Should I speak at this event?

A black woman wearing glasses and a blazer is on a whiteboard while a blond woman in sitting looking to the whiteboard with a tablet on her hand

A friend of mine told me this week that she was invited to give a talk at a conference, and asked me what I thought about it. I told her all the things I consider when giving a talk and I discovered I consider a lot of things!

Since I usually write about things that take me more than 5 minutes to answer… here is a new blog post!

Who is organizing the conference?

Conferences can be organized by anyone, so the first thing I check is who is organizing them. Do I like them? Have I heard something bad from them? Are they associated with something that I disagree with?

Example: companies that have been associated with gender, race or other bias.

Why is this organization doing the event?

If I can’t find anything wrong with the company, I try to find out why are they doing the conference. I try to see if the motive is legit (ie. sharing knowledge) or something sketchy (profiting on top of non-paid speakers). Some of the questions I ask myself are:

  • Is it a way of getting profit?
  • Is this for marketing reasons?
  • Do they help any sort of charity or non-profit organization?

Do you know people that are going to speak at this conference?

I have a list of people I deeply admire, and that I know that if they are speaking (or have spoken) at this conference, it might be a conference for me to join. It doesn’t mean I won’t double-check everything that I consider before speaking… but it is nice to have them there.

Are the speakers paid or helped in any way?

I know that conferences have costs that are not associated with speakers, such as venue, coffee-breaks, marketing banners, etc. Speaking at a conference is a great way of increasing your personal brand, getting visibility, gain experience, etc. But a lot of underprivileged people can’t afford these costs, so I always check if the event is helping to pay for the speaker’s flights and/or accommodation. If they are not, in a way they are helping increase the bias by only allowing privileged people (people that can pay for these things) to speak.

If the speakers aren’t paid or helped, where does the money go?

Some events don’t have enough money to help the speakers, and that is fine. They are spending the money where they need to have an event. Sometimes sponsors are in short hand, venues are too expensive, the tickets need to be affordable… trust me, I know!

I start getting suspicious if a conference charges expensive tickets, have big sponsors but still doesn’t help the speakers. Where is this money going to? Are they using the conference for profit? If they use non-paid speakers to help give profit to a for-profit organization… I definitely won’t speak at it.

If the speakers are getting paid… does it worth it?

Giving a talk is more than the 40-60 minutes you will be speaking. There is a lot of preparation time. I consider 3-4 hours of preparation per talk plus the time for the talk itself. So… make sure the money is worth your time in both preparing for and giving the talk.

Also consider if the money you are being paid is coming from sponsors that you are OK with.

How diverse are the speakers?

By being a woman, I usually have the feeling that I will be the trophy-speakers. Filling in the quota. I always go through the list of speakers and see if they are also a diverse set, or if they are using me as their woman quota.

Do they have a code of conduct?

As important as having diverse speakers, conferences should have diverse attendees. Conferences that have a code of conduct usually make me feel like they actually worry about diversity and that I will be in a safe space.


Never forget that every case is a case! You might decide to go against all this because you want to grab some amazing opportunity. You might need to do it because your work requires you to. We can never say never, but at least is good to know where you are walking yourself into.

Photo from Anna Shvets by Pexels