There seems to be a very reasonable and fair consensus among experienced conference speakers that being paid a speaking fee should be something of a given. For the most part, I find it hard to argue but I’d like to share my experiences as someone who’s a novice and taking their first steps in conference speaking.
I don’t mind not being paid a fee, it would be nice to be offered one but for me at this stage in my speaking career I feel that as long my expenses are covered and the opportunity is a good one then I look at it as a barter situation where we’re both taking a bit of a gamble and we’re both roughly even at this stage.
The organisers are taking a chance on me because I’m not a known speaking quantity and I’m giving over a chunk of my time to prepare and practice a talk then travel away from my family to a conference and I doubt even a reasonable fee would cover the actual time and effort put into creating a talk from scratch and practicing it.
I’m “paying” to speak at conferences although only in the sense that I’m contributing something and not being financially rewarded for it but I feel on balance that the couple of events I’ve taken part in to date have given me so much more value back in new friends, experiences and yes – work, than the amount of time I’ve spent working on a talk I’m happy to do.
Speaking is a very personal investment in my development and career.
Perhaps I’ll look back on this post and laugh heartily in a couple of years while sunning myself on my speedboat bought with speaking engagement fees but in the meantime, I’m thinking of the time I spend on it as a trade I still get plenty out of.