A SHIFT IS AFOOT
“There’s a definite shift afoot among my clients to make sure that the people on stage are
representative of the people in the audience,
and the world at large, not the 1980s made-for-TV-movie white male CEO,” says Bonni
Scepkowski, president and CSO of Stellar
Meetings and a 30-year meetings veteran.
In June 2018, I conducted a survey of my
fellow meeting professionals on speaker diversity. Here’s what I found:
81 percent of meeting planners are focused
on diversity in both speakers and topics when
choosing keynotes, breakout presenters, and
More than 56 percent rank subject expertise as their first priority when hiring.
69 percent have hired a minority speaker
in the past 12 months.
81 percent anticipate doing so again in
the next year.
This is great news for anyone who is speaking from a position of mastery on their subject
and who happens to fall into a diversity category. Planners are breaking away from their
traditional “white men onstage” mindset and
focusing on all voices available.
“The landscape is changing, and the
time has come for new perspectives and
speakers who don’t fit the traditional mold,”
says Maralynn Adams, CMP, owner of The
Corporate Event Group, who’s been a planner
for 25 years. “Speakers have been overlooked
in the past because the priority has been
the traditional old-school speaker, and that
tended to skew white and older.”
ARE YOU FINDABLE?
Improve your chances of being found by planners, so you can then be heard by audiences, by
following these marketing tips:
Make sure your website is optimized
for search engines for your topic’s key words,
and any key words related to diversity groups
you belong to, for example, “female wellness
keynote” or “African-American leadership
speaker.” Planners are short on time and very
reliant on their research. If you aren’t among
the first page of results, you aren’t going to
get their attention. If they want to diversify
their lineup, make sure you can be found!
State your message and your differenti-
ators clearly in the first third of your website
or marketing materials. Your message is what
makes you unique. Don’t make planners
search for what you bring to the conversation.
If you are speaking on issues related to a
specific demographic or interest group, mar-
ket to them. If you market to everyone, you
market to no one.
When negotiating your contract, ask for
three referrals to potential leads. If you’re
speaking to an association, for example, there
are likely nationwide chapters or an annual
conference also seeking to diversify their
It doesn’t matter how diverse you are
if you aren’t any good! Include testimonials
that have the title and photo of the person
who hired you. “Blind” or generic testimoni-
als don’t carry the same weight as those with
the recommender’s’ personal details. When a
planner sees recommendations from peers, it
establishes a comfort level.
Search for yourself on Google. Is your
online brand consistent in messaging and up
to date? Google your topic and what makes
you diverse. If you’re a female leadership
speaker, for example, can a planner find you
using those search terms? How do you rank?
Opportunity is on the horizon for speakers
of all types, with impactful content of all vari-
eties. Take advantage of both by positioning
yourself and your passionate message so you
can take center stage. ■
CMM, CTSM, has
been called a visionary
and master strategist.
She’s the owner of
& Events and a new
member of NSA. Her
book on event strategy
will be released in