In the conference and event world sometimes event managers are the victim of the “Someone From” Syndrome. It can be hard to inoculate a hardworking conference committee against this dreaded disease but the smartest event managers know its dangers and are eternally vigilant.
If you haven’t heard of the Someone From Syndrome, allow us to tell you about it. You might recognize it from the symptoms.
The first you usually hear of Someone From Syndrome is in the earliest planning stages of a conference or event. During the brainstorming session you often get a lot of “Someone from Google”, “Someone from IBM”, or “Someone from our favorite startup” from the committee members. Event managers know that name recognition, either the individual or the brand, drives ticket sales.
Someone From Syndrome is closely related to “Someone Who” Disease. “Someone who raised a lot of money from Venture Capitalists.” “Someone who can talk about data science” or “Someone who founded a unicorn” (the latest startup world buzzword meaning a company with a billion-dollar valuation.)
During the brainstorming session, both Someone From Syndrome and Someone Who Disease are relatively harmless.
It is when speaking invitations start to go out, and the actual ‘someones’ are formed into panels that the problem becomes apparent. Without direct invitations to specific people, you typically get a lot of ‘same’ onstage. And, even one surprise panelist can tip the scales away from balance. And, too often, yup, you have an all male panel.
We’re working with TiE Boston on their upcoming (October 6, 2017) StartupCon, New England’s largest startup conference. The team of volunteers and association staff have an impressive speaker selection and invitation process designed to produce a diverse and inclusive event. (Note: Use our AWESOME code for a 10% friends and family discount. We also urge you to jump on it immediately before the discounted early bird tickets run out.)
While the initial brainstorming probably looks similar to many events, the TiE Boston team enters speaker suggestions into a shared spreadsheet and one of the many speaker criteria columns is diversity of perspective. Diversity of perspective covers several factors including age, gender and race of the individual speaker, as well as the type/age/size of business.
While each panel is managed by a panel lead, there is also oversight by a track lead, the conference chairs and the TiE staff. Everyone is watching closely for inclusion and diversity. This is a team that won’t be bitten by the Someone bug.