Thursday, February 18, 2016

Changing the world of conferences: pay the speakers

I spent last night reading up links on speaking as part of your professional career and a few lessons I found particularly insightful:
 I set up a conference (European Testing Conference) to change the world of conferences. There's two changes in particular that I seek:
  1. Getting programmers and testers (and others) to work together on solving the testing challenge in spirit of dialogue, without fear. We need to actively mix testing as programmers know it and as testers know it, to find better mixes.
  2. Getting delivering valuable sessions in conferences to be treated as paid work instead of a favor in marketing. 
With this post, I'm focusing on the second change. The speakers should not have to pay to speak, and speakers should be paid to speak.

Reading the posts from others, I felt there's a post I need to add: one from a perspective of a conference organizer. Let's use European Testing Conference as an example. It's a bit different example in the sense that normally organizers need to also get paid, and with this one, organizers are not on salary.

The group of speakers + organizers is in total 27 people. It includes 4 organizers,4 keynotes, speakers with hands-on 1,5 hour workshops and speakers with 0,5 hour talks.

For sake of simplicity, let's assume every one of these delivers a session they've delivered before and that preparing a shorter talk session or a longer hands-on workshop would take only the same time as an hour talk . The amount to pay with Jenn's rule is 25*2000 = 50 000. If the talks were new, the sum would be 25*5000 = 125 000.

That's would be the fair way of running it, but that is a goal I quite can't reach. And worst from an organizer view, what if I had to commit to that level of payment in advance and I wouldn't get enough people?

The commitment to speakers we did with European Testing Conference is that they will not have to pay to speak - we will cover expenses, even with our own risk. And a risk it seemed to be, up until 2 weeks into the conference when we finally went from us paying to organize to being able to pay something to speakers and leaving a little for next year / other causes (*) we raise money for.

Lena's honorarium sums would end up with  3750 - 17500 to be paid as a conference, and we seem to be landing somewhere on this range this year on what we'll split to speakers. In future years, the goal is to move from this per speaker 150..700 range to 2000 ... 5000 range - sharing the financial risk and opportunity with the speakers.

We're also working on openness of accounting, so when we have numbers together, we'll share them. That should be a few more weeks into it. A change is starting, even if just with one conference.

(*) on other cause: we're going to be starting a fund over the years to pay speaker's travel expenses for other conferences and looking to partner on that with communities that support speakers. The world needs better and more diverse conference sessions. One experiment at a time.