Updated on November 13, 2019 to account for community and non-profit event policy.
I recently updated my website to include a speaking page, listing my previous experience and outlining my personal speaking policy. This policy is focused on conferences having and enforcing a code of conduct (boiler plate example) and treating all speakers equally regarding compensation.
That doesn’t mean all conferences must provide speaker fees, but it does mean that conferences should not pay or cover the costs of some speakers and not others.
Why does this matter? New / young / minority speakers are often taken advantage of. All speakers, no matter how much experience they have, deserve to be shown the same respect.
More on compensation
I have enthusiastically agreed to my fair share of events that took significant time with little personal benefit. Very rarely do I get as frustrated as when I’m asked to do something for “exposure.” When I’m asked to do something for just “exposure,” what the person really means is that they don’t think what I have to say is valuable enough to offer me more. You better have a good reason that you haven’t included some form of speaker compensation in your event budget.
My feelings on compensation are particularly related to larger corporate events, where ticket prices are high and events are for-profit. Community events or events where ticket prices are kept low to make events affordable for everyone may not be able to pay for speakers. But in those cases, there are other ways to make speakers feel welcomed and appreciated. For example, a speaker dinner and hand written thank you notes. Those touches make a huge difference.
Having a policy is not just related to thoughts on compensation, but also in the way organizers think about diversity, ethics, and inclusion.
Seb Lee-Delisle wrote a great piece, “How to ask to get paid to speak.” In it, she writes:
Please remember that you are the product that conferences are selling. So it is more than fair that you get some of that income for the considerable time and commitment that you are investing.
I put a lot of time and effort into creating my talks. Although for the most part I still apply to CFPs instead of being directly invited to give a talk, I think it’s important that everyone who speaks at events set expectations for conference organizers.
I have not yet asked for a speaker fee. But eventually, once I’ve added more events to my roster and become a more established thought leader, I will.**
**This does not apply to events I am asked to speak at on behalf of my employer, as Google has an internal policy about this topic.