A person I’m friendly with in California wrote me last night asking for advice about a speaking gig he just got. He’s pretty new to the speaking thing (though he is excellent) and wants to grow his reputation as a speaker, but also doesn’t get funding from his institution for professional development:
I got accepted to present at the 2008 California Library Association conference, which came as excellent news. That’s the good news in this e-mail.
The not-so-good news is this: “All conference related expenses, including registration fees, travel and hotel, are at your own expense. As a courtesy to speakers, the early conference discount rate will be offered regardless of when we receive your registration. We expect to have registration materials and hotel information available in mid-July. Be sure to check the CLA website for this information.”
Is this normal? I didn’t expect them to pay for anything, really, but I figured free admission/registration to the conference is the least they could do considering I’m presenting at their conference and providing content. I’m not surprised to have to pay travel expenses, but the fact that they also want me to pay registration fees kind of makes me mad, and certainly makes me a little less enthusiastic about spending my time, money and vacation days. My employer is not very forthcoming with conferences/educational opportunities, so this is all on my own time. The fact that they expect me to cover EVERYTHING just doesn’t make me feel particularly valued as a professional or a participant in the conference, and almost makes me want to pull out of the whole thing.
Is there anything I can do about this? Do you think it would do me any good to send an e-mail stating my case here? Should this bother me as much as it does? I know I’m not at the level of getting paid for this, but at least a free pass to the conference would make me feel a lot better. I know you’ve probably been down this road before, so any insight would be much appreciated.
This story just makes me sad. It’s sad that someone who is talented and enthusiastic about contributing to the profession is getting a bucket of cold water thrown in his face. He has so much to offer the profession, and yet, he is being discouraged not only by his own library, but by the organization that is going to make money from his contribution. While I do understand not paying residents of the state to speak at a state conference, those people should at least be given the privilege of not having to pay for the pleasure of hearing themselves speak. Free registration on the day you’re speaking should be a given at any conference.
To me, it’s less about the money and more about respecting the role that speakers play at the conference. This sends the message to speakers that their contribution is not appreciated. It makes them feel that they’re being used. And for someone who is paying for the whole thing out of their own pocket and is contributing to the profession for the love of it, it is extremely discouraging. For people from have-not libraries, this is an impossible situation. Really, is this how we encourage people to contribute?
I’ve been treated very well and very badly when I’ve spoken at conferences and state conferences in particular do not have a great track record of treating in-state speakers well. What I told my friend to do is decide what is acceptable to him and what isn’t, but also to consider what he might lose from not speaking at this conference (future speaking invitations, job offers, etc.). We all have to decide for ourselves what our minimum level is and not tolerate anything that dips below that. But also, we have to make sure that we’re really willing to walk away when we don’t get what we want.
Once I’ve agreed to do something, I suck it up and do it, but I’ve learned to get all of the information ahead of time. This year, I got bitten again; this time by my own state library association. I’m still giving the talk, but I made it clear that I wouldn’t speak there ever again until they changed the way they treat their speakers. In Vermont, that might actually make a difference. In California, one person is a drop in the ocean.
Why are we willing to put up with paying registration to hear ourselves give a talk? How can we change things like this? If my friend refuses to speak, it won’t make a great difference. If 20 or 30 people refuse to speak, they would be a force for change. The problem is that when it comes to speaking, we tend to act as individuals. We never know how much the other guy gets paid or if other people get a different deal because they complained about it. There is so much that is hidden behind the curtain to the point where we’re rarely told everything until we’ve already agreed to speak. How can we make the process more transparent? How can we band together, share information about this stuff, and become a force for change?
Also, what would you tell my friend here?
I don’t know how you can possibly afford to speak at a conference. If I was your friend, I would say “no, I’m sorry but if you can’t at least comp my conference fees then I can’t do your programing.” Because isn’t that what it comes down to? They want someone to work for free. I understand that in the long run, you can’t do this every time you get an opportunity but in this economy you need to pick and choose. Maybe if I was in state and going anyway I wouldn’t care but if I had to travel any distance at all, I wouldn’t go.
i was really excited to have my paper accepted for the IFLA conference in Quebec City this summer.
then i was told i’d have to cover my own expenses (makes sense) including registration – which is 640$! i know that this covers all kinds of free food at receptions and library visits, but still – this is prohibitive for a lot of people.
i like to think some of the money from registration goes to defray the costs for librarians from developing countries, but i’m not so sure about that.
if i weren’t just starting my career and trying to get my name out there, i think i would have declined to present unless my registration was covered…
Here’s what I would do: Write a very earnest, well-intentioned letter thanking the committee for accepting your submission and explaining that on top of the travel and accommodation costs, the conference registration fees make it cost-prohibitive for you to attend. Suggest that if they could waive the registration fee, you would incur the considerable additional expenses to provide your content at their conference.
If they come back and say they can’t do that, apologize for inconveniencing them with your offer to provide free content and suggest that if they change their policies, you’d be happy to consider providing content in the future.
As someone who is currently on the committee for a library conference (ALIA Dreaming 08, Alice Springs Australia – come along it’ll be fun) I can now say that I understand the flipside. I have paid my own way as a conference speaker on a couple of occasions and while no charge would be nice…
Well, where does the money come from? Most of these conferences are being organised by volunteers with very modest seed funding from the professional body. And lets face it most library associations are not multi million dollar corporations. I know conference committee members who have payed to attend the conference they organised.
The good thing is it is professional development for all of us, speakers, committee and bums on seats. Is it worth the $$ for someone to attend? If so it is worth your $$ too, after all as a speaker you’ll miss out on one session and be able to sit in on the rest, eat the food, go on the tours, drink the cocktails and so on.
I know that I’d love to have been able to give our speakers a free conference. But to do that we’d have had to increase the fees to everyone else (and we have been pushing hard to keep costs down for everyone).
Amy, I think that’s the problem. There will always be people who are starting out and are willing to shell out a lot of their own money for the privilege of speaking (I don’t blame you, I did the same thing). And there will always be tenure-track librarians who don’t have a choice (but often have institutional funding at least). Because of that, organizations can afford to have policies like this. They may not get the best speakers, but they will always find someone willing to do it.
Until we stand together and say “this is unacceptable” it will continue to happen. But, as an individual, it’s very hard to do that when you’re just starting out.
I totally understand the struggles that conference organizers deal with, ADHD librarian, and I sympathize. But without these speakers, the conference would just be a bunch of people sitting around and networking (not necessarily a bad idea either, really. Unconference anyone?).
Putting together a presentation is a lot of work. I guess what I don’t understand is that it’s always the speakers who are shafted when it comes to “budget constraints.” At the Vermont Library Association conference, the speakers used to get a free lunch on the day they were speaking. Guess what was the first thing to go when they decided the budget needed to be cut (when it would cost about $300 to feed all of the speakers)? How much more would the organization really have to raise fees to make sure that every speaker at the conference didn’t have to pay for registration on the day they’re speaking? I’d bet most people would be willing to pay an extra five dollars to make sure that they get the best speakers possible and that those speakers feel appreciated. I know I would.
And beyond the monetary, conference organizers should think about how they show their appreciation. I’ve spoken at conferences where I never got so much as a thank-you for my effort. I’ve also spoken at conferences that were generous and helpful with my travel arrangements and sent me a thank-you note after the conference. Which do you think I’d be willing to speak at again and would recommend to other people I know who are high-profile speakers?
Make your speakers feel appreciated. If you can’t do free registration, do something.
Last year, a friend suggested he and I submit a proposal to present at the Kansas Library Association annual conference. I said, “Sure, I’d like to present locally.” Besides, it was a presentation the two of us had already given once, so there’d be no prep involved. After our proposal was accepted, I found out KLA doesn’t wave conference fees for speakers. In fact, when I expressed surprise about it to a fellow librarian, she looked at me like I was nuts and told me any library organization would expect you to pay your own way to speak at a conference. Luckily, MPOW paid the conference fees and gave me money for food and a motel.
This year, I submitted a proposal to present with two friends of mine, and we were accepted. Because Computers in Libraries was at the same time as part of KLA’s conference, I only went to KLA on the day we presented. In fact, I drove down, hung out with my friends, presented, and then drove back home. I didn’t attend any other presentations, didn’t meet with any vendors, and didn’t otherwise take part in the conference, except to present. Not only did I (well, MPOW) have to pay the conference fees, I (er, MPOW) had to pay for the entire conference, because KLA doesn’t allow you to pay to attend only one day. It’s all or nothing.
If MPOW didn’t pay for me to attend, there’s no way in the world I’d present at KLA’s conference.
Anonymous California library speaker, I agree completely with Meredith and the other commenters that speakers should be treated well, but I disagree with the notion that you should decline this opportunity.
This is about more than money. Sure the conference needs speakers, and the organization needs the conference to make money to spend on lobbying the state assembly and state legislature, plus congress, for better funding for libraries and to protect intellectual freedom and all that really good stuff, but the organization also needs you to participate.
They need you to keep the organization vibrant.
Your state library association is one of your library communities, and so, as a condition of your speaking at the conference, you have been asked to participate in it.
If the California Library Association is not one of your communities, if you wouldn’t normally attend this conference, it doesn’t actually make sense to speak there at all, paid, reimbursed or free. Only keynote speakers and other special invited guests get that distinction.
Otherwise, here is the deal: you contribute your ideas, your energy and the registration fee, and in return you get no cash, but you do get fame (or notoriety), and you help and inspire thousands of people (in CLA’s case) that are going to help you in the near future.
Go to the conference, speak, catch up with old friends, and make new ones. Promise yourself to have fun, and it will be worth it. Maybe you’ll get another speaking gig out of it.
Re: ADHD Librarian
“…where does the money come from?” You said it yourself, you’d have to increase the fees of everyone else. But aren’t there many more attendees than presenters? Nobody’s paying double because the presenters come free. Perhaps in smaller regional or conceptual conferences the ratio is more of a problem but this happens in even larger conferences too. I’d have no problem paying $10 or $20 more for registration because maybe I’ll be the next person who will be presenting and therefore attending for free.
Meredith hit the nail on the head: “They may not get the best speakers…” Well of course not. As far as I know, most library conference organizers aren’t turning droves of professional speakers away. I’ve been to more than one session that was either much too similar to others in the same conference or should have been practiced a few more times. If you dangle a carrot in front of potential presenters (or a donut… whatever works), you will get more people to choose from and therefore have more chance of getting really great topics and/or sessions. And what’s more affordable than a carrot that doesn’t cost any real money?
“Paying” for presenters registration at your conference isn’t a cost. It’s an expense. It should probably the most important expense in the whole budget. I’m not going to a conference for the food. I’m not going for the pleasant decor. I’m not going for the vendors. I’m going because I want to hear new ideas and discuss them with my colleagues. And where are those ideas coming from? Well, primarily the presenters. They should not be the one thing in the event that pennies are pinched on. And besides, the better sessions and speakers you get, the more attendees want to come.
But again, Meredith is right. Individuals can’t do it alone. But it is the individual who must act even in some small way. If you can’t turn down offers, try just suggesting it to the committee. If you’re one of those on the committee, seriously consider it. Crunch the numbers. If you’ve “made it” and have presented a few times, try turning down one while making it clear that this is the reason. Don’t burn your bridges, but don’t reinforce them either. If everyone thinks it’s hopeless, guess what? It is.
Caleb, I also agree that he probably shouldn’t give up the opportunity, though for somewhat different reasons (and some similar). There are frequently long-term benefits to speaking at a conference. You never know when that person you meet at a conference will be the one to offer you your next speaking gig or job. That was my rationale for speaking at ALA last summer; I felt it was an investment in my future. And I have gotten speaking invitations from people who saw me speak there.
Ultimately, though, I wouldn’t blame him if he turned it down considering that he’d be doing this at considerable personal expense and vacation time. I don’t think anyone should feel obligated to participate in their state organization, especially when their library offers nothing in the way of professional development support. Librarians make little money as it is; if our library doesn’t value continuing education, why feel like we have to spend our hard-earned money on it?
It costs nothing for a conference to simply let the speakers in for free. I understand the harsh realities of money and library associations, but that simple courtesy doesn’t cost them anything, builds up a great deal of good will and makes the speaker a lot more enthusiastic about spending their time, money and vacation time.
It’s win-win for everyone, and just petty for the organization holding the conference to demand payment for providing content, especially when they know that many libraries do not support professional development efforts.
I run the Conference for the Massachusetts Library Association, and we would never require a speaker, from anywhere, cover the cost of their own registration on the day they are speaking. As g says above, it doesn’t cost the association any money to let someone come for free. I am a firm believer that you have to spend money to make money at these types of events, and MLA has been making a profit for the last several years under this philosophy. I give away a lot of free registrations, and hopefully many of those attendees will become members of the association, or come back to the conference the next year, or support MLA in some other way.
I guess we all have a few things to learn from this tale of woe. First, find out in advance if the conference you want to present at gives speakers free registration or not. That should be easy to do and will save a lot of hassle for everyone involved. Second, check with your employer to determine if you will get funding for the registration if your paper is accepted (that fact that this person gets no funding for achieving a successful accomplishment is just nuts – unless he didn’t check in advance – and now the budget is exhausted).
Let’s not assume every state library association is well funded and can let all the speakers attend for free. For many associations the conference is the one big event they have to raise money for the association. I’m sure they’d like to waive all speaker registrations if they could – but maybe they run on a really tight margin.
Bottom line – I’d shell out the bucks to attend the conference. You may not get other good opportunities. Look at it as an investment in your future – you may find it leads to more good opportunities. Just remember, when you are a big time speaker and they call you to ask if you are willing to give a talk – then YOU can set the terms of the deal.
It varies from event to event, but in the instance of the conference I helped to organise, I spent two years on the committee and I had to pay registration because the margin was not big enough for us to go for free. Add all the speakers and that’s about 50 registrations. Registration costs for everyone else would have gone up by about 25% which was unacceptable. I really wanted to have free registration for speakers but it just wasn’t possible.
I think you have to be weigh how important the event is to you – is it something you would attend anyway? Are there other sessions you’re excited about? People you want to meet? Then I would be inclined to go.
“There is so much that is hidden behind the curtain to the point where we’re rarely told everything until we’ve already agreed to speak. How can we make the process more transparent? How can we band together, share information about this stuff, and become a force for change?”
I’ve often wondered about this myself. I’ve heard the stories of speakers of the same caliber getting different treatment due to gender, etc. Because of the lack of transparency, the inequities continue.
Perhaps a peer review system could be put in place. We do it for articles, why not do it for conferences and speakers? Or are we already doing this in the biblioblogosphere? Would declaring which conferences waived fees and which ones paid speakers X amount help? Most library conference speakers are transparent about many things (esp. how we’re treated), but we still hesitate to declare dollar amounts–should we extend our transparency to this as well?
It’d be one thing if state library associations were up front about the fact that these conferences are fund-raisers and asked presenters to donate their services as part of the fund-raising effort. And then they would treat speakers with the according respect that comes with donating your talents for a good cause.
But that’s not what seems to be happening, at least not in this case. Instead, the selected speakers are “rewarded with the opportunity” to present, as if that’s incentive enough, as if the speaker is the primary beneficiary of the arrangement.
My bottom line: If we all accept not being compensated for speaking, we all won’t get compensated for speaking.
Cliff – do you mean peer review of conferences, or of the submitted papers? Many conferences (including the one organised) do have a peer review process that is double blind and the papers are treated like journal articles. This is more common in more technical conferences and in libraryland outside the US.
Fiona – I meant of the conferences themselves. How well they treat attendees, speakers, etc. Whether they provide wifi, pay for speakers to attend, waive registration fees, etc. We have that sort of information anecdotally through library blogs, but it would be more valuable if it were gathered in one place.
Ah, great idea Cliff! I wonder if you could hook into services like Confabb for that?
I agree with everyone and really think there is no right or wrong answer here. Greg’s bottom line of “If we all accept not being compensated for speaking, we all won’t get compensated for speaking” is one side. The other side was mentioned by Meredith, we are being compensated by getting our name and face out there. That is a form of compensation, worth different amounts to different people at different points in their career. The opportunity is respect, right? Don’t “they” always say that it’s not really money that makes people happy, it’s other intangibles?
So I think the potential Cali speaker should consider speaking if it matches his requirements (i.e. big enough/important enough venue for face time, cost, travel time, etc).
We write blog posts and articles with no compensation. Time is money right? But we do it to contribute to the profession, network, and to get our name and ideas out there….so what’s the big difference? Real dollars vs. time dollars?
I certainly can agree with Greg that we must band together to demand a bare minimum of respect. But I also think that being offer the opportunity to present is one form of respect. I just would prefer they at least waive my conf registration and not make money off of me to boot! Sheesh.
Fiona – Thanks for sharing (No need to re-invent the wheel)! Confabb looks like an OK tool for organizing/attending/reviewing conferences, but I don’t see many folks in LibraryLand using it. I’ll try it out, and if it’s good enough I’ll spread the word.
I definitely lean towards Greg’s view that “if we all accept not being compensated for speaking, we all won’t get compensated for speaking.” However, that’s easy for me to say because I get more opportunities to speak than I can accept and I can easily say no. And it’s easy for Greg to say because he has a high profile already and doesn’t want to leave his family a lot to travel. If I were trying to raise my profile, something like CLA would look like a great opportunity (and I bet it is). And there will always be hungry librarians out there. But the whole “honor to speak” thing really gets to me. We can’t eat honor. We can’t pay our mortgages with honor. Money isn’t the most important thing, but it’s important enough when you are barely making enough to make ends meet. And the hungriest librarians are actually more likely to be in less-than-stellar financial shape.
I wonder why some state library associations seem to have no problem managing their money without charging registration to speakers and others seem unable to do that. It’s clearly not impossible as Michael made clear.
We’d talked about doing something like what Cliff mentioned a while back, but with publishers. I remember Michael Sauers had even created a listserv about it, but people didn’t seem to feel comfortable discussing their experiences. Maybe we could have a wiki (like at wikispaces or pbwiki — wikispaces might be better because you can have it totally open and anonymous) where we could share our experiences with various conferences and how much we were paid, etc. anonymously. If some enterprising soul wants to start this, I would definitely participate.
I’ve been a speaker at national-level and state-level rare books and popular culture conferences, and have never had a registration fee waived. I know that ACRL, for instance, only waives registration for NON-librarian speakers as a matter of policy. If you’re eligible to be in ALA, you have to cough up the dough to attend.
I’ve been lucky enough to be subsidized by MPOW (subsidized; not fully funded in some cases) for such things, but the prevailing attitude seems to be “we had to do it, so you should too.”
And I do consider myself to be lucky. But I still don’t think it’s fair. Junior faculty, and early-career librarians BY DEFINITION make less money than more established librarians. And generally need to participate in more professional conferences to get promoted or tenured.
While these expenses are tax-deductible (if they exceed a certain percentage of income), that doesn’t change the fact that, in many other professions, speakers are paid to show up. They don’t pay to speak. We do.
I don’t think that this method is necessarily the best way to cultivate new leadership in the profession. We keep hearing about how our profession is experiencing a “leadership crisis” as more senior librarians retire, and no one is qualified enough to move up. Well, new leaders go to conferences, and many do so out of pocket. But wouldn’t it be better to cover at least some of their expenses?
I think we need to make a distinction between people who would be attending the conference anyway, and hence would derive some professional value from it, and those who would not have any reason to attend the conference if they were not speaking at it — particularly where those speakers have been specially invited by the conference organizers. For example, the Canadian Health Libraries Association charges speakers the full fee. Most are medical librarians, and would be attending the conference anyway, so why not charge them? But last year, a colleague of mine who was not a medical librarian spoke at this conference on a topic on which he has expertise, and which is important to but not specific to medical libraries (I can’t remember whether he was asked, or whether he himself proposed the topic). He had to pay the full registration, even though he would not have gone to the conference without having to speak. I would hope they at least gave him the member rate, but I’m not positive.
What really burns me is that a lot of conferences put on by large associations are for-profit operations, or they have additional CE days tacked on, where they offer the really good content, and charge through the nose (CHLA explicitly states that the purpose of the CE days is to turn a profit). So not only are presenters being asked to provide their intellectual labour for free, but then the organizing body may be making money off it! I know the profits are used to provide services to members, which is great, but what if you’re presenting at a conference where you’re not a member, and therefore won’t see the benefits of the profits?
Heather, I think that’s a pretty grey area you’re attempting to outline there. Who’s to say whether you would or wouldn’t get professional value out of a particular conference? How is that defined for the purpose of deciding who gets a free ride and who doesn’t? Some conferences probably already run this way, but I think it opens up a world of ambiguity and inequity that might cause more problems than it solves.
I’ve been on both sides of this equation, and there are no easy answers. So I’ll just weigh in on a different aspect of the topic:
Not being paid to speak — or worse, being charged to speak — is just one more reason that librarians don’t value themselves. I think this model affects other areas of the profession.
When I talk to librarians about promoting their libraries, or themselves, too often I see looks of horror in their eyes. So many are still timid. “Well, I couldn’t do that!” or “I’m not worth promoting.” or “Nobody thinks we’re important.”
Sure, there are plenty of reasons for the psychological pictures we have of ourselves, but what I’m saying here is that this refusal to pay people what they’re worth helps to damage the individuals and the profession as a whole. Bad enough it happens in the everyday jobs, but to not be paid for making valuable contributions just re-inforces many libs’ feelings of worthlessness. That our prof orgs are not only not building members up, but helping to tear them down, is, in my opinion, somewhat disgraceful.
now before you freak out over this idea: yes, I know, not everyone feels that way. yes, I know, we all have to pay our dues. we’ve all spoken or written for free at times, and served on committees that eat up our nights & weekends. that’s not a bad thing. but the fact that it’s so pervasive — on the level of state & even international conferences — is evidence of much deeper problems in the profession. very few get paid what they’re worth for anything. most libs are still underfunded (which is why they can’t afford send their employees to confs in the first place).
when will we, as a profession, start feeling worthy of charging enough for anything so that we can afford to pay and educate our people well? this has been frustrating me for years.
As someone who is currently organising a library conference in the UK I was very surprised to read this post and some of the accompanying comments. We are not a large organisation but we cover all costs for our conference speakers, accommodation and travel and we would never even consider asking speakers to pay a registration fee. At the end of the day we want to provide valuable content for our delegates and this means paying for speakers to provide that content. Our conference expenses are accommodation, food and speakers and we charge delegates just enough to cover those expenses. If we don’t value a speaker enough to justify paying for them to come and speak then why invite them to speak in the first place?
It’s pretty normal in Australia, if you have applied to present at a conference, for speakers to pay registration fees usually at a reduced or “early bird” rate, and to pick up their own costs for attendance.
If you are an “invited speaker”, then the conference organisation would expect to pick up airfares, accommodation, and conference registration. Some conferences would have a large number of presenters and simply couldn’t afford to forgo registration fees for all of them.
Sometimes all the conference profit is absorbed by keynote speakers who actually charge almost obscene speaking fees.
Like Sarah, I too was surprised to hear the way that your friend has been treated. As an active member of a local libraries special interest group in the UK I am also involved in arranging conferences, and, whilst we cannot afford to pay speakers for their time, we certainly cover their expenses. Expecting speakers to pay to attend the conference that they are effectively helping to make happen seems like a kick in the teeth to me, and I doubt any group over here would be able to act in this way and continue to attract “movers and shakers”.
I can’t say that I’m familiar with the way the conference scene works in the US, but, as with Sarah’s group, we do not aim to make a profit, merely to cover the costs of the events we run and provide best value for our members locally. Any profits that are made are ploughed back into our activities to help fund more ambitious events, or to provide bursaries for members to attend larger national events.
That is simply deplorable treatment. I would tell your friend to submit his presentation to other conferences and not do the state thing. He should also state his reasons for not presenting in as open a format as possible. If you let them get away with it this year, guess how they are going to treat next year’s presenters.
If he is actively looking for job opportunities, that might change the equation.
Shame on the CLA. Stop the cycle.
Meredith – as far as “what people get paid” — I think some people in this thread might appreciate seeing the results from the speaker’s survey I did a while back:
I’ll stop w/ the link love now, but this is really a perennial topic which seems no closer to an answer now than in 2006.
Meredith…as you know, this is a topic dear to my heart. I completely agree with the hate for backstage deals, and truly believe that the only thing that will really help, especially when it comes to equity in compensation, is a good dose of daylight.
While I know that anecdote isn’t the singular of data, I will say that this year I had a situation where I did receive payment to speak, but refused to do so unless I had assurances that the other members of my panel were equally compensated. It wasn’t much, but it was something towards an attempt at a level field.
I will absolutely start a wiki/contribute to a wiki that collects this information. Meredith, you want to start, or should I?
Fiona (comment #14 above) mentioned some numbers concerning the issue: covering the cost of 50 conference organization committee members and speakers would have raised the conference fees of everyone else by 25%. That means there would have been 200 regular attendees. Perhaps that the problem. Having no more than 4 people attend for every person responsible for the conference (at least responsible enough to get free registration) seems overly wasteful.
Not everyone on the committee needs to attend.
For a conference of 200, fewer than 50 people should be setting it up (or again, fewer than 50 people need to be there on official business).
If you don’t make people pay for the privilege of speaking, you’ll get better speakers and therefore more “bums in the seats”.
And for smaller, more intimate conferences, fewer expenses would have to be in order. Fancy food and lavish settings are great and all but I’m there to learn, think and network, not to be awed by the decor and fine dining. We can solve the problems of the library world with peanut butter sandwiches in our tummies just as easily as with lobster. LOL
good point, Matthew. I’m all for the PBJ too!
I used to work as an engineer. The speaker’s conference was sponsored by a company, so whether the conference made or lost money was not very important. I suspect that it lost money. I don’t know about invited speakers, but presenters did not have to pay for one day of the conference for each presentation, although we did have to cover our own transportation and hotel. I’m positive that a lot fewer people would have presented if it they didn’t get a free pass. In industry people expect some consideration for the effort.
Part of the problem with this discussion is that we don’t really seem to have any numbers. It’s all very nice to argue that you wouldn’t mind paying an extra $5 to hear someone talented speak, but what if it were $50?
What percentage of attendees will also be speakers? If you expect an average of 50 people to attend each presentation, and there are 3 90 minute presentations in the morning, and 3 in the afternoon, than 6 of those 50 people are going to also be speakers. Is that reasonable? So, you can estimate that about 10% of the people are presenters.
If there are 2000 attendees and 200 of those are also speakers and the conference costs $500 if everyone pays, then it will cost $555 if the speakers don’t pay. Is that reasonable?
That scenario leaves out a lot of complications. Are the speakers also the volunteers who check you in? Do we hire temps to do that, or give free registration to students who are willing to do it? Does everyone come for the whole conference? How many library conferences cost $500?
This is a worthwhile conversation, but it is worth remembering that a real people sat down with real numbers to consider this problem. You or I might have come to a different conclusion, but without considering actual data none of us can ever be sure of that.
One of the larger issues that comes out of this is that while it may not be *as* cost-prohibitive for us to have to pay for local conferences, the bigger conferences do become prohibitive. Not only would you have to pay your registration fee, travel, and hotel for, say, Anaheim, but you’ve already shelled out somewhere close to $300 just for membership that you often don’t see much back from during the year.
It’s fine and dandy to say well, that’s just another requirement (esp for academic librarians), but it really puts the shaft to new members of the profession who have something unique to contribute and those who aren’t lucky enough to have sufficient professional development funds through their employers. I’ve read on more than one librarian’s blog how they’ve turned down gigs for this very reason, and even ceased membership in certain organizations. While it might be impossible to cover travel and lodging expenses, at the very least, invited speakers should not have to pay the conference fee.
Particularly if a speaker is from out of town and wouldn’t normally be able to attend the conference, the organization loses nothing by allowing them *attendance*, even if it’s stipulated that it’s for the presentation day only (though if they’re traveling, it’d be nice to allow them admission as long as they’re willing to stay).
Really, it’s one just one more straw. Putting personal funds into something for your resume is one thing, and it’s to be expected that contributors will have to cover something, like their travel. But on top of dues, fees, and the other costs that keep piling up, what will happen is that talent will start staying close to home. Or (and wouldn’t this be awesome) some of the elephants in the room will have to sit up and change their ways and use their funds wisely/appropriately.
I’ve done some speaking at regional and national conferences and plan to do more, and generally have to pay most of my own way, including conference fees, so I’ve faced the same issue. Off to one side of the policy question, one thing you might do is to tell them you won’t be attending the conference but just dropping in for your talk, and ask where you can pick up your speaker’s badge. If they turn you away at that point, well – that is just their loss. But I don’t think they will. Then go get your badge, add a few colorful ribbons to it, and enjoy the conference. If THAT doesn’t work, pay up, and save your conference badge and badge holder real nice so that NEXT time you can just waltz in and do your thing without being hassled. I mean, it isn’t as if they have bouncers checking ID at the door. In any case, if you’re a good speaker and enjoy it, I urge you to keep it up: speaking at conferences is WAY more fun than just attending them.
“I mean, it isn’t as if they have bouncers checking ID at the door.”
Clearly you’ve never been to an ALA conference. Sometimes those “bouncers” stationed outside the exhibits are SCARY!
I am a relatively new librarian (2 years). After attending some useless conference sessions and several useless online classes, I know I have a lot to offer the profession. I want to get involved nationally, but I just can’t afford it. Librarianship is a notoriously low-paying profession, and my current job is well below the national starting salary (but it’s a great job). By the time I’m done paying my bare-bones bills (including the 20% of my salary that goes towards paying my MLS student loans each month) and contribute a small percentage towards retirement, I have nothing left. It’s a shame that many newbie librarians will permanently give up getting involved because of money.
I would like to highlight one point in this conversation that haven’t gotten enough attention. Meredith suggested offering free registration ***for the day***, not necessarily for the whole conference. That makes a difference when you’re talking about other people covering registration fees of speakers.
Why is the only option for giving speakers free registration to raise the registration fee for everyone else? How many of these conferences include an exhibits area? Raise the fees for the vendors. Better yet, ask the vendors to sponsor a morning/afternoon/full day of speakers. They get some good PR for covering the registration fees of the speakers, and the speakers catch a break. Win win for all involved.
Why are we as a profession so afraid to ask these vendors to support us every once in a while (god knows we spend enough money supporting THEM)?? And why is it that more often than not our solutions to helping one librarian is to kick another? I understand that that most of the library associations are not for profit – so make use of those associated with us who are. You’d be surprised what might happen if you just ask. I’ve been to lots of small conferences that were supported by a number of big name library vendors which payed for the food/refreshments and other conference-related things which helped to keep the registration costs down for all attending. I don’t understand why this can’t be part of the solution to covering fees (maybe even some travel costs!) for speakers.
Being THAT PERSON who skips from session to session in search of inspiring speakers and topics, I must note that most conference presenters i have seen could summarize their contribution in 5 minutes or less, some in a couple of sentences…I would like to see conferences screen presenters for quality and content instead of accepting whoever can afford to be present. The best conferences I have attended were carefully planned 1-day events. 3-day conferences are not worth the expense! Big event = need more presenters = bigger overhead = less money for speakers. Anonymous Discouraged Speaker, cultivate smaller organizations and conferences in your region.
Wow, I come back from a two-day trip which included a speaking gig and I hear Meridith’s mentioning me in her blog comments and that THIS topic has reared it’s ugly head again. Well, I just printed out the 15-pages that all this takes up, read every word of it, and don’t have much to add other than the share my general policy on this issue. And, it is thus:
* If it’s a gig in Nebraska I do it for free and I’ve never been asked to pay for getting in and/r MPOW covers all costs. Hey, that’s my job. It’s what I signed up for.
* If it’s out of state and I submitted a proposal then I expect that I, or MPOW, will need to cover travel expenses. Unless the boss insists I won’t do it if they’re going to charge me or MPOW to just get into the conference. I don’t believe that speakers should ever be charged to present.
* If the conference organizers contacted me and requested that I come to speak (outside of NE) then I have my usual rate that I quote them which involves a fee for speaking and ALL travel expenses. (I even prefer that they book the flight and hotel so as to minimize the reimbursement amount.)
There are however exceptions. The first week of June I’ll be speaking at the ACURIL conference in Jamaica. They asked me but were clear that they could not pay expenses but that I would be comped the registration fee. What, I was going to say no to that trip? 😉
I don’t exactly consider myself one of the “great library speakers” (there I going being a modest librarian) but I do accept that I’ve earned the right to not only get in for free but in other cases be directly compensated for my efforts. I have turned down invitations in which I had to pay just to get in (in fact, I think I was one of the first bibliobloggers to complain about LITA and this exact topic several years ago) but luckily that doesn’t happen too often.
As for the mailing list for writers, it still technically exists but no one ever really used it. If someone starts a wiki for conferences count me in. I’ll just admit I’m too busy to start it myself at this time.
A colleague and I saw an advertisement from our state library federation, pleading with people to submit speaking proposals. We decided we would do so, and were very excited at the prospect. However, due to the library funding crisis in Indiana, our library won’t have the funding to reimburse us for expenses. When we found out that we would have to pay registration fees to attend the state conference, even for just the one day we were speaking, we simply could not afford the trip. Now we understand why they are having trouble attracting enough speakers…
The ‘bouncers’ check to see if you HAVE a badge, but they don’t actually run the thing through a spectrometer or anything. Attach a lot of ribbons (or ‘conference lettuce,’ as we call it) and stride confidently forth. Worst case, you’ll spend the night in the librarian association pokey, and that’s where the best parties are, anyway.
That is quite sad. But not quite unusual as I see it. Conferences might be gaining in the elite side of aspects. Librarianship is a field that embraces all, but pays piddens.
I wonder if it is worth inquiring to your friend if the conference he got invited to speak at, has a speaker budget?
From what I know of my own state association, all the roundtables, and sections have a small budget set aside for speakers. They would have a small budget to provide for the speaker’s travel expenses, but everything else is outside of the speaker’s own pocket.
If your friend wants to be a speaker, then he would have to probably only be at that one event and then leave. No over night stay needed. That’s the strategy I also noted when my professor and former classmate was invited to speak at the conference.
I’d like to chime in on this discussion, as I provide staff support to our conference and I am familar with the budget and the program content.
The California Library Association, like all membership associations, is run by its members for the benefit of the members, and in our case because we are a non-profit, also for the benefit of greater library community in California. If it were possible for CLA to offer free one day or full registration to our presenters, we certainly would. However, out of our 1200-1500 attendees each year, 300+ of them present at one of our 90 breakout sessions. These presenters constitute approximately 25% of our attendee costs. Our member/leaders have chosen to deeply discount conference registration for students, support staff, retirees and members who are unemployed. Registration fees barely cover the out of pocket costs of the keynote and invited speakers, convention center rental, the water coolers in the convention center hallways, printing, internet access, etc. We keep our registration rates low by asking our exhibitors and sponsors to help support the association, and they do, which is how our conference generates revenue for some of our other programs and member services.
Being chosen to speak at CLA means someone has undergone a rigorous peer review process by 12-15 library staff from a variety of library settings. We accept not quite 40% of the proposals we receive each year.
Meredith, we hope your friend decides to present at this year’s conference. The exposure, the networking, and learning opportunities will be well worth his attendance.
Thanks for explaining this, Sue. I also hope he decides to go because I think it will be good for his career.
I think one way of preventing frustration on the part of speakers is to make it clear to speakers that they will have to pay registration before they apply to speak. I looked all over for that information and didn’t find it anywhere on the CLA website or the site where people are supposed to have submitted proposals. Other associations (Arizona Library Assoc. comes to mind) make these things very clear, and thus, you know what you’re getting into when you choose to submit a proposal.
The wiki has been created: http://libraryspeakersanonymous.wikispaces.com/