Advice on Creating a Positive Environment at Events

Conferences, workshops and meetings are the lifeblood of the mathematical community and foster productive research. It is important to create a positive research environment at all mathematical meetings that allows for all to fully participate in, engage with, and access the meeting in a safe and welcoming way.

Having a code of conduct and creating safety policies help in creating an event where everyone can feel at home in the research environment. By being fully prepared and proactive in accommodating all needs and safeguarding all participants, organisers provide an environment where people are able to engage without distractions including harassment, bullying and accessibility. In turn, the organisers provide a fully immersive research experience that many desire at workshops and conferences, which fosters deeper mathematical discussions and collaborations.

Code of Conduct

To help aid in keeping a welcoming environment, consider creating a code of conduct in order to establish a tone of respect and to outline a welcoming and safe environment for attendees. It should set expectations for all participants at the meeting, along with procedures to follow when those expectations are not followed. It is important that the procedures are properly implemented and enforceable, as this will require fewer real-time decisions in order to keep all participants safe.

In the next section, we provide multiple examples of codes of conduct. One code of conduct cannot cover all types of meetings, but these examples may be useful as a starting point to build one, depending on one’s event and delegates.


Here, we provide an outline of what one should consider when creating a code of conduct.

Consider who you want to cover

The code should cover everyone attending the event: speakers, participants, volunteers, staff, and organisers. This group of people come from all walks of life with various characteristics, some visible and others invisible. One should protect all groups from any actions that could create a hostile environment.

Consider what type of event you are covering

Depending on the event, there will be different important aspects that one should consider. A code of conduct may be different depending on if one is organising an in-person or virtual event.

Explicitly ask all attendees to agree to the code of conduct

This could be done at the day of the event or at the same time as an online registration.

Consider the participants’ time when drafting

Keep the code of conduct clear and concise in order to ensure attendees will take time to read it.

The code should outline what behaviour is considered disruptive towards the event

Examples include: harassing speakers, participants or organisers; severe disruption and noisy disruptions of lectures; and bullying.

Require attendees to obey all applicable laws and policies

The UK has extensive legislation, the Equality Act of 2010, on discrimination, harassment and victimisation regarding nine protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. Ensure that your code of conduct clarifies this for attendees, which may include international attendees unaware of UK law.

Provide a method of reporting to attendees when they observe breaches of the code of conduct

Provide a point of contact for participants in case they spot breaches of the code of conduct (e.g., a designated organiser and an email address). Ensure that this point of contact is properly equipped with knowledge that makes them a receptive and safe point of contact for those reporting difficult circumstances such as sexual harassment.

Create an expectation that enforcement of the code of conduct includes consequences

Make sure that participants know that there are ramifications if they do not abide by the code of conduct. It is useful to give oneself some flexibility to use best judgment as organisers at the conference, e.g., "The organisers may take whatever actions they deem appropriate, including expulsion from the conference and from future events and notification of participant’s employer."

Consider participants’ privacy

The code should cover everyone attending the event: speakers, participants, volunteers, staff, and organisers. This group of people come from all walks of life with various characteristics, some visible and others invisible. One should protect all groups from any actions that could create a hostile environment.

Update as you go

One’s first code of conduct will not be perfect, but through experience one can revise and refine one’s document and procedures. Revisit and update one’s code of conduct after each event.

Sample Codes of Conduct

Below some examples of codes of conduct. Always check with the organisers if you would like to use them; some organisers are happy to share their code of conducts.

LGBTQ+ STEMinar 2020 Code of Conduct

See the code of conduct here and below.

This code of conduct was delivered by slides before the first talk by the organisers. Many of the items below are customised after a couple years of refinement:

  • We want everyone to enjoy today’s conference and feel able to contribute.
  • We expect all conference participants to treat others with dignity and respect and to conduct themselves in a proper and professional manner.
  • All communication, be it online or in person, should be appropriate for a professional audience and be considerate of people from different cultural backgrounds.
  • Please do not tweet about someone’s personal circumstances.
  • Please be conscious of taking photos. Not everyone is out in all circumstances, and even someone appearing in the background could cause them harm.
  • Be kind to others and do not insult or put down other conference attendees.
  • Remember that harassment and sexist, racist or exclusionary jokes are not appropriate.
  • Harassment includes but is not limited to offensive verbal comments, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of discussions, inappropriate physical contact and unwanted sexual attention.
  • Negative or exclusionary comments about any identity, including sexual orientation or gender identity will not be tolerated.
  • Contributions should be made to discussions with a constructive, positive approach.
  • Anyone who violates the Code of Conduct may be asked to leave, and may be barred from future LGBTQ+ STEMinar events.
  • Report any violations of this Code in person to one of the organisers, who will be identified now, and on their badges, or online (anonymously or not) at X or by emailing Y.
University of Bristol School of Mathematics Code of Conduct

See the code of conduct here and below.

The School of Mathematics at the University of Bristol has a general Code of Conduct for all events in the School:

The School of Mathematics promotes a respectful, diverse and inclusive culture. The information below describes our expectations of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour for attendees and speakers at school events, including visitors from outside the University. All participants agree to be bound by this document when registering for events organised and promoted by the School.

We expect cooperation and support from all to help ensure a safe, harassment-free and respectful environment for everybody. This applies to the main event venue itself, break-out venues, refreshment areas, and even to places that are not part of the official event programme, including but not limited to visitors’ accommodation and social interaction places.

Examples of harassment include but are not limited to

  • offensive comments (including those related to gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race and religion) either in person or via the Internet;
  • inappropriate language and images in talks;
  • deliberate intimidation or following;
  • harassing photography or recording;
  • sustained disruption of talks or other events;
  • inappropriate physical contact;
  • unwelcome sexual or other forms of attention.

Participants asked to stop any unacceptable behaviour are expected to comply immediately. If a participant engages in unacceptable behaviour, the School may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning the offender and if necessary expelling them from the event (with no refund, for events with a registration fee). In the most severe cases, the School reserves the right to contact the offender’s home institution and/or the police.

If you are being harassed, are concerned that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns about unacceptable behaviour, please immediately contact a member of the ad- ministration team at We will be happy to assist with any concerns you might have.

Talking Maths in Public Code of Conduct

See the code of conduct here and below.

Talking Maths in Public has two codes of conduct, one for online and one for in person events. Below we give the in-person code of conduct as an example. If you would like to see the code of conduct for online events, we recommend you visit We’re keen to make sure that our events are great for everyone, so we ask you all to follow the code of conduct.

  • We want to be inclusive; do not engage in exclusionary behaviour or language against anyone based on their race/ethnicity, gender (binary, assigned or otherwise), disability, physical or mental health, sexual orientation, religion or belief, parental, pregnancy or relationship status, level of education or age. Don’t make exclusionary jokes. Don’t even make them "ironically".
  • Don’t harass people. Unconsented physical contact or sexual attention can constitute harassment, even if it wasn’t intended to cause upset. Dressing or acting in a certain way is not consent.
  • Aggression and elitism are unwelcome here — it’s not a competition.
  • Although the event involves social occasions in bars and restaurants where alcohol is served, there is no expectation or pressure to drink alcohol. Don’t question anyone’s choice of drink. Soft drinks will be available.
  • If you’re taking photographs, video or other recordings, please gain consent from everyone being featured to take the picture/recording and for the pictures or recordings to be shared (if you intend to do so).
  • If you are publically sharing anything about the conference, do not mention anyone’s attendance or tag them on social media unless you have their consent.

Attendees violating these rules may be asked to leave the event and will not be welcome back to our events in future. If you are subject to or observe anything in violation of the above, or have any other problems/concerns, please speak to one of the event organisers, or email the TMiP Board of Trustees on Reports will be dealt with discreetly and in confidence.

Please be aware of your surroundings and the effect your words and actions have on the people around you. We want everyone to have a great time, and treat each other with respect.

Have a great event!

Accessibility and Inclusivity

‘Accessible’ should be understood to be a stronger property than ‘available’. Due to individual personal needs, making a resource or opportunity available to all may not necessarily make it wholly accessible to all. For example: 

  • a conference schedule that is provided on paper is ‘available’ but may not be accessible to a blind user; 
  • a room may be available to use but may still be wheelchair inaccessible; 
  • an event arranged in a location with discriminatory laws may not be safe for LGBT+ attendees; 
  • an event organised in an environment with continual background noise may prevent neurodiverse attendees from fully participating; 
  • a digital agenda that cannot be read by assistive technology may not be accessible to a blind user; 
  • a video with no captions may not be accessible to deaf and hard of hearing people. 

Your event should aim to be run in such a way that participants from any and all protected characteristics (and other aspects of diversity, such a socio-economic status) should be able to participate fully with dignity and without undue levels of disclosure. 

Also, it is good practice to create an event where everyone feels integrated into the experience and does not feel like an outsider. By practicing inclusivity or taking actions to create an event so that people do not feel excluded, organisers maximise interactivity of conference-goers. Running an inclusive event means taking reasonable steps to anticipate a wide variety of participant needs, so that the emphasis is on mathematical interactions in real time. Moreover, it is good practice to provide open channels of communication with participants for them to notify the organisers confidentially of any additional needs or issues that may arise. 

A key principle to keep in mind is that the accessibility and inclusiveness of your event is ultimately determined by individual users. 

Accessibility and inclusivity touch all aspects of a conference, from site selection and budgeting to catering, social events and onsite logistics. Organisers should ensure that their event meets legal access requirements and any relevant institutional policies. 

Some points to consider: 

Appoint an ‘Accessibility Chair’ to the conference committee

An Accessibility Chair has a leading role in ensuring the conference is as welcoming and accessible as possible for all attendees. This includes all aspects of the conference: the location, venue, website, submission and review process, papers, presentations, meals and social events, and the conference experience as a whole. Accessibility Chairs should reach out early to other conference leaders to discuss accessibility considerations for the conference and follow up to ensure these are met. They are responsible for ensuring that attendee and presenter needs are understood and addressed. They also serve as advocates for attendees with disabilities. As the main communications channel between attendees and the conference organising committee, Accessibility Chairs serve to protect the identities of attendees making requests as much as possible. 

Inclusive communication

It is crucial that everyone feels welcome to your event and more importantly that everyone feels they belong. Be explicit in your communication and do not forget about who you might be leaving out inadvertently. For example, if you organise a women-focused event, do you also include trans women, non-binary people, etc.? Is the way you communicate making them feel they belong in your event? 

Identify needs early

The earlier you invite participants to identify their needs, the more chances you will have to organise an inclusive conference. In promotional material such as advertising and press releases, state clearly that the conference is committed to accessibility. Registration is the ideal time for participants to specify their accessibility needs. Registration materials should give conference-goers a prominent place to do so, and should emphasise that organisers will work with them to accommodate those requests. 

People who want to attend can provide more useful information if you give them details about the venue, the program material and schedule, and surrounding events, so that they can consider their needs in relation to what will be taking place and where. 

It might be useful to list ways in which you could accommodate the needs of registrants, by asking them to identify what they will require. Some common, but not exhaustive, options are: wheelchair access; allowing an accompanying assistant; sign language interpreters; note-taker; assistive listening device; video captioning; large print; audio loops; braille; providing information on a USB memory stick instead of paper; orientation to the facility; diet restrictions; scent-free environment, etc. 

Capturing participant information

Avoid publicly circulating sign-up sheets (or similar) that require disclosure of sensitive personal information or information that reduces an individual’s personal safety, such as their gender or the address of their accommodation. Where necessary this information should be captured separately, ideally before the start of your event, with the returned data being restricted only to those with a clear purpose for accessing it. It may be helpful to consult your local information management team for guidance. 

Prepare a checklist

There is no standard checklist that would work for all conferences. However, they are very useful documents against which to check the accessibility of your own conference. Some comprehensive sample checklists can be found in the following: 

The Council of Ontario Universities have a fantastic Accessibility Resource Website. Within this website, you can find a Planning Guide for Accessible Conferences. At the end of the guide there is a very comprehensive checklist.

Around the UK some universities have general guidance to accessible events in their institutions. You can check, for example, the University of Birmingham guide.

ACM SIGACCESS supports the international community of researchers and professionals, applying computing and information technologies to empower older adults and individuals with disabilities. There are several interesting resources on their website. Among them, the Accesible Conference Guide might be particularly useful.

Selecting a Venue

Choosing an accessible conference facility will minimise the number of additional arrangements you might have to make to accommodate participants with specific needs. In particular, assess the following six areas: building entrance (width of doors, stairs); meeting rooms (size for wheelchairs, scooters, hearing and seeing quality, reserve front seats for participants who might need them); toilets (proximity, number, accessibility, gender neutral option); dining facilities (where, proximity to toilets); hallways, paths, elevators etc (wide, barrier free, emergency evacuation plans); getting there (accessible parking spots, public transit line). Often, one can have a conversation with a building manager while selecting a venue in order to pre-emptively check these issues. 

Quiet spaces and breaks

A quiet room can be helpful for nursing mothers, delegates with physical or mental health issues and people who need prayer space, or anyone who finds networking or big groups a bit overwhelming. 

Do not force people to choose between getting downtime, fresh air or refreshments. Add plenty of breaks throughout the day so they can do comfortably all three. 

Conference information and signs

For a conference to be inclusive, information must be available in formats that allow everyone to understand and participate. Provide clear signage to information points and toilets. Other areas where participants will appreciate signs are the conference registration desk; main meeting rooms; breakout rooms; dining facilities; parking spaces and public transit. Your event signage should feature dark lettering on a light background; sans serif font with initial capitals and lower-case text (avoiding block capitals); and be displayed at a height at which can be read by wheelchair users (140 – 170cm/55 – 67inches). 

Accessible conference website

It is particularly important that your online registration is accessible to all potential participants. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (known as WCAG 2.1) are an internationally recognised set of recommendations for improving web accessibility and the UK government demands that public digital services meet level AA. Moreover, if video recordings are made available during or after the conference, special care should be put into providing meaningful captioning, which will most probably need editing when it comes to mathematical content. 


Give participants an opportunity to indicate dietary needs when they register for the event. Provide some seating during lunch, refreshment breaks and networking events for those unable to stand and eat, even if this is not possible for all. People with walkers or wheelchairs should have a selection of seating choices, and not be confined to the fringes of the dining area or a 'special' table. If your event has a buffet, try to have servers available to assist; buffets can be particularly difficult for people with mobility or visual disabilities. Moreover, make sure that food ingredients are clearly displayed.

Social activities

An inclusive conference makes sure that icebreakers and other activities do not exclude persons with disabilities. If you expect a significant number of participants to leave the conference venue for informal evening social activities, offer suggestions in the conference kits for cafes, bars and restaurants that are accessible and easily connected to transportation options.

Hotels and lodging

As a conference organiser, you should be prepared to help attendees find lodging that meets their needs, regardless of whether you offer guest accommodation as part of your event. Check in with the hotel before making any arrangements for special participants’ needs. Ask yourself: how easy will it be for attendees to get to and from their accommodation to the conference site, as well as to related social events? What are the transportation options? Could you make those connections simpler? If there is a dinner or other event offsite, are those locations also accessible? Moreover, it might well be the case that a participant does not consider adequate the lodging proposed by the conference. To make the event fully inclusive, the option of reimbursement of expenses up to a certain cap should be given if people are keen on booking their own accommodation. 


Well in advance of your conference, explore the availability of accessible transportation to and from all planned events and meetings. Following the same logic as in the last point, the option of reimbursement of expenses up to a certain cap should be given to delegates keen on booking their own transport. 


As part of the evaluation process, ask participants what they thought of the accessibility of the conference. Remember, no event is perfect and first-time events are always a learning process. Evaluations are meant to be tools to help improve future events. 

Share what you learn from this feedback with future organisers of your event or of similar events. 

Conference badges

Conference badges break the ice and show people basic information about their fellow conference participants. This makes it easier for new people to the community to get to know others and helps prevent insularity at research meetings. Conference badges should include the preferred name and affiliation. One should also offer badges that display one’s pronouns. Pronoun badges are particularly useful because they allow one to know how to refer to a colleague and help attendees use the correct pronouns for everyone as a form of respect. This is particularly useful for trans and non-binary participants but offering everyone pronoun badges helps normalise this practice and ensures everyone feels welcomed. 

Last updated November 2022