Blog: Opinions

Navigating the perilous waters of conference invitations

Jo Dalton 14 Mar 2024


  • Being asked to speak at events is great
  • …except when it looks like a scam or a phishing attempt
  • This is walkthrough of my experience

If you think it’s a scam, it probably is

It’s a typical Sunday evening, and as I’m gearing up for the week ahead and an interesting email lands in my inbox. The message? An invitation to speak at a prestigious event in Spain on a subject I hold dear, with the added bonus of covered expenses. Colour me thrilled ¡España, aquí vengo!

Your insights and experiences would greatly enrich our conference agenda and contribute to the learning and engagement of our attendees.

The theme of this year’s conference is Future Prospects of AI and Machine Learning in the Energy Industry, and we believe that your perspective aligns perfectly with our objectives.

Your session could be a valuable addition to the program, offering unique insights and sparking thought-provoking discussions among our audience.
We understand that your time is valuable, and we would be happy to discuss any specific requirements or preferences you may have regarding your participation.
Additionally, we are prepared to cover your travel expenses and provide accommodation during your stay.”

There’s a red flag though. The sender’s email address is Gmail, not a corporate account. Disappointment sets in. My speaking slot in Valencia is looking less likely.

This isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve been on the speaking circuit for some time. I recognise the effort required and the challenges involved in securing speakers, which is why scams like this dishearten me.

Given its suspicious links and PDF attachment I reported the email as a potential phishing attempt to our IT department. To my surprise it passed the checks.

I decided to dig deeper. Googling the event and the supposed organisers didn’t return much, a single entry to be precise:

Further investigation into the company’s history through Companies House revealed it was a newly registered entity, previously operating under a different name: Curtis & Wyss Media

A search for reviews of Curtis & Wyss Media took me to Trustpilot. Among the negative reviews were a few positive ones, painting a confusing picture. However, the negative feedback was enough to raise alarms and lead me to the conclusion that it is most likely a scam:


The experience served as a reminder of the importance of vigilance. To my fellow conference attendees, aspiring and seasoned speakers alike, irrespective of your industry or area of expertise, I implore you to conduct basic due diligence before investing your time and resources. Whether it’s booking tickets or making travel arrangements, a few precautionary checks can go a long way.

While I can’t definitively label my invitation as a scam, the risk associated feels too significant to ignore. So, I’ve chosen to err on the side of caution and not reply.

To everyone navigating the conference circuit: stay curious, but more importantly, stay cautious. Happy conferencing, and may your inbox be free of phishing lures and fraudulent schemes.