The importance of diversity has been at the forefront of news headlines and organizational agendas over the past several years. A recent study conducted by Harvard Business School discovered that diversity is a key factor in driving innovation 1, while Forbes found that diversity is critical in “…driving the creation and execution of new products, services, and business processes.”2
With the many benefits diversity has to offer, it’s no wonder adding diversity to your speaker lineup can help your event succeed. Besides appealing to a larger audience base, diversity provides an opportunity to learn from others who process, perceive and think differently, offering attendees insight and perspective they otherwise may not have been exposed to. It also encourages people of various backgrounds to pursue careers and research in fields thought to be out of reach.
While it may seem challenging to diversify your event, these 5 simple tips can assist you in adding some diversity to your next speaker lineup.
First and foremost, in order to ensure your event has the best possible lineup, it is imperative your invitations to potential speakers have a personal touch. Avoid using ready-made templates at all costs, as they basically convey to the speaker they are just not worth your time.
Speakers want to feel as if they are integral to your event’s success, not as if they are simply being contacted to fill a time slot. Mike Myatt, Chairman of N2 Growth, eloquently states, “The message is not about the messenger; it has nothing to do with messenger; it is however 100% about meeting the needs and the expectations of those you’re communicating with.”
Consider writing an invitation that recognizes a speaker’s accomplishments, while providing specific reasons as to why their presence would enhance your event. In other words, let them know what you admire, why, and how you believe they add value.
It is important to ensure promotional materials appeal to all demographics. For example, if marketing materials only depict white, older men, younger applicants, hispanic applicants and female applicants may not feel as if they are welcome to apply.
In Diversity in Advertising, David Vinjamuri says, “to identify with a product, you must first imagine yourself using it. That’s harder when the advertising shows someone different from you.” Keeping your promotional materials diverse will invite a broader lineup to apply, as each person can relate to and envision themselves as a part of your program.
Code of Conduct
The Ethics & Compliance Initiative states that a Code of Conduct, “…serves as a public statement of what the company stands for and its commitment to high standards and right conduct.” Prepare a Code of Conduct in collaboration with your Board stating your event celebrates diversity and promotes inclusion. Refer to it in your marketing materials and provide access to it online for all to view. People from various backgrounds will feel comfortable participating when they know discriminatory behavior will not be tolerated.
Sites such as LinkedIn allow you to find individuals from countless industries, along with recommendations of their work, direct contact information and links to their own personal marketing materials. By getting outside of your usual channels, you can find speakers that target a wider audience base, appealing to individuals you may not have otherwise thought to be interested in your event.
Remember, diversity isn’t just about Race. Liz Bingham, head of Ernst & Young’s UK leadership team says, “…diversity isn’t just an issue of sexual orientation, race or gender; it’s a term that is evolving… companies will need to ensure that they have people with a range of experience and insight into… new markets. So when we talk of boardroom representation in the future, we aren’t just going to be talking about the number of women with a seat at the table, it’s going to be much wider than that. Diversity encompasses all aspects of the human experience, from age, culture, skills and life experience.”
Ask Your Audience
Besides yourself and your Board, who is your target audience interested in hearing? Think outside of your typical invitation list, and approach speakers from varying backgrounds and demographics. If possible, contact attendees from previous events and ask if there are particular speakers they would like to hear from.
In understanding what your audience wants, Ahmad Kareh states on Forbes, “…you need to ask the right questions. Where’s the overlap in what they want and what you have to offer? Knowing this will help you stand out… If you understand what people are looking for, you’re better equipped to position yourself well.”
When creating a survey, it is vital to encourage people to share what they are looking for, as well as receive honest feedback from events past. Ensure your questions are objective and not biased so that the data you obtain is accurate.
By recognizing your audience, setting your goals and being mindful of inclusion, you are sure to add diversity to your speaker lineup that will attract, engage and enrich audiences for years to come.
“Diversity: The art of thinking independently, together.” —Malcolm Forbes
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