One of the most important parts of dealing with Code of Conduct issues during the conference is being transparent about what happened during your event. It is tempting to avoid talking about it and pretend that your event went without any problems, however we believe that this kind of approach does more harm than good. One of the popular argument of people who don't want to implement any Code of Conduct on their events is that there were no reports on any event they organized and nothing bad really happens.

In our experience at almost every event there are a smaller or bigger Code of Conduct issues, however they rarely get reported. Being transparent about what happened during your event gives a clear message to the future attendees that Code of Conduct is taken very seriously by your organizing team and people start to trust that their report won't be ignored.

You want to be transparent to your community and not have secret policies and sanctions that you aren't accountable for the actions of the harasser, or reports of multiple harassment. It's also important to be transparent, because it reassures people that you are serious about your anti-harrasment policy.

Being transparent about what happened also gives attendees an overview of things that might be reported in a future.

Level of detail

When discussing the incident with others, it is good to keep the individuals anonymous, generally. (An exception may be if the harasser is very central to the community, such as a core conference staffer.) However, it is useful to:

  • describe the nature of the incident e.g. "a sexual slide was shown in a talk" or "an attendee physically threatened another attendee" or "an attendee repeatedly harassed another attendee despite multiple requests to cease" or whatever applies to the situation.
  • briefly mention the sanction
  • (briefly! neutrally!) convey any apologies from the harasser, especially if they were backed by actions, for example "the [attendee/speaker/staffer] has agreed that their actions were inappropriate and has voluntarily left the conference"

This helps your community understand the reality of the policy: how and when it gets enforced.

During the event

Inform the attendees. If the event has been dealt with at the conference, it may be appropriate for the conference to make a short announcement at the next break, something like: " happened. This was a violation of our policy. We apologise for this (if conference organizers did not manage to prevent the situation to occur. For instance if you pre screened slides and you did not found an offensive one, it is only fair to apologise in a name of the conference). We have taken . This is a good time for all attendees to review our policy at . If anyone would like to discuss this further they can ." And then move on with the program.

After the event

Publish a Code of Conduct transparency report, summarising all actions and incidents that took place during the event. See a good example here.

Again, try not to go into much detail, but explain the nature of the incidents and actions taken by the conference staff.

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