Speaking Survey: Comments From Respondents

Speaking fees in librarianship survey: Respondent Comments

(Results from the speaking survey are available at a previous post.)

Survey respondents had a number of clarifying comments and opinions to share, a number of which are quoted here to help illuminate the raw numbers and to give an idea of people’s concerns surrounding the issue.

A number wanted to clarify their responses to the question about speaking fees, saying things like:

“I don’t always charge – I take money if it’s offered, however!”

“For me, what it comes down to is this: if the organization doing the inviting comes out and asks how much I charge, I’ll tell them travel and accomodations and I might throw in an extra $500. If they say they’ll cover expenses but don’t ask how much I charge, I don’t ask for anything. I guess it comes down to the prickly awkwardness around money that makes me hold off from asking! … Of course, I do understand the other side of the argument too — that I shouldn’t undervalue myself and my expertise. I guess I just can’t get beyond the awkward money part and the fear that the organization will turn around and laugh at what might come off as arrogance (“she thinks she’s worth THAT much? Hah.” — you get the idea.) A little ridiculous, but there you go.”

“I’ve had the registration fee waived.”

“Often I will assign a fee to a scholarship fund or other good cause.”

“Everything is negotiable.”

“Regardless of format, I charge ~$1,000 if I have to take a day away from my regular job for the event.”

“I charge a flat $2,750/day or $2,500 if paid on the day of the event for out of state gigs — $500 cheaper for in-state. For that it could be a keynote or an all day workshop. Things I do for work are free.”

“Fee for additional ‘recovery’ time for international travel.”

“My fees vary by whether or not the presentation is customized or one I have done before and also by the ability of the organization to pay. I generally present for free at professional/scholarly conferences, but charge for workshops at specific libraries, library consortia, or for library organizations.”

“I charge $1500 per day and will do multiple activities (e.g., keynote and panel) for that. But if I have to leave home, it is $1500.”

“My rate ranges (depending on the organization) from $75/hr to $150/hr. I usually charge $125/hr.”

Comments on places/times people will speak for free:

“If travel expense are covered: near friends or family I want to see, opportunity to travel internationally, or something I determine to be ‘a good cause.’”

“For ALA.”

“If I’m there on behalf of my employer.”

“I will discount (1) if I can use something I have already done (but I hate that); (2) as a personal favor to the organizer; or (3) as part of a multi-gig deal, e.g,, five talks in New York State in a week so I only have to travel once.”

“Varies based on the organization’s financial situation.”

“When the organization is charging people to attend, I usually charge. If they are not charging to attend, I don’t charge.”

Comments on paying for one’s own registration, travel, and/or expenses.
(Yes, there are a lot of these, but this is about half of what people had to say. The sentiment ran pretty heavily against having to pay for conferences at which one was speaking, although a number of people felt that this was OK as long as it was a conference they were planning on attending anyway.):

“While I don’t mind helping the organizations to which I’m a member, at times I do resent the fact that I’m expected to pay full registration when I’m delivering sessions. This means you are doing all of the prepartory work and don’t get the opportunity to obtain any of the personal professional development benefits; then when fees are paid to visiting delegates/presenters it feels like a real insult to your abilities.”

“I need the speaking ‘credits’ for tenure, so, really, do I have a choice?”

“My speaking fees are cheap for what I deliver: an entertaining, thought-provoking presentation or workshop. Why should I undervalue that work by absorbing the cost of travel? I am careful of the organization’s resources and will do a lot to hold them down, but I will not subsidize them. It isn’t fair to me — or to my wife!”

“For ALA and divisional conferences, my participation is part of the deal. It’s a membership organization and I understand why we fund our own travel, and I’m there anyway at Midwinter and Annual. But if I was asked to speak at a separate divisional conference for a division I’m not involved in and then expected to pay my own travel and expenses, I’d tell them to take a hike.”

“I feel very strongly that if an outside speaker is willing to travel to a conference, the least the sponsoring body can do is waive conference fees.”

“I used to be a newbie speaker, but not any more. As a result, I will not be speaking at any ALA conferences (including LITA, PLA, etc.), and when my term with my state association’s governing body is up, I will no longer speak at my state conference either for the same reason. Asking people to pay for the privilege of speaking is wrong — and for many non-academic librarians, not within the realm of fiscal responsibility or reality.”

“This is a practice that needs to be evaluated carefully. If the only reason I am attending is to speak then I resent paying registration. If I am spending my own time to prepare and my library is paying for travel and hotel, then the conference organizers should waive registration.”

“If I wasn’t planning to go to the conference I would ask that my travel/hotel and registration be paid for. If they want to pay it, then can have me. If not, I don’t come. I certainly don’t get my feathers ruffled one way or the other.”

“I’m a young librarian; I need exposure badly enough that I can’t afford not to take opportunities where I can get them.”

“I am at the begining stages of a tenure track position; it could behoove me to speak more often. However, if I became successful and/or didn’t need to do so for tenure, I wouldn’t be likely to pay the registration fee.”

“Many professional and scholarly conferences require presenters to pay their own registration fees. I don’t mind as long as everyone is treated fairly. I feel this is part of my contribution to the organization.”

“As big a fan as I am of open accessing publishing, I draw the line at conference participation for short pay. These are money-making events which would not exist without the hard work of the organizers and presenters.”

“It would depend on the conference — if it’s one I’m going to anyway, or if it’s one that I thought would be worth it to attend in order to get some face/name/expertise recognition, I’d suck up the money. Hello, tax deduction!”

“I have gotten paid regular salary for the two days I have presented at in-state conferences, while I have actually worked somewhat less than regular hours, including travel.”

“Overall, I think that librarians should share their expertise with colleagues. In the case of a keynote or a special workshop, the speaker should be paid. Also, I think it is particularly nice to waive the registration fees for speakers or provide other compensation. However, for working librarians who are not relying on their speaker fees for a living, I see presentations (online and in person) to the community as part of our service to our discpline.”

Other comments:

“I’m new to librarianship (3 years since MLS) and presenting (1-2 years), and frequently present with older/more experienced librarians. My speaking partners don’t charge for their presentations so I feel ashamed to do so, even though they make twice what I do. I’ve tried to consider the pro-bono, overtime talks part of my volunteer time, but I already volunteer 15-20 hours/month… so it adds up.”

“What’s missing is that I usually get a $25 gift card to Borders or Amazon. One time i got a t-shirt, mug, and pen. There are a lot of thank you gifts for these things.”

“I’ve only had my library degree for just over a year. So far, I’ve only presented at local conferences where I knew the organizers personally. Payment was never discussed and I never asked. I wasn’t presenting for the money, I was presenting because I was happy just to be asked to participate.”

“The survey isn’t bad, but the questions are a little “flatter” than my own experience. For example, traveling outside my time zone adds to my fee… being able to speak and return in the same day reduces it… and a lot depends on whether I can consider the talk part of my work duties.”

“Another factor is all of this is that I LIKE to present. It challenges me, engages me, enthuses me, etc.”

“This is my first year speaking at conferences. I started off the year saying yes to anything I was asked to speak at (within reason) regardless of whether it paid or not, unless it required serious travel. I’m realizing that it costs me a great deal of time and anxiety to speak, and that my effort should be worth something. I plan to ask for more money from now on and will be perfectly happy if that leads to fewer speaking gigs. However, there are certain gigs I’m willing to speak at for free just to be able to put it on my resume or because the connections I make there could help my career. Some may not pay now, but will pay off later in terms of career opportunities.”

“As someone who participates on conference planning committees, I know the tight budgets that library conferences work under. As a result, I do not try to charge much when speaking. Am I undervaluing myself monetarily — yes. However, speaking at conferences should not be about income (I can’t imagine anyone making a living at it — even Michael Gorman has a day job). The value that I receive in networking and discussing my ideas is well worth the time and effort to make the presentation. I do not want to lose money in the process (either the conference or my institution needs to pay travel expenses), but the rewards come in many ways, not just cash. I value going to new places and meeting new people and am always willing to negotiate a mutually beneficial arrangement.”

“I think if I was asked to speak at an event that was organized by someone who primarily was in the business of organizing such events, I’d want to be paid. Handsomely. (This happened to me only once.) Most of the presentations I make are at association conferences and at academic libraries. Unless they have grant funding or something to cover expenses I don’t think sharing what I do as a scholar is something I ought to charge for. Kind of an ‘open source’ idea as opposed to selling my wisdom and expertise, such as it is, as a commodity. Though travel expenses — that’s another matter! I can handle the donation of time, but don’t have enough cash to do that much traveling on my own dime.”

“What you charge is a personal thing — it needs to be enough so that if they say yes you are happy, but not so much that you are very disappointed when they say no. For me, I factor in used up vacation time, time away from the family, time to prepare, and what I think I’m worth.”

“Travel is a factor for me; if it’s local I won’t charge as much but if you want me to go from the east coast to the west coast — I’m going to add $300 to what I normally would request — and I always refer to it as an honorarium — I don’t charge fees.”

“As someone just starting to do this, I have no idea the protocol for “advertising” myself and balancing this with my library work. I feel like I’m stumbling along and don’t want to overprice myself, yet also don’t want to underprice.”

“As a special librarian in a commercial company, I only speak at selected conference when I can convince my management that has benefit for my company as a whole…I cannot be paid, as my company wants to be clear on its business principles. It should be clear that I am speaking solely on behalf of my company (and not because somebody paid me x to say something). So basically I’d like to point out that the case for librarians in commercial companies is more ‘complicated’ (i.e., we need to be careful of our company’s business principles, contracting strategies and confidentiality).”

One Comment

  1. Anonymous:

    I would be willing to present at no charge if the organization that wanted me to present paid my travel and hotel (if I stay overnight) expenses. – Allen D. Tate

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