Behind the scenes, conference organizers and bloggers tell me writing a post like this is a liability. They say things like, “it might look bad on us to talk about paying speakers.”
I’m left shaking my head. Just the night before, I was told that I need to “watch out.” That I’m getting a “reputation.” I brushed it off and decided not to dignify that comment with a reply.
But it kept echoing in my mind. A reputation? For what? For insisting that people be paid for their hard work?
Do you really think we don’t deserve it? Let me explain my process and just how much time I put into every presentation.
- I sit on the phone with you and talk topics, do rehearsals on your timeline and read all those, “can you please tweet this” emails. That’s at least 3 hours.
- I sit down and outline my content before I ever start creating slides because I’m determined to create something practical and useful, not a rant on ridiculous behavior in recruiting. That’s an hour or two of research, assuming I don’t change my mind 3 times.
- Then I create my slides. That takes a minimum of 4 hours just to get a first draft that doesn’t look wonky in presentation mode.
- I practice. A lot. At least 3 full dry runs before I show up at your place.
- I come all the way there. The critical point to make here – I hate to travel. Airports are the layer above hell if you ask me. This airport adventure alone is worth a large sum on my side, but let’s call it at least a day of being unproductive in the air with shitty wifi.
- When I’m there, I’m there. I’m tweeting sessions. I’m presenting. That’s social media management services for 4-6 hours a day, usually over a few days.
At a minimum, this is 40 hours of work I could be getting paid for, and you’re not even willing to throw me a couple hundred for a flight?
And yes, I make exceptions. I adjust my fee according to the budget of the person on the other side. But if you expect to use my face and my content to make you money, know that I expect to be compensated.
I am not ok with anyone shaming me in any way for expecting that or expecting it for others.
I understand that events are not highly profitable endeavors. If you are so concerned about making money that you can not even kick-back the price of 1 ticket to your event to each of your speakers, as a friend and someone who runs a company I would suggest you get out of this business.
What makes it worse is that most of these companies blow their budget on the big names who have money to spend sitting around and talking in the first place.
Yes, I understand billboard names drive big crowds. But my expense report goes to my bookkeeper who I have to pay even to open an email. Who do you think Clooney sends his receipts to?
Do you think he packs a PBJ to eat in the airport? I do. Pay me.
So yeah, I’m okay with having a reputation that insists on a few things when I’m going to put this kind of effort into your event.
Here are a few things I do expect.
- Every speaker who is not a sponsor is being paid something that is at least equal to the price of one ticket to your event. I will make exceptions for:
- Small businesses,
- Probably other things I’m not thinking of.
- I want to see all kinds of people up there. I am not showing up just to break up your manel party. I also don’t want to look at your speaker list and only see white people. Let’s make our conferences a reflection of reality.
- That this event isn’t just about you making money. That it’s about making people a little better when they leave.
With that, my reputation and I are going on a vacation.
Katrina (Kat) Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive, unbiased job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.