It’s no secret that tech conferences are not always beacons of diversity. Underrepresented and marginalized groups do not always enter the spotlight, and this is exactly what one tech-wide cross-community event looks to change.
Global Diversity Call For Proposals Day brings together experts from all over the world to support underrepresented folks in tech to realize their aspirations to become public speakers. Based on successful workshops held in advance of ScotlandCSS and ScotlandJS 2016, the annual global event looks to assist anyone to craft a speech proposal and reduce any worry they may have when submitting to conferences.
Oceania event leader and Developer Technologies MVP Amy Kapernick explains that events or conferences looking for speakers start with a process called "Call for Proposals". This is an invitation for anyone interested in taking part to submit their idea for a talk or workshop. Proposals are an outline of what the speaker would like to talk about and helps organisers choose talks for their events. Global Diversity CFP Day, therefore, looks to create a blueprint for speakers to follow and submit their idea.
“Events like this provide a safe space for people to come and work out if speaking is something they want to do,” Amy says. “When I first attended one of these workshops, I didn't think I had anything to share with an audience, but by the end of it, I had a fully-fledged talk proposal, plus ideas for 2 more talks!”
“These events help people who are underrepresented or marginalised to discover what they have to share with everyone, and to get a start on sharing it.”
This year’s February 20 virtual event was revelatory to MVPs across Australia and New Zealand. For example, Azure MVP Wagner Silveira is originally from Brazil but based in Auckland. He says he jumped at the chance to speak this year’s event on a panel about presenting in a second language.
“[There’s an expectation that speakers] must master and mesmerize the audience, must be fluent and perfectly dominate the language, and at the same time be an authority in whatever subject is being presented,” he says. “This makes public speaking outside the average person. If we could instead concentrate more on hearing different voices and perspectives in any kind of subject, we all would have a much richer experience and learn a lot more.”
Azure MVP Nelly Sattari also spoke on the panel and agrees that IT people are keen to speak but hesitate due to a lack of confidence. Events like this go a long way to elevating new voices in the tech community, Nelly says.
“Fear of failure is the biggest barrier for all speakers regardless of their situation, but for underrepresented speakers it is more specific to the language barrier and cultural barrier,” Nelly says.
“CFP Day is a good formal opportunity to share all tips, tricks and knowledge with these people.”
Meanwhile, Office Apps & Services MVP Rebecca Jackson presented how to personalize PowerPoint presentations with sketches. Rebecca suggests that event organizers with a desire to diversify their speaker lists should “go beyond the usual networks and the usual topics. Seek ideas, not individuals. Seek outliers in the subject matter. Ask a great speaker to recommend someone new or up-and-coming.”
Further, Rebecca suggests that other MVPs can create opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds by giving them encouragement. “Sometimes people don't know they can do something until you help them believe they can,” Rebecca says.
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