You Don’t Get Paid to Speak. You Get Paid to Promote.

I spend 7 years of my life essentially making my living by speaking. That is pretty much ALL I did from 1999 until 2006. But that was in a different industry than I’m in now. And lemme tell ya’. Things are different here.

I’ve spent more than 10 years as a Network Engineer (a geek’s geek), and then in 2008, I got bored and started doing Marketing full time. Of course, today “doing Marketing” means Social Media, community building, and content.

And since I LOVE speaking, I decided I’d speak about Social Media at various Social Media conferences…Lord knows there is enough of them.

However, very quickly it became clear that speakers at these conferences don’t get paid. WTF? I thought to myself.

And I’m not talking about dinky conferences either. I’m talking about Class A operations. I’ve spoken at BlogWorld, 140Conf, BlogPaws…all of these are huge, well-oiled, perfectly organized events with huge attendance numbers.

Why We Do It For Free

We’re born. We live. We Die. And it’s all vanity.

We start begging for Attention when we’re born, and we don’t stop until the day we die. We just get little more subtle about how we go about getting Attention somewhere in the middle.

Speaking at one of these conferences gives you Attention from the folks in the industry. Makes you a de-facto expert. People talk about you. Opens doors for collaborations and paid gigs.

So you do -kinda- get paid. You get paid with Attention and Hope. And for this we are willing to pay to speak.

It costs money to travel, book hotel, eat on the road. Plus the opportunity cost is immeasurable.

Sometimes You Get Paid

It’s funny this “relationship marketing” thing…I haven’t made a penny from it. But I’ve made money because of it.

Small conferences, corporate gigs, and people you don’t know, is who pays you to speak. Weird, I know.

But when you do get paid, you’re not getting paid to speak per say. You get paid to promote.

Speaking at smaller conferences still has the same benefits as speaking at larger ones, so the Attention incentive is still there.

In my head, I might think I’m some kind of big important shit, and these people want me because I’m amazing, but the truth is, the promoters are not paying me to speak. They are paying me to promote.

Getin’ Paid to Promote

I didn’t “get” this until I decided to put on a conference of my own.

On September 22nd, the day of Equinox, there will be a gathering of 100 Bloggers from NYC area.

During the planning stages of the conference, we decided that we will zig where everyone else zags. We decided to pay the Speakers. I know…amazing, right?

And as I wrangled up few Speakers, it became obvious to me what their function ought to be. To Promote.

Now, I know this might seam obvious, but it’s not really. The onus of responsibility for selling out tickets at big conferences is NOT on Speakers. It’s on the organizer.

What I’m talking about here, is essentially sharing the onus of responsibility. Yes, of course, the ultimate responsibility for success falls on the organizer, but a greater role can/should be assumed by the Speakers as well.

However, Speakers typically DO NOT promote the shit out of the event. And so they don’t get paid. It’s a vicious cycle which -I think- can be broken through clear communication of expectations.

When I talked to Lena West and Brandon Fitzgibbons, two of the four amazing Speakers at the September event, I tried to be as clear and as blunt as possible. I told them they are not getting paid to speak, they are getting paid to promote.

The Opportunity 

I think there’s an amazing opportunity here.

By sharing the responsibility for promotion between the organizer and the Speakers, we could inch the Social Media industry towards the paying paradigm.

I would like to see that…wouldn’t you?


Dino Dogan

Global Force for Badassery | Founder of Triberr | Refugee from Bosnia | Writer for Technorati | Speaker | Lousy Martial Artist | Pretty good singer/songwriter | Hi 🙂

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  • Barbara | Creative Culinary

    You could be talking about the world of food blogging in general. We are offered all sorts of ‘opportunities’ without pay and I advocate ‘just say no.’ I get 3-4 press releases a day hoping I will do a blog post about a brand’s product. I am dumbfounded each time. Sure, let me buy your product, spend 6+ hours using it to develop a recipe, prepare said recipe, photograph it and then write a story from my perspective all in the hopes that I have built what? Good will? A relationship (yes, I have done that…one that says I will work for free). Sometimes I will get offered the product for free; I’ve tried giving those products to my mortgage company for payment but they know how to say no. 🙂

    I’ve been asked to speak for free but really I’m being asked to speak at my cost and I’ve stuck to my guns. Then…mine is a huge cost. I run a business; it would mean days off from client work as well as hotel, airfare and meals and I’ve yet to have an opportunity that appeals to me enough to take that economic hit. So…I applaud you for doing it differently; I fervently hope it works for all involved – I would love to see ANYTHING start to turn the tide that would bust the simple algebraic equation of blogger = free.

  • Pammy Pam

    OMG i need to get to this thing to learn from the masters. mistress. um. gurus.