August 20, 2015
Speakers can make or break your event, and hosting a diverse group of speakers helps to drive innovation, inclusivity, and creativity in events. Sure, you may have found the perfect conference venue or prepared the most comprehensive conference program, but if your mix of speakers fails to impact your audience and challenge them to grow, then all your efforts will fall flat. To ensure that doesn’t happen, you’ll have to put in extra effort to find a diverse and suitable set of speakers for your event.
Ask Local Organizations
Often, you don’t have to look far to find speakers for an event – for all you know, the perfect candidate may be just down the hall. Check out your local university for professors or academics who specialize on certain fields or may know others who would be interested in sharing unique viewpoints. Talking to an South American studies professor interested in economics, for instance, may be a welcome addition if your conference revolves around global tech or commerce. You should also look out for local meetups. For instance, there are many groups who focus on expanding the visibility of gender, ethnicity, religion, and other areas within different industries. Examples of these include local chapters of Women Who Code, Black Girls Code, and CODE 2040. These types of organizations can facilitate introductions to potential speakers and may also be interested in sending attendees.
Another way to attract diverse speakers for your conference or event is by encouraging them through a Call for Submissions. Popular among many conferences, this method of attracting speakers allows those who want to be part of your conference to send a summary of the presentation they intend to deliver. Then, you simply have to choose which among the proposals you prefer. Posting a Call for Submissions is relatively simple, since you can post to your website, send out emails, and share via social media. Encourage other organizers to share with their own contacts who might not be aware of the event. It’s a simple but powerful opportunity to bring in a diverse set of speakers and ideas. Before posting, review the text and be sure that it encourages out-of-the-box topics and speakers. In your Call for Submissions, specify the expected theme(s) and request relevant information including related expertise, photo/video, and proposed title/description.
Proactively Search Online
One of the great things about today’s modern technology is that most speakers can a digital presence in one form or another. There are many different ways to find diverse speakers, and nearly all speakers have a digital presence. Look for sites that have a list of diverse speakers and past talks. SpeakerRate has an impressive list of tech, startup, and programming speakers. Organizations like the National Speakers Association have large databases of professional speakers who can speak on a myriad of topics. They also have local chapters so you can find one near you or your venue. Once you’ve found a potential speaker for your event, initiate contact via phone or email. If possible, ask if they have any videos of past conferences that they’ve spoken at. You can also seek others who have actually seen the speaker talk in front of an audience as recommendations.
For more information on the issue of finding diverse speakers, be sure to check out:
- Women Speakers - Created by Geek Feminism, this comprehensive guide outlines the current problem and possible solutions to the lack of women speakers at conferences.
- Putting an End to Conferences Dominated by White Men - Written by Sarah Milstein, this article shares advantages of attracting diverse speakers, as well as practical advice on how to do so.