No Complaining Unless You’ve Done Something About the Problem First

by Thursday Bram on July 26, 2012

Getting more women up on stage at conferences, especially in tech fields, is important. We can all agree on that. But recently, I read a post that has got me thinking about what really needs to happen to make it happen.

I’m not going to link to that post, because it’s a bit incendiary — and I don’t think that the blogger who wrote it meant for it to be so.

The message that he was trying to get across was that, as a conference organizer, it’s hard for him to put women on stage if very few women submit proposals and if, when he approaches women he’d like to have speak at his conference, they turn him down.

We Need to Actually Make the Effort

We firmly need to support efforts to get more women speakers on stage. But that means that we’ve got to put our collective money where our mouths are. We have to offer to speak.

Personally, that’s a gut-wrenching thing to think about. I’ve spoken at a bunch of events, but I still get horrible stage fright. Just the thought of submitting a proposal to give a talk makes me need to take deep, calming breaths.

If you’re already putting in for speaking gigs, awesome! If you’re not, there are a couple of things I want you to do before you share that next link about the percentage of speakers at a given event who were female. Once you’ve taken these actions, please feel free to continue to raise awareness — that’s necessary, too. But action always trumps talking.

What You Can Do at the Next Conference You Attend

Odds are pretty good that the next several events that you’re planning to attend already have their schedules locked down. But there are a couple of actions that you can take even as an attendee:

  • Attend as many talks by female speakers as you can. Ask questions and fill out feedback forms.
  • Talk to every speaker you can about how they landed this particular gig. Get a feel for what it’s like to successful go through the process of pitching a particular conference.
  • Introduce yourself to panel moderators and make a point of connecting after the conference as well. Many moderators pitch panels consistently. (Personally, I like panels because then I’m not the only person sweating up on stage.)
  • Introduce yourself to the conference staff. You don’t want to be just angling for a future speaking spot, but there are always reasons to connect with people who obviously have great connections of their own.

What You Can Do for Conferences a Little Further Out

Put in a proposal for a talk. It’s pretty much that simple. If you’re completely scared to death of speaking in front of people, pitch a panel and offer to act as moderator.

There are lots of little other things that can help your chances, like corresponding regularly with conference organizers and the like. But the big thing is to actually put in some proposals. Once you’ve actually started doing that, you’ll get a sense of what parts of your proposal package needs beefing up — yes, that means you’re probably going to get rejected at least once or twice. That’s okay. Just keeping looking for speaking opportunities and you’ll get your shot.

And I’m willing to help out. Got a topic for a talk you want to bounce off of someone? Contact me — I’ll listen. Need to find panelists who fit a certain theme but not sure who to ask? Contact me — I’ll rifle through my rolodex for you. Want a shoulder to cry on after a rejection? Contact me — I’ll be incredibly sympathetic and then nag you about your next proposal. I’m not a professional speaker or anything like that, but I’m happy to support anyone taking some action.

Image courtesy of Max Wolfe

Thursday Bram offers content marketing through Hyper Modern Consulting, as well as more traditional writing services. She’s also the co-creator of Constructively Productive, the blog that’s bringing perspective to productivity. You can find Thursday on Twitter.

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