. Interestingly, captioned videos have been found to drive 7-40% more views and 16% more revenue—not to mention a report from PLYMedia has shown that viewers are 80% more likely to watch a video all the way to the end when closed captions are available. Because captions tend to improve or increase all of these SEO contributors, they are indirectly impacting the way Google rewards the website in search results.


Again, if you’re looking for a virtual events platform provider that offers closed captioning and transcription services, we are here and happy to help. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Virtual & Hybrid Events


Topics: Accessibility & Social Impact, Virtual Events, Virtual Events: Best Practices

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