I am always flattered to be asked to speak in front of an audience on something that I know something about. I have fun sharing information with great people about the ‘secrets’ on how to do neat things in forensics and investigations.
However, I find it odd to be asked to speak at conferences out of the state or out of the country, with the sole benefit of “exposure”. I do not consider “waived tuition” to be a benefit to a conference that I wasn’t planning on attending anyway.
There are plenty of websites that talk about this topic, but here is my take on the topic as it applies to the DFIR field:
- Speaking for free: Gets old fast, unless it’s your hobby to personally foot the expenses for a one-line by-line on your CV. Tax write-off? Spending money on travel and lodging to get a tax write off is probably not the best way to make money.
- Don’t spend money to speak at a conference: Seriously. Don’t spend money on expenses to speak at a conference where they charge attendees to attend. Attendees pay to learn. You should not be paying to teach. That’s crazy.
- Turn down “opportunities”. You can’t buy a cup of coffee with exposure dollars.
If the organization wants you bad enough, they will pay (in real money). If they don’t truly want you, they are not going to pay. I have turned down conference requests for that reason alone. I figure that if they are not willing to foot the bill to at least cover the expenses, that they didn’t want me in the first place. They wanted a donation of time and money for their commercial endeavor.
If you speak at conferences, and the only payment is waived tuition with benefit of exposure, you can bet that other speakers were paid. In one instance, while I waited in a prep room, I listened to other speakers complaining about having shell out to speak at the conference. The whole time I was thinking, “Why did these speakers agree to come here without getting paid and then complain about not getting paid, and then believe the organizer’s excuse that speakers don’t get paid. By the way, I was getting paid at this conference….”
I am not saying that money is your only goal or the most important thing in speaking at conferences. I am saying that your time is valuable and limited. Time is precious.
- -A local non-profit org asks for your donated time to speak for an hour? Sure. Why not. It's a good cause at the cost of a short drive.
- -Potential revenue generation: You can sell something, like your company’s service or product at the conference to attendees? Sure. That’s business marketing.
- First time presenting? Probably a good idea to get the experience and name branding (and charge later..).
Once you start getting paid, your next thoughts are going to be:
- -Am I charging too much?
- -Should I charge more?
- -How much is the other speaker charging?
There are no correct answers to these questions. I can say that at one event, I learned that a co-speaker had charged $20,000 for a 45 minute talk... Closed training events are a completely different animal. When you get a call to talk in front of a closed audience, the only questions on getting paid are, "How much do we write the check and where do we mail it?".
The moral of the story is: If you don’t ask, you will never be paid. And yes, I did ask the guy on the phone if he'd fly out and wash my car for free but he still didn't get the point.
***A little more information*** 2/4/18
Ok. Don't get me wrong. Speaking for free is good for many reasons, such as building your resume, sharing information, and being part of a quality event. If you agree to speak for free at a conference that costs you money for travel, lodging, and meals, that's OK too (but stop complaining about not getting paid to the speakers who got paid at the same event....).
My point in this post is that if a conference organization directly contacts you and asks that you volunteer your time and money to speak at their event, where they are charging thousands of dollars to attendees, then it is a different animal all together. In that case, you have a choice to volunteer your time and money or simply ask at a minimum to have your expenses covered. No one has more than 52 weeks a year. Use the weeks wisely.