Keynotes are something to be earned and rightly so. Typically a keynote comes from someone who likes to speak, who is good at speaking, and has something interesting to talk about.
I know many women testers who meet the above criteria. They have the requisite ‘merit’ required to be a keynoter. They have thoughtful ideas, are good speakers and are well respected in the testing community.
So why are they not keynoting?
Could it be that to be a keynote takes more than ‘merit’? Could it be that keynoting is also about your place in the community and your connections within that community?
My experience as a conference organiser and being on program committees is that ‘who you know’ is equally as important as ‘what they know and how they speak’. I don’t apologise for that. It’s important for me to base my decisions not only on an abstract but on a speaker’s reputation.
A keynoter needs to have some of the following:
1) They have interesting topics to talk about
2) They are practiced/skilled at speaking
3) They are involved in some way in the community
4) They network within and outside of their ‘tribe’
5) They make a point of asking for keynotes
I know many practised women speakers with fresh and innovative talks and we are well covered on points one and two.
And we’re not so bad at organising and volunteering for conferences & community either, so….
Could it be, points four and five is what’s holding us back?
Keynotes are typically by invite. That means, the program committee gets to decide who keynotes. Those on the program committee tend to have a good network. It’s probably one of the reasons they’ve been chosen to be on the program.
How are your networking skills? I’m not talking about card swapping nonsense, but ask yourself: do you have a genuine interest in engaging with people who you respect? Importantly, do you know your network will openly advocate on your behalf? Which brings me to point number five…
Be open to asking to keynote. Is it just me, or is there’s this weird unwritten rule in our community that prevents us asking to keynote? It seems to me that to ‘make it’ we have to Marlene Dietrich like, sit nonchalantly in the corner waiting to be asked for our moment in the spotlight.
Maybe that’s just me and not a general experience. But for those of us who are less direct I’d like to suggest you make it clear to your close network that you want to keynote?
What’s more, go direct to the program committee and ask them for a spot. If the say no, ask why not? and what does it take to keynote,? Who knows you might gain some valuable insights into the process.
Because no matter what skill you have, or how good you are at speaking, or how charismatic you are, there’s dozens of great speakers who can do what you do. It takes more than merit to get noticed. It takes courage to ask and you need allies who will support you along the way. Have you got what it takes?
If you’re reading this post, and you’ve keynoted in the past with a story to share about how you got to keynote, Speak Easy would love to hear it as it may help us understand what it takes to ‘get there’. I’d post a link to your blog post on the Speak Easy website (or I can post a blog).
*Title misappropriated from a book I found useful on this topic “nice girls don’t get the corner office’