Some activities or events at conferences, or conferences themselves, are known to come with a high risk of harassment occuring. This page is a non-exhaustive list of these, and suggests some mitigation you can do.

Note: not all the mitigation strategies are simultaneously possible. You will have to decide which ones are right for your event.

Lightning talks or short presentations

Lightning talks are short presentations that are often scheduled less than 24 hours in advance with very little time for review of the content or the background of the speakers. Often, no one has reviewed the content of the talk, or the reviewers have only a title and a slide to base a decision on. The speakers may not have much experience or have read any related conference anti-harassment policy or guidelines.


  • Include reading any content guidelines or policies as part of the submission process
  • Ask talk submitters to check boxes saying whether their talk includes porn, sex, etc. and review those talks more carefully
  • Set the deadline for lightning talk submissions far enough in advance that organizers can review submissions


Comedy at conferences can include paid professional entertainers, keynote speakers, organized competitions, or informal attendee events (like "Slide Karaoke"). Comedy often contains highly offensive or exclusionary material, especially around race, gender, gender presentation, age, and other important areas. In the case of amateur comedy, it's very easy for performers/participants to go for sexist, homophobic and other oppressive jokes under stress.


  • Review professional entertainers' previous work for racism, sexism, etc.
  • Review conference guidelines with anyone performing comedy and be very specific about jokes often thought to not be sexist or racist (blonde jokes, redhead jokes, etc.)
  • Avoid impromptu amateur comedy since people have less time to filter their words
  • Don't have comedy at all and find entertainment that appeals to attendees because it is about something they are interested in

See Let this be a lesson for an example of Slide Karaoke gone wrong.


Ice-breakers are activities designed to get people to bond with a group of strangers. Geek events, especially smaller ones and formal-ish ones (such as professional networking events) often hold ice-breakers.

One effective but potentially ethically dubious way to do ice-breaking is to get people to do something out of character or embarrassing in front of the group. Introducing people in a way that many feel is coercive or embarassing (or even simply boring, although that's not the concern of this page) sets a very bad precedent for your event or group.


  • don't hold ice-breaking sessions: let people get to know each other spontaneously, or in the context of doing real projects together
  • have much less formal cooperative events, such as a optional games evening with rotating teams
  • don't require people to touch each other (eg, mandatory hugs, playing the game Twister, etc)
  • don't require people to get intoxicated together (eg drinking games)
  • don't require people to be funny on the spot: see the Comedy section above.
  • build ice-breaking sessions around a shared task and/or friendly competition (such as "build the highest tower" challenges and similar) rather than individual humiliation
  • allow individuals to control the kind of things they say about themselves, by asking open-ended questions like "tell us one thing about yourself that is unusual" rather than "tell us the name of the first person you kissed" or "show us a scar and tell us how you got it"
  • more generally, stay well away from ice-breaking topics and activities around bodies and/or sexual experiences
  • keep it short, say 30 minutes or less
  • train leaders to watch sympathetically for people who are uncomfortable, and to consider ending early or changing the activity rather than hassling the person into hiding their discomfort

See also the section about dares, since some of those are done as ice-breakers on occasion.

Photography competitions

Photography at geek events is often a concern for women, as they are disproportionately chosen as subjects and sometimes find themselves stealth-photographed. Photography competitions increase the incentive to take eye-catching photographs of the conference, which increases the pressure on women.


  • make it clear in your event policy what kinds of photography aren't allowed (eg, photography without asking, photography continuing after the subject said to stop)
  • don't run a photography competition
  • run a competition focusing on the local area or sights or other non-human attractions
  • limit it to crowd shots
  • require that any person in a portrait (non-crowd) shot be explicitly asked for consent for a competition photo, and provide a feedback mechanism to ask for shots to be removed
  • use badges/lanyards that clearly proclaim any attendee's position on inclusion in photographs (for example, "yes", "ask first", "no" represented by green/yellow/red lanyards, perhaps with contrasting shapes for colorblind photographers/black&white photography)
  • separately seek a model release from any person who you intend to use in promotional material (eg, next year's website, slide decks about your amazing conference)

Costume and cosplay events

Events where delegates are intoxicated

Intoxication (usually drunkeness) both genuinely lowers inhibitions and provides people with an excuse for acting badly even if they genuinely knew better. Additionally, intoxication affects people's ability to defend themselves, and some intoxicants including alcohol cause amnesia. Women may be deliberately invited/coerced into drinking a lot of alcohol especially to make them more vulnerable.


  • make it clear that your event policy covers social events
  • don't serve alcohol or other intoxicants
  • serve alcohol or other intoxicants only at some of your events
  • serve a substantial meal before serving (much) alcohol
  • offer a variety of interesting non-alchoholic drinks as an alternative to alcoholic drinks you serve
  • don't serve alcohol or intoxicants to seated people at tables
  • limit the servings of alcohol and intoxicants in any of: number of serves, type of serve (eg wine and beer but not spirits)
  • have an appropriate number of sober, empowered duty officers, conference staff and security staff at social events (your local jurisdiction may provide ratios, but 1:50 is probably a minimum)

Beach, pool and sauna events

Beach, pool, sauna and similar events involve people wearing less clothes than most usually would, and are environments where people have been trained to be very aware of how their body looks. (See Body image.) In addition, some people may regard the event as a sexual one, feel that they are sexualized, or simply feel uncomfortable doing something that they usually reserve for lovers or close friends (if from cultures where one doesn't routinely sauna, for example).


  • make it clear that your event policy covers social events
  • don't hold beach, pool, sauna or similar events
  • have a nearby well-resourced space where people can wear their street wear and feel that they are still participating (such as a barbecue or a game on a large lawn near a pool)

Challenge, dare or auction events

These events are where people are asked to do things in front of an audience that are unusual, difficult, confronting, out-of-character and so on. Sometimes this is done as a charity auction, for example.

In addition to the potential for coercion of participants, these events can easily worry or scare members of the audience, especially if there's any possibility of picking people from the audience to be next. Unwilling participants or a belief that there are unwilling participants, will make a lot of people justifiably believe that your event doesn't care about consent and safety.


  • make it clear that your event policy covers social events
  • don't hold dare events
  • hold alternative fundraisers like raffles or online donations that don't make people choose between doing something they are uncomfortable with, and raising less money for the cause
  • hold such events at a time when participants and the audience are (fairly) sober
  • don't use "plants": consenting people who pretend to be a random audience member and are targeted for (pre-planned) mockery and humiliation. The appearance of non-consent affects your audience.
  • ask for volunteers well before the event, rather than pressuring people into it during the event
  • ask participants to specify their own challenge before the event
  • pre-plan your event and each challenge so that people aren't being pressured by an audience into something they haven't had time to think about
  • don't have challenges that play to common concerns about appearance, attractiveness and sexualization (examples might include, eg, "pretend you are taking a shower", or "pretend to have an orgasm" or "take your clothes off"!)
  • don't draw attention to marginalised identities, for example, asking women to clean something, or people with non-local accents to say a difficult local word
  • don't allow photography of the challenges
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