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When should you warn people about content at an event?

Content warnings help some people prepare or avoid certain content. An example may be: "violence", "mental health" or "food".

Not going to argue whether content warnings are useful in this post. They're helpful for me and for others too.

Also I know these are hard to do, and I've messed up by not even checking talks in the past.

Potential problem I see at events

I often see content warnings at the very start of a talk.

Imagine this scenario:

  1. You've sat down amongst an audience of many people
  2. You're told a content warning by a speaker. It's something you want to avoid
  3. You want to get up and leave. But doing this tells everyone in that room what you're thinking

This could out people as LGBTQIA+, or dealing with specific trauma that they want to be private to them. Ironically that person has to sit there and deal with the content.

When to announce content warnings

These are my rough thoughts but I think the following times might be useful:

  • In the event description - on the website announcing the website. After the talk summary put a list of content warnings. Teach your speakers about content warnings and ask them to give you a list. You could also suggest some if you're reviewing the talks too.
  • At the start of the event - this could be a great way to remind people and also give people chance to organise themselves. If they want to skip the third talk, now they can work that out!
  • At breaks between talks - if you have breaks then again a reminder can help
  • Before the talk itself - still good to have, and very useful to have the speaker put the context in too

What do you think?

I'd love to hear from people who find content warnings useful and also event organisers. What do you think?