Nearly a decade ago, I went to a conference for people wanting to establish themselves as “experts” in their field. I was pretty excited because this particular conference was, and still is, a major event in the industry.
There were probably 7,000 or so people attending the conference that year, which promised huge results, dynamic and engaging speakers, and life-changing strategies.
Walking into the conference building was especially exciting because the crowd filing into the huge room was diverse in every sense of the word–from age, gender, and ethnicity to style of dress and accents.
And we were all excitedly waiting to hear from the conference speakers who would teach, advise, and coach us for the next five days. These speakers had achieved the success that we all desperately wanted, and now they were going to share the secret formula with us.
This conference was a PRODUCTION. It was like a cross between a university classroom, a personal development seminar, and a rock concert. Probably hard to envision, but it was truly something to witness.
What I remember most from that event, however, is not the information shared by the conference’s speakers or the incredible theatrics. The loudest and strongest message none was one that no one ever said a word about.
Literally every speaker was a 40-50 year old white guy–for five straight days of the conference. There were no women. Definitely no people of color. I even think 80% of the speakers wore the same jeans and button down shirt.
The nagging feeling I kept getting, despite the words coming out of their mouths, was that this kind of career path was not for 20-something year old black women, but for middle-aged white guys.
Even though the crowd looked like a diversity stock photo, we basically got a five-day manel: there were only white male speakers for the entire time five days. The conference was good, don’t get me wrong. But it also kind of felt like many of us were watching an amazing party that we weren’t really invited to.
Looking back on that experience and the past ten years of my life, I remember being sooooo excited about being at that conference and receiving the blueprint, but hesitating to really stake my claim for years because I had never seen anyone who looked like me stand up and do it.
The men at this conference were the pioneers and experts, and they didn’t seem to have any successful colleagues in the industry who weren’t also white and male. The foregone conclusion was that no one would pay women or people of color to do this work. It was a bit depressing.
My one experience could probably be multiplied by millions of other people. This is why conferences need women experts like you. You have attained successes and knowledge that should be shared. Your voice is important.
Please consider pitching yourself as a speaker for conferences, workshops panels, and events. Yes, it’s good for your brand and business, but it also makes a difference for the people in the audience, as I’ve written about elsewhere.
I have been keeping a running list of conferences for women entrepreneurs–including those I’d like to to attend myself and those I’d love to speak at one day. I think there are about 100 conferences on the list right now.
I’m including it here in the hopes that you also look for opportunities to pitch yourself as a speaker.
To view, search, or download the entire file, click here.
I always say that I’m on a mission to build a nation of good people with dynamic personal brands and successful businesses. We can learn from each other on this journey, particularly when we have accountability partners. This is why I am building a whole nation of them.
You can connect to the the private community I’ve created to provide support and encouragement along the journey–online and via app. Check us out at programs.shontavia.com or via the Mighty Networks App.
Download the Mighty Network app by clicking here. Once it downloads, click “Find a Mighty Network” and search for Shontavia Johnson. You’ll find content there that I may not share elsewhere.
Thank you so much for joining me on this roller coaster of an experience. I am eternally grateful that I get to do this work with wonderful people each day.
Let’s make it happen,