Thursday, July 28, 2016

I paid to speak. Again.

Sometimes I think I have learning disabilities. I again submitted to Agile201x. I again got accepted. I again paid 1200 euros for the flights. I again gave up a week of my vacation to be here. Why do I do that?

I wonder this in particular with having 15 amazing, wonderful and brilliant people in my session. Out of 2500.

I've grown to realize that I'm seriously introverted, to a point where I experience social anxiety if I don't manage my situations well. I've just paid to live a week in what I could frame as a nightmare: 2500 people, mostly strangers and very few of my peers I would find easier to connect with. All moving around in a mass of people.

I usually speak at conferences, because the personal connections to people who I can learn with are valuable. Speaking enables people to approach me, to mention they share some of my interests (yay!) and after that all the connection problems vanish for me. I love talking about things I love, and that is probably why no one ever believes me being introverted.

With that said, I believe there is a big problem we have on conferences: a lot of them make the speakers pay to speak. This means that only those of us with privilege to afford paying all this and taking time away from work get our voices into the conferences have a chance of being heard.

I believe we are losing two main categories of voices:
  • People who have done this enough to know that the not paying is just an excuse and you can choose the conferences you speak at more smartly. 
  • People who can't take the financial burden, because their companies don't support them and they are not self-employed needing to keep themselves visible for sales purposes
As participants of conferences, you should care about this. It means your conference has selected to give you people who have something to sell. There are some pretty amazing consultants selling their knowledge to you out there so it might not be a problem. But it skews what we get to hear about and who we get to hear from.

The big conferences could afford to pay their speakers. I don't think they will, because this works for them. 

Here's the score from the session I did with Llewellyn Falco on Monday. 

Llewellyn is a consultant. He has incentive to sell his services. I'm not. I'm an amazing tester with real, daily long-term experience pairing and mobbing with people who are hesitant to all of this. For the session, our differences made it great.  At least I'd like to believe so. 

My company does not pay for my travel. My company gives me 5 days away from "real work" a year, and all the other conferences I'm on my own time. I *know* this is expensive. 

The #PayToSpeak model is erasing voices close to mine. Pretty much all with less insistence and privilege than I have. We have a lot to work to real diversity and representation of the industry. 

(Fortunately, the rest of my year is not pay to speak. I warmly recommend seeking speaking engagements with TestBash family of conferences or European Testing Conference. Agile Testing Days family of conferences is not bad either, but is likely to cap you're hotel stay inconveniently. Also, ask to be paid for expenses. There's still often the case of loaning the money to the conference, as they pay back after.)