I was approached this week by a large conference organiser in Australia to speak at one of their upcoming conferences in Sydney (300km from my home town). They found me through my LinkedIn profile and sent the email to an address I have at a client site by guessing at my address there – despite the fact that my acidlabs contact details are fairly prominent in my profile.
The topic they wanted me to speak on is right up my alley – Web 2.0/Enterprise 2.0 tools, KM and organisational information management. However, in speaking, the following conditions come along with the gig:
- no travel and accommodation paid (Which is usually covered for many conferences)
- no speaker fee (Which would be nice, but not critical)
- I cannot speak as a representative of myself or acidlabs as a consultant and only as a representative of a client and as a practitioner (What!? I can’t present using my professional persona? You’re kidding, right?)
All this for a conference that charges AU$2650 per attendee!
I’ve been backwards and forwards via email with the organisers in an attempt to understand the motivation. Here’s the answer I got:
Over recent years, it has been noted through delegate feedback that is received and collated post-event, that delegates were more and more expressing their disinterest to hear from consultants. Rather, they expressed interest in hearing case studies from practitioners and often highlighted that the sessions presented by consultants were of little benefit to them.
I expressed the view that this was perhaps the result of less than ideal choices of speaker rather than merely a practitioner-consultant thing. I also stated, that for me, there was no differentiation between me as the consultant and me as the practitioner – they are one and the same.
I informed the organiser that to not cover my expenses and not allow me to represent myself professionally would be to give the conference a free ride on my good name and expertise. I don’t expect (but would always be delighted with) a speaker fee. Matter of fact, I’m mostly delighted with just a comp, and consider travel expenses a bonus. This particular organiser tried to make me feel like I was being done a favour even getting a comp.
For example, I’m speaking at Oz-IA next week. It’s a pretty small conference and has a low attendee cost at just AU$500, yet they are more than happy to comp my place and cover my travel and hotel. It was more than I expected, as I wanted to speak at this event, so I consider the expenses coverage to be a bonus. Equally, I’ve just been to San Francisco for Office 2.0 where I spoke about knowledge workers and changing work environments. Speakers were comped, but the conference doesn’t pay speaker fees or travel (I got that handled another way) although I think they might have to given how successful the event is becoming. However, every speaker and paying participant did get an iPhone. That’s pretty amazing schwag.
Perhaps not surprisingly, I’ve chosen not to speak at the conference that approached me this week.
For those of you that speak at conferences, what’s the usual situation? Do you get expense coverage? A speaker fee of some sort? The right to represent your professional persona? I’m keen to know.