When we think about speakers' bureaus, it's useful to think that they are about the organizations first the speakers second. This will place the proper perspective for this conversation - hosted at this moment by Geoff Livingston at The Buzz Bin about why women do not seem to be represented fairly on speakers' rosters at conferences.
When I published the idea of a W-List here two years ago, all hell broke loose - I even got chided by some members of BlogHer. Ragan Communications wasn't kind, either. Of course, I still get their direct marketing mailers for courses and products to buy.
My experience is consistent with Kami's - women discriminate against women just as much as men do. What is it? Insecurity? Scarcity mindset? It's a fine line between healthy competition and just plain foolishness - let's face it, some are better than others at walking that line. Wendy in the comments to Geoff's post says she learned that life isn't fair.
We make life - we can be fair.
As Kathy Sierra writes, we must support what we value, and value what we support. Isn't social media about finding new ways to help elevate participants?
Why behave as if this - it could be any situation, really - was merely happening to us and we couldn't do a thing about it?
True, if it weren't for Geoff, Chris, the other Chris, Tim, and Mike I would be even less known today - even though I've been at this social network and media thing for more than 9 years. With two exceptions - the fabulous women at Mediabistro, especially Kirsten Cluthe, and Ann Handley and Beth Harte at MarketingProfs - all of my speaking opportunities (so far) have come from men.
And no, the answer is not to go out of our way to look at women as a special, must include, group. I believe the opportunity resides in raising the awareness that it's us - all of us - making this a reality.
Submitting speakers' proposals is hard work indeed. It was hard work to prepare for, qualify and take the IABC accreditation exam, pass the Associate in Risk Management exams, become licensed in insurance, learn about child brain neurological development, learn to operate in regulatory environments and government agencies, earn a doctoral degree in linguistics, performs 1,200 hours of interpreting work and simultaneous translation - from and into English.
I've been in marketing communications in 5 industries for more than twenty years - in two to three languages. I worked on the agency side early on, in non profit, in consulting roles and in advisory capacity. Start-ups, mid sized companies, and Fortune 500. I've got hands on experience and I've lead teams. Mentoring, coaching, facilitating, and building community are all things I have done and love doing.
I don't know everything - I do have a lot to share and teach. Maybe I don't talk enough about what I do and know - taking myself a little bit for granted. At the end of the day it comes down to what people perceive are the results we bring to the table.
Judging from the number of posts I write that get scraped, I'd think it safe to say my content fares pretty well. I have experience with unconference format, panels, single and keynote presentations. My name doesn't come up as often as one might think, yet.
Right now I'm working on supporting the community, and kicking ass on projects. At the end of the day, there is more satisfaction in doing - and of that we have plenty of opportunities.
Who's in the doing camp with me? That's a place where opportunity still abounds. And that is valid also for speakers organizations and bureaus.
What are three things you can do today to get on your way to speaking more?
- prepare speaking abstracts tailored to the attendees at events you'd like to speak at, write a brief bio and have a photo handy. Keep track of conference abstract submission guidelines and submit. As you do that, remember it's not about you. You are a steward of the learning conference attendees hope to have.
- write down your case studies - actually take the time to articulate how you achieved results (this will come in handy in your career transitions as well). The two plans I submitted to be admitted to the IABC accreditation exam, for example, were good practice. I also take the time to write reports at work - quarter on quarter/year over year break downs of results and program components
- volunteer to speak - rehearse, tape yourself and do watch how you do. If you've taken media interview or crisis communications courses, you'll know that it a valuable component of the program.
If this information interests you, in a future post we can discuss ideas on preparing a facilitated conversation with a panel. One more thing - ask! Ask for help, ask to speak, propose, be proactive and active. In other words, hustle.
Side note: conference attendees sometimes are motivated to provide feedback that is not entirely constructive, sharing expectations that don't match the session focus.
Same rule applies everywhere - squeaky wheels often do take center stage. Nothing you can do about that. Do take the feedback. What you can do is take it holistically - include more tips throughout, learn to read the audience better, time yourself to their non verbal cues. Give people practical tips to write down. Provide an experience. Be memorable. Inspire action.