Speaking at Events: Frequently Asked Questions & Selection Criteria

The team behind Hawaii Cannabis Expo curates all speakers. This process ensures top-quality speakers delivering all-new content covering the most pressing industry issues, presented free of sales pitches and self-promotion.

Read on for tips, guidelines, do’s-and-don’ts if you’re interested in being a speaker at an Hawaii Cannabis Event.


How do I become a speaker at your conferences?

All prospective speakers MUST complete the speaker submission form online, which includes providing a short bio of you/your company, identifying which general topics you can speak to, proposing a session idea and listing key takeaways.

What are the speaker application periods for each conference?

For exact dates please check www.hawaiicannabisexpo.com frequently for updates and keep an eye out for announcements via email.

When will I hear whether or not I’ve been selected?

We start curating the content early for each conference, so those accepted to speak at a given conference will be notified near the deadline to apply for that conference. If you have not received any correspondence regarding your submission near the deadline for a given conference, your application may still be in consideration for another conference this year.

I missed the submission deadline. Can I still be considered as a speaker?

We have a defined deadline to submit for each conference to ensure smooth processes on our end and so we can consolidate the speaker vetting process. As such, we will not accept submissions after the window for a specific conference closes. If you miss the submission period, we encourage you to apply still as you may be considered for a different conference taking place this year.

I know people at Hawaii Cannabis Expo – can’t I just email them to be considered a speaker?

No. Everyone must fill out a speaker submission form for each event they are interested in speaking at. You can, however, submit a session/topic idea that you’ve submitted in the past.

I just gave a great presentation and think it would go over well at your event too. Can I just submit that if selected, or make a few minor changes?

No. We require speakers to present fresh material, not simply recycle presentations they’ve given in the past. Your speaker submission should reflect this requirement.

How many people apply to speak?

The previous submission window yielded almost 100 ideas from interested speakers, and the number continues to rise with each conference. So the competition is tough. Unfortunately, we can’t accommodate most requests to speak.

What should I know before determining if this is an event I might want to speak at?

We do not allow speakers to pitch from the stage. No exceptions. This includes veiled attempts to pitch a product, service, company, brand, individual or group. People are paying good money to attend – they do not want to feel that they are being pitched to from the stage.

Speakers cannot recommend or mention specific companies and products, including their own (only in rare exceptions when warranted given the subject matter, such as a case study or a talk on branding). This means you can’t use your company or other companies’ logos in your slide deck, encourage people to join specific groups/organizations, etc.

You also must be willing to stick to our guidelines – both for content and slide formats and layout.


Do I have to pay to speak, or do I need to buy a booth/sponsor?

Absolutely not. We are not a pay-to-play company. We maintain strict separation between our editorial and sales divisions. This approach ensures valuable, non-promotional and highly curated content at our events, and attracts the high-quality attendees which sponsors and exhibitors want to meet.

All speakers are evaluated on their expertise, what topics they can speak to, their proposed session ideas and a host of other factors not tied to exhibiting or sponsoring.

This separation between content and sales is a core pillar of our business philosophy, and we do not deviate from it.

My company is sponsoring the conference and/or has a booth at the event. Do I get to speak, or will I be given special consideration?

No. As stated above, we maintain strict separation between our editorial and sales divisions. This approach ensures valuable, non-promotional and highly curated content at our events, and attracts the high-quality attendees which sponsors and exhibitors want to meet.

All speakers are evaluated on their expertise, what topics they can speak to, their proposed session ideas and a host of other factors not tied to exhibiting or sponsoring.

This separation between content and sales is a core pillar of our business philosophy, and we do not deviate from it.

Who decides which people get to speak?

We have an internal speaker selection team that makes the decisions, not one individual. This ensures that a variety of perspectives are considered.

How do you determine who gets to speak at your conferences?

There are many factors that go into who we select, including all or some of the following:

Geography: We strive to feature speakers from across the country. While there are large numbers of qualified speakers in cannabis-friendly states such as California and Colorado, the national and international focus of the event is bolstered by representation from other states countries, as well.
Industry niche: We give strong preference to experts working directly in the key plant-touching sides of the industry:
Dispensaries/rec shops
Cultivation operations
Infused products companies

Executives running these types of companies are given first consideration over vendors, suppliers, consultants and other ancillary companies.
Speaking at other industry events: If you’ve spoken at other cannabis business events in recent months or this year or are a staple on the speaking circuit, we do not consider that an advantage – it actually could hurt your chances. New ideas from fresh sources are always preferred.

Speaking at our events: We love getting speakers who did a great job at one of our events involved again at future conferences. But we also strive to space them out so we’re not having the same people at every event. As such, we take into consideration whether someone has spoken at one of our recent events, how often they’ve spoken, etc. A speaker who does well at one event might not be selected to speak again for several future conferences simply for this reason. This industry is big and growing fast. There are lots of people with valuable insight and opinions, and we want to get as many of the qualified thought leaders and experts involved as possible over time.

Previous experience: We of course evaluate the industry experience and expertise of speakers when making final decisions. However, just because you’ve been in the industry for a long time doesn’t automatically give you an edge.

We are looking for a mix of speakers, including those who have indeed been in the space for years as well as those who have run a cannabis company for just a year or two and, in some cases, even those who have just started in the past year or so. It really depends on the topic. Additionally, we look to bring in speakers from other, similar industries – or those in other professions who can bring valuable perspective – even if they don’t have direct cannabis experience. Sometimes outside insight can be extremely valuable.
Diversity: We work hard to ensure our speaker lineups reflect the industry and the country at large. Therefore, we do consider diversity when lining up speakers, including gender, ethnic background, experience, geography, perspective, business stage, etc.

Agenda: Our internal team takes a first pass through identifying key topics for presentation, using their in-depth understanding of the current state and future direction of the industry. We also review submitted session ideas to ensure an industry perspective is included. Once we finalize the agenda, we look for people who can fit the predefined topics.

While you may be the preeminent national expert on a particular issue, the topic of your proposed presentation may not match the topics on the agenda of a given show.

Our editorial team talks with sources in the industry every day. Through that, we get a good idea of how articulate and knowledgeable some professionals are, where their experience lies, how easy they are to work with, etc. We may use this knowledge to jump-start speaker selection. Additionally, if we’ve lined you up as a speaker in the past but missed deadlines, were hard to reach, were difficult to work with, worked an unauthorized promotional mention or investment ask from the stage, etc. that could affect your chances going forward.

I’ve spoken at other marijuana business conferences recently and received positive feedback. Does this help my chances of getting selected?

No. As mentioned above, we seek new perspectives and faces on our stage. If you’ve spoken at other cannabis business events in recent months/this year or are a staple on the speaking circuit, we do not consider that as an advantage – it actually could hurt your chances. If we have the same people who are speaking at other events, it diminishes the value of what we provide to attendees. At the same time, it won’t preclude you from speaking at our events, but it is one of many considerations.

I’ve spoken at other events outside the cannabis industry. Does this help my chances?

Possibly. We do prefer people with at least some experience speaking, so this could help your chances depending on the event and the capacity in which you spoke.


Do you have presentation guidelines and deadlines?

Yes. Consistency is a critical element of the success of Hawaii Cannabis Expo events.

All speakers must agree to meet universal guidelines, including:

Using our standard PowerPoint template, using minimum font sizes, and image criteria (For solo presentations only.)
Meeting pre-defined deadlines for slide decks and outlines
Working closely with Hawaii Cannabis Expo editors to refine content in the draft stage
Working with us on any editor-requested edits after slides are submitted for review

We work closely with speakers on their content, and often we will edit their PowerPoints and go back with questions and changes. If it’s your way or the highway – or you have spoken many times and believe you shouldn’t need any guidance/don’t want to adhere to our guidelines – you should probably not apply to speak.

Will I be compensated for speaking? How about expense reimbursement?

The primary benefit for speaking at an Hawaii Cannabis Expo event is the exposure to your peers as knowledge, respected expert in your field to our attendee audience consisting of industry executives, high-level professionals and investors.

In addition, all Hawaii Cannabis Expo speakers receive:

Complimentary conference registration for the speaker. This pass includes full access to Main Conference sessions and the Expo Floor for the event.

If I’m selected as a speaker, can I get additional comped registrations or discounts?

The speaker benefits are listed above. Speakers must sign a contract which spells out all benefits and all deliverables.


I’ve been exhibiting at and/or sponsoring your events for years and have not been selected to speak. Why not?

We develop our content agenda with a focus on attracting the most highly qualified prospects for your goods and services, rather than on highlight you specifically as a sponsoring company.

Past or current sponsorship or exhibit hall participation is not considered when lining up speakers. Exhibiting and sponsoring at our events provides huge value to companies on its own, and speaking is not part of any such contract. See the section above titled Criteria for Speaking for more on what factors we take into consideration.

I have applied to speak at your events numerous times and have not been selected. What gives?

We encourage all interested speakers to submit for each event at which they are interested in speaking, even if they haven’t been offered a slot in the past. However, the number of times an individual has submitted to speak has no bearing on the match-up between the expertise of a particular speaker and the content being developed for a particular event.

My idea for a session didn’t make the final cut on the agenda. Will I still be considered for a speaking slot in another session?

Yes. Even if we don’t go with your idea, we very well might want you to participate in a panel, debate or presentation on another topic that matches your expertise. We will notify you either way.


How do you decide what topics to cover at your events?

Our content staff and the editorial team behind Hawaii Cannabis Expo come up with many of our session ideas. They are out in the field and talking to people from around the country every day, so they have their fingers on the pulse of the industry. Additionally, we choose topics based on the speaker submissions we receive.

How can I make my submission stand out from the crowd?

Sell your expertise and your idea, and focus on your takeaways for an audience of peers. We want new ideas, not the same ones that have been trotted out at our conferences and other events repeatedly.

While there are some standard topics we will always look to cover, often it can be presented in a fresh way or with a new perspective. We look for valuable insights on major issues affecting cannabis professionals NOW, solid and actionable advice, and thought leadership to help prepare business owners for what’s coming down the road.

Spend time on your submission, and focus on the key takeaways.

Please follow this link to 2021 Hawaii Cannabis Expo Speaker Application Form