Our Commitment to Diversity Begins with Paying Speakers

We’re committed to figuring out diversity. Our Diversity & Inclusion consultants recommended paying our speakers a stipend, and Hero Conf Austin, June 2-3, is where we’ll start! 

The stipend amount is still being determined, and the goal of the stipend is to make the impact of travel costs negligible for our speakers.

You might be surprised to learn that it’s uncommon for events to pay speakers. 

And it’s still fairly uncommon in tech. When event spaces charge $100 per gallon of coffee, and 600 people drink A LOT of coffee, and you add in AV, food, swag, and more, overhead costs are cumbersome and most industry events are simply breaking even.

In addition, the perspective we used to have was something like, “We give speakers a free registration and a free companion pass, which saves speakers $1800+. Plus, it’s a great opportunity for our speakers to network and drum up business for themselves and build their personal brand.”

But we’ve learned that many folks view these speaking positions with no stipend as undervaluing their work, so they’re not interested in pitching for Hero Conf. Ultimately, that’s limiting the diversity of thought at our conference and our attendees deserve to hear from those perspectives. 

It’s without question speakers put a lot of hard work into their sessions. We’re now learning that without direct compensation, our eyes are opened to seeing how their work could be undervalued. 

All of that said, this is a test for us. The more high-quality pitches we receive as a result of this initiative, the more likely it is that we’ll continue paying speakers for future events (wink, wink, nod, nod…tell ALL of your super smart digital advertising friends to pitch!).

While speaker payments is the largest operational change we’re making, there are a handful of other changes we have made. We mentioned some previously, but here are some more updates:

  • We’re reaching out to dozens of new contacts recommended by our consultants and asking them to pitch to speak. These contacts are digital marketers who we’ve not previously met, so our network of potential speakers is expanding.
  • We updated our imagery on the site to better reflect the diversity of our speakers and the broader population.
  • Our D&I consultants reviewed our 6-step speaker pitch process and approved it. We’re ensuring that the review groups in steps 5 and 6 are diverse.

All of that said, there’s always more we can do to ensure everyone is included at our conference. We hope you can help! Please help us continue to expand our network by sharing the speaker pitch form with your digital marketing friends and coworkers. 

Our Call to Speak is open until December 31. Don’t forget – you can submit as many pitches as you’d like on whatever topics you believe you can bring the most dynamic display of expertise. You can reference the below list of topic categories for inspiration.

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We’re optimistic that the event will be in-person, June 2-3, 2021. That said, the speaker stipends are dependent on whether the event is actually live in Austin. 

We know cases will go up and it’s hard to imagine events, but we’re hopeful for June.


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