A mentoring program for fresh, aspiring speakers anyone?
Yes, it is this time of the year again. More female speakers, etc, but bear with me, there is a new twist to it. And some questions at the bottom plus a suggestion where you actually should start using your ‘consumer power’.
This time brought up by Lena West in “X Chromosome Web 2.0 Rock Stars“. I have made my points clear in “Decisions are made by those who show up” but looking at Lena’s answers something else popped up for me.
Maybe I have been watching too much enjoyable pickup artist reality shows (hei, I really found them amusing!), but Lena’s answer to my comment made something very obvious to me:
So, the question is…how do we make it easier for women to apply for available speaking gigs? Or, maybe even more basic than that, how do we get women to put speaking at the top of their priority/marketing efforts list? Or maybe, how do we get ‘the establishment’ to recognize/find people who won’t exactly promote themselves?
If you ever saw any of the ‘PUA’ stuff, you should know what I saw: Easy.
I do not think it should be easier. It should be more obvious what men do to get this kind of stuff – what women neglect to do. It should not be made harder btw just equally hard. That already sets the bar much higher for many women.
And why do we have to find people “who do not to promote themselves” to recommend them when obviously that is not what they want? I appreciate Jeremiah’s posting on this, but basically it is again doing work for somebody who seems not willing to do so.
Not speaking of certain individuals, but in general: Men do call, try to add value, come up with proposals etc. They send in applications when a call for speakers is send out, try to connect with people they know etc. And end up submitting.
They also appear at conferences and networking events. And everybody ever having been to such events knows, that it is basically not about the program, but the networking.
I have been involved in enough conference by now to see the pattern
- you have a goal for your event
- you need some famous speakers to sell tickets
- you need a program with good speakers to sell tickets
Once you do have your program structure in place, you go through your physical and mental address book. Then you add the results of the call for speaker PLUS all the other submissions (mostly male of course). Suddenly you have a good program. You are happy.
You publish it – then comes the usual “where are the females” outcry. Busted, blamed – but actually why?
Names are pulled out and the organizer has to put effort into getting to these women (whereas everybody else came to them, offering them content, ready made) and talk to them. Trying to convince them while at the same time having to balance for the fact, that they are often not as popular (aka visible and with their own reach). Organizers of course can never talk about it, it would hurt them even more.
But this is not Stone Age anymore, when men had a physical advantage and where meant to go hunting. Today, everybody can go up on a stage and deliver a presentation. (Not everybody should do it, but that is a different issue.)
As such, it IS absolutely valid to tell a woman that she needs to pay extra attention to all the things that make her weaker on stage than a man. That she needs to pay attention to how her microphone level is in comparison to male voices. That on such a case the role of the little girl is just not cutting it. And that in order to be on the stage, on a panel or with a workshop, she needs to make contacts, get her proposals out with more than just being a chick but with something valuable to the conference organizer.
Men will play confident even if they are not. They are sometimes very blissful in their ignorance. Then again, they take criticism as one way to grow and put their ambition towards ‘getting there’. Rejection just means “not this time”.
“But I send out proposals and I got refused!” So have many other men. Plus in most cases a simple look at the presentation / application reveals why. (Something else many women really do not want to hear about).
Going back to Lena demanding men to stand up for more female speakers, I shrug my shoulders and ask: why should they? It would be something absolutely different if women would apply and just not get into the spots. But that is not the case.
There is also the demand for women not to go to events that do not have equal speakers. I have a secret for you: That is not really going to hurt sales, because women seldom go, so unless there is an upswing in women attending, that is an empty threat.
There is a reason why the same names always keep popping up. Because there are not many good names / speakers – male or female.
For starters it would be great if conference organizers would publish, how many female applications they got (minus the one where it was on behalf of a guy). Second, how much of them actually where on the spot for the conference. (My gues: they will barely hit 10% on a normal conference).
For speakers – if they actually read this: How often do you get approached or do you send out submissions? Somebody in the league of Jeremiah and even more Guy, you get asked. But that does not happen overnight.
And for everybody else: mail your favorite interesting person and ask: What do YOU do to get onto the speaking circuit? If they already have aspirations: “How often have you submitted something to a call for speaker, how often have you made contact with conference organizers, how many interview proposals have you done to interviewing media. When was the last time you updated your speakers / about me page? Does it have video / audio of you? ”
Terri L. Maurer asks in another article about the glass ceiling :
Like you, I have to wonder why women don’t do more for ‘our own’. That is, those who make it up the ladder leaning back to help other women follow them up.
Why would you build ladders for nobody to follow? Climbing a ladder is work, and as we see further up, there never seems to be work involved for a female, but all good things come to them.
The reason why I nearly named this post “the female speaker apprentice” is simple. Because I assume that out of 12 or whatever aspiring female speakers with ambition (mind you that already narrows down the field a lot), only one or two have what it takes to be really a good speaker on the stage in the caliber of one Guy Kawasaki.
Same with the men – just that they seem to try harder.
… and where you actually should start using your ‘consumer power’
The point where I think you should use your power is this: Demand from organizers to have fresh speakers – be it male or female. And assure them at the same time that you still will attend, even if you bring in new names.
Because that is the other side of the story – organizers do not just pick big male names because it is easy, but because they need to make their conference happen too! It is not as if they are the big evil.
And you should ask the bigger names to do something for fresh speakers, help the organizers for example in endorsing them. Yes, that is assigning the big name to the small name, but it gives credit – which would also answer the “what is in it for me” question. …
Tags: cruel to be kind