On Curating Diverse Events

This past week an unfortunate poster went around the internet. The poster was promoting a talk called “Women in Math” at BYU and it featured headshots of 4 male speakers. Honestly, I see posters and speaker rosters that look like this all of the time. It’s not a good look.

That said, I know from experience how challenging it can be to recruit diverse speakers or panelists. There are a lot of complex reasons for this that I won’t get into here. I’ll just fast forward to solutions.

Game Developer Tanya X. Short wrote an awesome twitter thread this week on tips for recruiting diverse speakers. I’ve transcribed that thread below and I’ve bolded the points that resonate most with me. Use in good health!

Tanya X. Short‏ on Curating Diverse Events

transcription of a twitter thread from Feb 2018


As an event-runner, I understand it can be frustrating when people say diverse speaker lineups are ‘easy’, given how it fails to happen so often. So here [are] some tips.

First take a breath even if you messed up, you’re not a “bad person”, we’re only as bad as the actions we take. so after a mistake, ok, let’s learn and take some good actions. 🙂

1 – plan to spend extra time finding diverse people to include. this is why people are called “marginalized” — they are pushed to the margin and their work [is] undervalued, not shouted from the rooftops

2 – plan to spend extra money +/or effort persuading them to speak. they put themselves at more risk by appearing in public, and may have fewer resources to spend on you, incl time

3 – when atypical people speak at your event, prepare for their talks to be underrated and their expertise questioned. be ready to defend them.

4 – invite as many marginalized speakers as possible FIRST, to get a feel for how many holes you’ll need to plug with more typical developers. since it will take more time, get these sorted before you find the rest.

5 – be flexible in defining success, to avoid perpetuating problems of capitalist oppression. promote artistry, thought-leading, community leadership, and other kinds of success to help auto-diversify your pool

6 – Looking for diverse game devs? Here’s a good place to start, google for more? https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1o5Hc-iIE8Axlnu8_ui_XMLsm9k-cG1VWg39GV3EONQ4/edit#gid=0 … even if it’s in the trash hmm

7 – Surely you know a FEW marginalized speakers on twitter — c’mon — but if they’re not available, wait! Don’t ask for their help yet! Their time is valuable. Crawl their timeline, see who THEY signalboost.

8 – Still can’t find enough? look for groups of marginalized orgs — Game Devs of Color Expo, Dames Making Games, Pixelles, etc. See who THEY signalboost. Join their groups if allowed.

9 – (Ongoing) every week or two, invest a few minutes looking for, following & signal-boosting diverse voices yourself. this will help familiarize you w/ more and better work in yr field. future you will be happy you did this.

10 – Maybe you’re not pleading with enough flattery. Consider how you would write an invitation to ask YOUR ALL-TIME HERO IN GAME DEV to speak — now title it to this developer instead. they deserve your admiration.

11 – Okay after you’ve done all this and you’re STILL coming up short, now you can beg the more typical devs on your timeline if they have time to rec a few diverse speakers.

12 – If THEY ALSO can’t rec anyone, okay now you can ask your existing diverse speakers for more recs, very politely, but it’s possible your event has a deeper problem…

13 – Honestly if you’ve done all this and you still can’t find 50% people willing to speak… are you holding it at an inaccessible time or place? is there something alienating about the theme? do you or your staff have a bad reputation?

13.5 If you’re not sure what’s going wrong, and struggling, bust out $200 and spend a few hours with a professional diversity/inclusion consultant. DM me and I can hook you up w/ someone. let’s fix this! 🙂

Gotta get back to game dev work myself but anyone, feel free to chime in and recommend more!



related to point #13

Note to VCs, hot tub meetings aren’t inclusive