Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Don't pay to speak, get paid to speak

I strongly believe the world of tech conferences needs to change, and the change I call for is that whoever the conference organizers deem good enough to step on their podium to speak, should not have to pay to speak. And when I talk about paying to speak, I speak of expenses.

In case of paying for travel expenses, and encouraging the cheapest possible travel, there's a second step. When booking early, pay back early. Don't use your speakers as a bank and pay back after the conference.

I work towards changing these two.

Other people ask for more, and I would love to join them. They ask to be paid to speak. They ask for the time they put on preparing to be compensated. And since the work you do is not preparing the talk, it's becoming the person that gets on that stage, the speaking fees should be relevant.

In paying, a big injustice is when some people get paid differently than others. The injustice of it just gets bigger when conferences give replies like this on paying some but not others.
As a conference organizer, I want to share my perspective.

I set up a conference that:
  1. Pays travel expenses of the speakers. All the speakers.
  2. Profit shares with all the speakers. Keynotes get 5* what a 30-minute slot speaker gets. 
The second happens only if there is profit. And I work hard to make profit. In 2017, I failed. I made losses. 

If I would have committed early on to paying my speakers, I would have lost more than 20k that I lost now. This loss is insignificant as it is an investment into a great conference (and great it was!) and an investment in making things right in the world of speakers. But imagine if I had a thousand euros to pay to each of my speakers, I would be down 30k more. 

What I failed in was marketing. Getting people to learn about the conference. Yet, I feel that whoever came are the right people. 

To make marketing easier, famous names help. Some famous names are willing to risk it to not be paid for their time, and I'm very grateful for that. But others have a fixed price range, paid in advance. When as an organizer you want to invite one like that, you fill the other similar slots with people who are not the same: people who don't insist on being paid fairly. But lying about it is just stupid. The speakers talk. And should talk more in the future.

As an organizer, I rather leave out the superstars if the same fees principle is a problem for them. And honestly, it is a problem for many of our tech superstars. But things change with conferences only if we change them. One conference at a time.