20 Jan 2020

Power UP Inclusion at Your Next Conference

Speaking at conferences across the country, I often see a disconnect between the level of diversity in the audience and what is represented onstage. One study found that nearly 70% of professional speakers globally are male. Unless they are directly addressing the issue of diversity and inclusion, many stages also fail to adequately incorporate people of color.

If we want to engage more diverse audiences, we need to make some changes to how we approach and organize events to bring more ideas and perspectives to the stage.

Think more creatively about where to find speakers. Research people who are doing unique work that relates to your industry and audience. Who might bring a new perspective to the issues your audience is facing? Think outside the box and expand your search. Maybe it’s an entrepreneur who is disrupting the industry or someone who has sparked discussion around an overlooked issue or opportunity with research or a thought-provoking article. The more creative you are, the more unique and memorable your event will become.

Make sure the committee suggesting and vetting speakers is diverse
or has tapped into a broader group for recommendations. Ask for insights on where to find non-traditional speakers whose work or perspective would add value. Cast a wider net for suggestions and you will be more likely to find options that you wouldn’t have come up with otherwise.

Rethink the format of your meeting to invite more voices and viewpoints. Create panels, host live interviews, and curate onstage discussions. Stepping away from the traditional presentation format engages your audience while opening up the field of people you can tap into for content.

Think of the challenges that are most pressing for your audience. If you were to produce a show around those ideas, what would it look like?  Who would be in the discussion? What would you ask them? If there are two schools of thought on an issue, think of who could debate them. Remember, it’s not just who you bring on stage, but how you frame and facilitate the dialogue for your audience that makes a lasting impression.

Use technology to bring people together during your conference. Whether it’s sprinkling in pre-recorded videos, or bringing a panelist or speaker to stage virtually, technology can help you overcome the logistical barriers of getting more diverse voices on your stage.

Keep experimenting and exploring. With creativity and focus, we can bring more relevant and inspiring content to our stages from a range of diverse perspectives, while creating more connected and engaged audiences.


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