DISCOVER Cookbook Diverse & Inclusive Spaces and Conferences

Participant and Speaker Selection


Tags: Participant Diversity, Presenter Line-up, Embracing Diverse Voices, Unconscious and Implicit Bias, Tokenism

Invited Speakers

  • ✅ Reach beyond the conference organizers' own networks. Take steps to go out and find people who might be lesser-known but would make great speakers. Look for more than just "the usual suspects" and reach out to your wider network for ideas, suggestions, and introductions.
  • Identify a group of people to solicit as conference speakers
    • Take extra steps to ensure a diverse speaker pool
      • Make the list of potential speakers who are underrepresented longer than list of usual suspects (e.g. — have a longer list of women than men), so when someone declines or drops out you can just move to the next one on the list. Underrepresented folks are often overburdened with speaking requests, hence the need for a longer list.
    • Keep and maintain a list of possible speakers with expertise and their contact info
    • Research and follow speaker lists compiled by other organizations and communities
    • When querying your network for speaker ideas, specifically ask for suggestions of speakers who could contribute to the diversity of the speaker line-up
    • If your system is to have speakers come to you & ask, but research shows they tend not to do so, they won't come.
  • 🍎 Consider the specific wording of how you solicit talks (subtlety can make a big difference)
    • E.g. "Experts in best practices" may turn away people who don't self-identify as "expert" or who have impostor syndrome.
    • "Speakers who have advice or expertise to share" > Everyone has some level of expertise or knowledge to share about what they work on, so this phrasing is more inclusive and inviting.
  • Ensure panels and roundtables include a diversity of participants
    • Make strategic use of the moderator role to help support diverse participation

Selecting Speakers

Tags: Calls for Papers and Proposals, Presenter Line-up, Code of Conduct

  • 🍎 Call For Proposals (CFP) instructions
    • In the solicitation, be transparent that you want a broad & diverse group to share their expertise.
    • Let applicants know what criteria will be used to assess their submission and how speakers will be chosen.
    • If possible, create detailed instructions and/or run workshops to help prepare people to write strong proposals.
    • Be clear in who you want
      • If your conference has a long history and you're trying to change what it's like, be up front about the kinds of people you want to have speak, why, and how this may look different from years past.
    • Consider carefully the way you describe your event and the call for proposals in order to avoid turning away or self-de-selecting of potential speakers.
  • Offer speaker training
    • Let potential speakers know there are resources to help them prepare, and provide them.
    • Ask potential speakers to ensure the content of their talk abides by the code of conduct
    • Consider color-blindness in slide design
    • Provide handouts of slides and/or transcripts (both large and small format)
    • Verbally describe graphs and illustrations

Incentivize First-Time Speakers:

Tags: Newcomers & First-Timers

  • E.g. "We are looking to diversify our speaker panel; we want to select a cohort of first-time speakers to ensure we continue to offer professional development opportunities to everyone in the community."

Attracting Attendees

Tags: Participant Diversity, Embracing Diverse Voices, Unconscious and Implicit Bias

  • Be clear about what your event is about, explain it to people who are less familiar and haven't attended before.
  • 🍎 Pay attention to the photos you use to advertise your event—what do people look like who attend?
  • Partner with organizations whose membership you’d like to convince to attend your event.
  • Offer scholarships for first-time and underrepresented attendees.
  • Advertise the Code of Conduct to convey that you are seeking an inclusive environment.

Further reading:

Call For Proposals review ("blind" vs "affirmative action")

Tags: Unconscious and Implicit Bias, Discrimination, Calls for Papers & Proposals, Organisation and Program Committees

  • "Open" versus "Blind" or "Closed" Review
    • "Open" review is a form of review in which the names of the reviewers are made public.
    • "Double-Open" review is when the reviewers know the identity of the proposal author and the proposal author also knows the identity of their reviewers
    • "Double Blind" review means the reviewers do not know the identity of the proposal author and vice versa.
    • "Single Blind" or simply "Blind" review means that the author of the proposal does not know the identity of the reviewers.
    • Sometimes the term "Closed" or "Anonymized" is used instead of "Blind".
  • Double "Blind" Review
    • By changing speaker selection to completely "blind," you may be able to increase representation from traditionally underrepresented groups. (See "Further Reading" below.)
    • You might create a CFP form that instructs the submitter to withhold identifying information.
    • You can assign 1-2 people to remove the identifying information from submissions before passing them to the next group of reviewers/the assessing team.
    • If you recognize a submission author and you're on the review committee, you should not grade the submission—recuse yourself from reviewing that submission.
    • Optionally, the review team can de-anonymize after the review process to ensure that the final selection is representative of the diverse grouping that is desired.
  • Double Open Review
  • ✅ Regardless of which approach you choose, open or anonymized, we encourage you to make it "double" so that both parties know each other (double-open) or neither party knows the other (double-closed)

Further reading: