Thursday, May 13, 2010
I won't speak for free
In March of 2008 I had a pair of 'firsts' that were both scary as hell for me at the time. First, I flew on an airplane for the first time in my life, and second, I spoke at SXSW. Actually I moderated a panel, but it was the first time since graduate school 5 years prior, that I spoke in front of an audience.
Now as an introvert, an introvert that had never spoken professionally at the time, my first thought when I was contacted about moderating a panel at SXSW was "There's no way I can do this!"
My second thought was "There's no way I can't do this!"
So although I was literally worried sick about speaking at SXSW, I went ahead with it. It ended up being one of the best decisions I've made in the last 2 years, and now I actually love speaking at social media conferences, something I would have never imagined this time two years ago. And I've gotten to be a pretty good speaker, I get good reviews every time I speak, and at every event I have had at least one attendee tell me afterward that my presentation alone justified the cost of the event for them.
For each event I speak at I spend on average 10 hours creating the slide deck, and about 20 hours rehearsing the presentation, unless it's an existing presentation/deck, then that time is much less. The end result is that I spend anywhere from 15-30 hours preparing/rehearsing the presentation, and lose a minimum of one day due to travel, usually two days.
So there's a pretty big time commitment necessary for me to speak at an event. And yet even with the time investment required, even though I have spoken at most of the biggest social media events and get rave reviews when I speak, I still have conference organizers that contact me expecting me to speak at their event for free.
And when I say 'free', I don't mean that they won't pay a speaking fee. I mean that they won't cover a speaking fee OR any of the speaker's travel costs TO the event.
About a year ago, I adopted a strict policy for speaking at events: I won't speak for free. If you want me to speak at your event, the bare minimum requirement is that you cover my travel. I'll probably require a speaking fee as well, but one certainty is that I won't be paying to come speak at your event so you can sell more tickets. I have turned down a lot of speaking requests in the last year because the event organizers wanted me to speak for free.
I won't. Period.
I'm sorry, but if you are an event organizer, my expertise and time are both worth money, and I'm going to ask for it. I've worked with event organizers before, so I understand that very few social media conferences are cash cows. But a lot more could be compensating their speakers, even if it's only their travel to the event.
Besides that, it's the right thing to do.