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December 06, 2013


Rock on! I've noticed the exact same thing at market research conferences and it's a frequent complaint by audience members. So here's a thought - if you find that there are not enough female speakers and YOU are female, that is a sign for you to submit a proposal to the next ten conferences in your line up.

This is fantastic, thank you. I was pleased to find that I already do most of these things, but also grateful for the additional tips. Sometimes even with the best of intentions, it can be hard to truly curate a diverse group of speakers.

Often a barrier to apply to speak is not knowing the availability of travel grants and scholarships for the event. Applying to speak feels like a commitment to attend the event and if speaker's costs aren't covered by the conference - or explicitly stated so - then many won't make that commitment. Especially women and people of colour working for grassroots organisations or smaller startups.

@Sandra: That's a really good point. I don't tend to post that info, for various reasons, but I'll reconsider.

Sandra is right, the financial piece is a perceived barrier. Looking from the other side, how does one get better tapped into the conference proposal network? I would be excited to offer advice and expertise and I think my ability to connect across fields and disciplines might be a great addition to a conference tract, but if you aren't already on the circuit, finding the on ramp can be difficult.

@Amy: I'd suggest thinking about this a little differently. Rather than tapping into the "conference proposal network"--which, if it exists, is something that PR people are spamming--look for individual conferences for which you have relevant advice to share, and craft targeted proposals for those. Better to apply to one or two conferences for which you get accepted (or at least considered) than to apply for ten that don't see how you're a fit, because your proposal isn't tailored for their audience.

A lot of conferences share pretty thorough information about what they look for. Seek conferences that do that, read their directions carefully, and apply accordingly. If you have questions, reach out to them. (Some conference publish their most detailed info on their blog, so check there, in addition to their call for proposals. Here's a great example: http://bloggingwhilebrown.com/blog/2013/12/8/some-tips-on-getting-your-panel-selected-for-blogging-while-brown-2014.)

Don't worry about the on-ramp for applications. I know of no conference hosts who care about whether you've applied to other conferences. But every single one cares about whether you have relevant advice *for their attendees.* Look at the kinds of talks they've had in the past, read their blog, read the directions for their application, etc.

Finally, this post from Chris Brogan is old but still pretty relevant: http://www.chrisbrogan.com/how-to-start-speaking-at-events/.

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