While many conference managers are well aware of the issues with #allmalepanels, there is still one type of speaking engagement that remains stubbornly immune to diversity: the sponsored event. Many conferences and events are funded by selling speaking slots and the speakers tend to cluster around the male and pale category.  And event managers tend to feel like they cannot ask a sponsor to consider sending a different speaker.
With this in mind, we’ve assembled a helpful little note that you can share with your sponsors.
Dear Event/Conference Sponsor,
Can we talk?
You might have noticed that we have a problem with our events. It dates back years. The speakers and presenters at our events represent a less-than-diverse segment of the population. We need to be more inclusive. We need to gender-balance our on-stage presence.
We’ve been making a concerted effort over the last several years. We’ve carefully selected speakers to represent a wide range of backgrounds in order to provide an interesting and informative event.
But there’s a major roadblock. You.
Every year you pay a handsome fee to be able to represent your company on our stage and present your story to our audience. Your sponsorship helps us to put on our events and for this we are eternally grateful. But, we need to get some fresh new voices on that stage. Let’s talk about some options:

  • How about taking a break from speaking this year? Work the crowd from the audience. Maybe we can discuss another way to present your story and get you connected to our audience.
  • Have you considered sharing the stage with another member of your team? People love to listen in on a conversation and it breaks up the monotony. Perhaps your female co-founder or another member of your senior management team? Someone who doesn’t look like a clone of you.
  • Have you considered sponsoring a startup or a nonprofit to speak during your time? It’s a great way to support the community and you’ll get credit for being an AWESOME person. Great positive branding for your company.

Why do we need diversity at our events? For one, diverse events are better events. No one is interested in hearing the same story over and over again. People come to events to network and learn new things.
In today’s social media driven world, hashtags like #allmalepanel and #changetheratio draw unwanted negative attention to those who continue to promote panels and events without diversity. Some all-male panels are cancelled after negative public outcry.
What does diversity do for you? (I can hear you saying, “What’s in it for me?”)

  • Every time you put a woman onstage you tell other women that your company is female-friendly and it’s a great place for them to advance their careers. Great recruiting!
  • Speaking of careers, public speaking is one of the best things you can do for a career, and giving someone else a chance to speak at a conference is great for their career. Grow your team!
  • Everyone wins.  The more diversity we have on stage, the more attendees we have, the broader our audience and the greater your company’s reach.

Thank you,
Your Event Management Team

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