Dear fitness conference organizer,

I’m a woman on a mission to help improve the diversity among speakers at fitness conferences. It’s not a role I particularly want, but it’s one that fell into my lap a few years ago while at a fitness seminar Q&A where everyone answering questions was white and male. It was disappointing.

Worse was the response I received from some of the men in the industry whom I respect tremendously. The one that struck me most was “there just aren’t many women who are at the level that they could be speaking at these events“.

I had a hard time believing that, but since I’m an engineer at heart (and by background), I decided an investigation was in order. The result was a list of 39 women who could be speaking at fitness events. That list was passed around to my network and my network’s network, and is now three times as long.

I received a lot of feedback about how great this initiative is, and I also received comments asking for a solution versus just drawing attention to a problem, and pointing out that this list may not be helpful because it doesn’t tell conference organizers whether the person is actually a good speaker.

While the positive feedback feels better, I value quality critical comments more, because they motivated me to turn a list into a proposed plan. I share this plan in the hope that you will consider participating.

Here is this proposed plan:
Step 1. As a fitness conference organizer, I ask that you implement a speaker application process.

This has the potential for you to showcase new and different people and perspectives to your seminar audience while opening up opportunities to talented presenters who may not be in your network or your network’s network.

I recognize that reviewing applications may add to your workload, and leaves you potentially not knowing whether the applicants have what you are looking for in a speaker. Thankfully, I believe there is a solution to these challenges. Khaled ELmasri, the organizer of the Rise Fitness Business Conference, has an excellent application process.

It’s brilliant because it accomplishes four things:

  1. It requires some effort on the part of the applicant, which means only serious applicants will apply.
  2. Part of the application is a video which lets you see the applicant’s speaking ability.
  3. There is a 3 minute time limit for the video, which caps application review time.
  4. The videos provide him with marketing tools for his event without having to later chase after the speakers to request marketing video content.

Once you have implemented your application process, please send me the url for the application. You can do so with this form.

Step 2. I will create a list of conferences with open application processes and will include links to the forms, the date and location of the event, and the due date for the application. I will add your conference application form when I receive it.

This will help women to apply to your events, while also positioning you as an organization that is supportive of a diverse fitness industry. Hopefully you’ll receive applications from people of different ethnic backgrounds who may not otherwise be aqble to reach you.

Step 3. If anyone reading this knows of fitness conferences that have published application processes, please post them in the comments section or send them to me and I will include them.

Step 4. For this to work, the women on this list must recognize that we have a part to play. The reality is that the people who get stuff are the people who ask for stuff. If you want to speak at fitness events, you have to apply to speak at fitness events.

When you apply, respect the event organizer’s time by following their application guidelines.

Once you’ve submitted your application, get comfortable with the idea that you might not be selected. For this, I’ll pass on words of wisdom from a boss back when I worked as an engineer: “It’s not personal: it’s business.” Translation: If they say no, they’re not saying they don’t like you; they’re saying what you have to offer now is not what they need for this event. It may be what they need next time, and it may be what someone else needs now, so you must learn to accept no without losing the confidence to apply for another opportunity.

Step 5. If you see flaws in this plan, or have ideas on how it could be better, please reach out to share them. Things improve when we build on each other’s ideas.

Thank you for reading, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Elsbeth Vaino


  1. I train women all the time, so I highly respect this. My friends at Clovis Personaltrainer would appreciate this write up too.

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