By Sandy Hower, Account Executive and Meeting Planner, THM

Sandy Hower PhotoHow to diversify panels and speaker line ups is not a new question for meeting and event organizers but is a question that should be prioritized more moving forward. Last September, award-winning inclusion strategist and keynote speaker, Ruchika Tulshyan, published an article in the Harvard Business Review addressing what it will take to improve diversity at conferences. In the article, Tulshyan wrote that “we need to fundamentally understand and accept how different perspectives and life experiences among speakers will bring a richer conversation to any conference, and as a result, encourage greater attendee participation from diverse and underestimated communities.” In addition, “we must also recognize and acknowledge the systematic barriers holding back people of color (especially) from being recognized as experts.” Tulshyan went on to give ideas about how to increase speaker diversity. A few of those ideas are below:

  • Don't only look for experts by title. Look for speakers outside the traditional networks and look at their experience and points of view rather than their title.
  • Set an (audacious) goal. Make ambitious diversity goals and quantify them. And don’t just add one “token” speaker from an underrepresented group.
  • Ask for speaker recommendations from a diverse slate of people. Enlist the help of members or industry experts from a diverse group for speaker suggestions.
  • Do not always enlist people of color to speak about diversity issues. Tulshyan advises to do your research on whether the speaker’s expertise is on the topic of diversity and identity and that an ideal conference is one that doesn’t need a diversity and inclusion track because speaker diversity is carefully curated in all the topic tracks.
  • Pass the baton. If possible, try to recommend another speaker if you are frequently asked to speak and identify as white and male. Help create opportunities for speakers from an underrepresented community to take your place.

Read the full article here: