If you’re invited to speak at an event, congratulations! You’ve got a great opportunity to talk about your work and engage with others on big issues.
You can also help the world move beyond panels.
Why should experts champion this?
Alternative event designs can (depending on their style) be more: provocative; bold; fun; deep; memorable; creative; and empowering. You can demonstrate initiative and vision by promoting them. By critically considering the circumstances in which you present your expertise, you become far more aware of the way context and framing affects engagement with your ideas.
Other flow on benefits are that photos from creative event designs can look more dynamic (great for the annual review), you will meet a wider range of people and you can push your disciplinary and public engagement comfort zones.
How can you help?
Before the warm glow (or trepidation) wears off, ask questions of the organiser. You can do this when being invited initially, or email them.
Here’s a basic checklist, in addition to questions around content and logistics. It applies equally to people invited to speak, and to facilitate:
- What’s the format? If it’s a panel, ask if they’ve considered a more interactive format – point them to #BeyondPanels! They want your expertise; you have a strong position to encourage them to put it to effective use.
- What’s the agenda and/or framing question? If this can’t be articulated by the organiser in a sentence or two, push back and demand they clarify it, for your sake and for the sake of the attendees.
- How will attendees be involved? Emphasise that it’s important to you that the potential expertise and diversity in the room is acknowledged and used constructively. Think about it this way – you’re probably going to have colleagues and friends at the event – wouldn’t it be great if they had a chance to contribute too?
- What diversity is in the panel, and how this will be used? That could mean disciplines, genders, ages, cultural and racial backgrounds or ideologies. If the panel is not diverse, consider critically what message that sends, for you as a contributor and for the attendees. Think about putting forward a relevant contact if you think it could help diversify a panel.
- When will the briefing between contributors and the facilitator happen? Often this is overlooked in pre-event hustle, or conducted more as a quick schmooze without practical value. Even five minutes together to clearly outline the agenda, consider key questions and understand timings can make a big difference to the flow of discussions.