I speak for free at community conferences, but typically require travel reimbursement and compensation for my time to participate in conferences held to promote for-profit brands.
I think there’s a churn where people speak for free, do it for a bit/get popular, then either a) get sick of it and stop or b) start getting paid to do it. Doing it for free is NOT SUSTAINABLE. I’ve noticed many confs extending their CFPs and that can only mean one thing: they’re getting fewer quality proposals.
Whether I ask for a fee depends on where I’m speaking and why. If it’s a for-profit conference I will expect all expenses + a fee — always. If it’s a community event I’m much more willing to pitch in for free. It depends.
If the conference is making money from tickets, I expect speakers to be paid relative to their experience, the ticket price, and number of attendees. Travel coverage and hotel is also an expectation in this case. If the conference is non-profit or small, these things are negotiable.
I don’t have a credit card. So whenever confs are “It’s cool. Just charge it and we’ll reimburse you” I have to awkwardly go to a colleague/open source friend/childhood friend/someone (I’m not close with my family) and beg them to drop $3k on their card for a while until the conf reimburses me.
A negative experience was when I was keynote speaker at one event. Wasn’t paid, had to arrange own travel and accommodation at own expense.
So much strain on family that it causes my wife to forbid future conference talks (she softened this stance when the talk lead to paid work). Hard to quantify childcare costs when you have a spouse at home, she shoulders most of the additional burden & there’s not a dollar figure on it. If I had to pay for the childcare in cash it’s unlikely I’d ever put together an unpaid conference talk.
What does it cost to speak?
- In the past, I had to take time off to speak ($700/day)
- Meals & drinks ($150/day)
- Airport Parking ($100/trip)
Essential parts of the speaker package are travel (all or most of the cost), at least two nights at the hotel, conference ticket and lunch. I have made a few exceptions in the past, but am doing that less often now. These things must be offered upfront. I shouldn’t have to “beg” for it or apply for financial aid.
2 days of conference cost me the PTO that it takes 7 weeks to save up.
An event didn’t tell me that they were only covering the 3 nights of the conference (though they agreed to book me 4 nights at the hotel). It was a fancy hotel, too, so I got a $350 bill on checkout.
For each day I’m at a conference and not working, I’m losing around $800. Food and travel usually add up to quite a bit too.
One event would only pay for the cheapest airfare for a long-haul international flight–to fly on my preferred group of airlines, I had to cover $400 myself.
The best event I’ve spoken at was small but the organiser paid all speakers, covered travel and organised all accommodation and the meal and breakfast beforehand which really helped reduce stress - I could just turn up and not worry about finding somewhere to get dinner and breakfast the next day.