Seb Lee-Delisle

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How to ask to get paid to speak

Spoken Nerd

New speakers often feel awkward about asking for a speaker fee, and some conference organisers take advantage of this by not offering you one. Some don’t even offer reimbursement for your travel.

They’ll continue to do this as long as we still accept it - so here’s my advice for making sure you’re not taken advantage of.

First of all – here’s how I would respond to someone inviting me to speak at a conference :

Hi xxxx,

Thanks so much for inviting me to speak at xxxx conference, it looks like a great event and I’d love to be a part of it.

My fee for 2014 is £xxx, plus travel and accommodation, with payment in full 14 days before the event. If that works for you then let me know and I’ll book it in.

kindest

Sometimes they’ll come back saying that they don’t have budget, or make you an offer. It’s at that point that I ask, very directly, usually in one sentence.

What is the capacity and ticket price for the event?,

I usually don’t even put any niceties around this question, which may come across as a bit dickish, but I like to think it makes me sound confident. Some simple maths will then enable to you figure out if they can really afford you or not.

Bear in mind that conferences are very expensive to run. That said, spending £100k on a venue and then not paying speakers is a choice, not a lack of budget.

Trying it on

Many, many conferences will put pressure on you to accept a lower fee, or no fee. They’ll tell you that it’ll be a great opportunity for you, or ask if your company will cover the costs. Please do not accept this. Any professional conference should be able to pay their speakers.

Some even have the audacity and arrogance to tell you that you’re saving the price of the entry ticket. Like you would ever pay for a ticket if you’re a speaker! This is guaranteed to make me mad.

How much to ask for?

This is probably the hardest question. I think an absolute minimum would be around £200 – at this point it’s more an honorarium than anything else and it’d probably cover your extra expenses – airport transfers, meals, incidentals etc. So you’re still not really getting paid.

Any decent conference should offer all of their speakers around £500 – £1000. Higher profile speakers can get £2000 – £5000 (I’m somewhere in this range). Web celebrities could get more than this, maybe up to £10,000. And famous people (like Wozniak) could get many times more than this.

Non-profit

Some organisations are non-profit events, running reasonably priced conferences. I’m much happier to negotiate down or even waive my fee for those events. But always ask about the nature of their non-profit status.

Some conferences are run at a loss by a company that is none-the-less gaining huge benefits and exposure. You can be pretty sure that everyone organising is getting their usual salary – so why should you do it for free?

And look out for events that have major corporate sponsors.

So check the ticket prices, nature of the organisation, and what happens to the profit if there is any, then make a judgement on that.

Community events

Some conferences are genuine community events that are run by passionate people and low ticket prices. Often they’ll be able to at least cover your expenses, but sometimes in exceptional circumstances, I’ll support these events by paying my own way.

Reaching out

Naturally most of this assumes that the conference has contacted you, and this does put you in a stronger position. If you have to reach out to events, then you may have to sell yourself a little harder, and compromise a little more. But having the confidence to ask for a fee is also part of marketing yourself and makes you look professional.

You are the product

Please remember that you are the product that conferences are selling. So it is more than fair that you get some of that income for the considerable time and commitment that you are investing.

Just say no

When I was starting out I would do any event if my costs were covered. I think I did 50 events one year! These days I insist on getting paid for my time so I speak at fewer events – I have to refuse bad offers. But that’s OK, it’s a natural filter.

There are really really nice ones

Please don’t think that all conference organisers are horrible – there are probably just as many really well-run friendly conference organisers.

Speaking is a fantastic chance to share what you’ve learned and meet your peers. I absolutely love it and would recommend it to anyone who likes to talk. Good luck!

[UPDATE] Also check out this great post by Jenn Lukas on how to set your speaker fee.

Posted in Speaking | 10 Comments

Margate Games : Lazer Arcade video and photos

Now that the Margate Games residency is over it’s time to take stock and document the project.

Lazer Arcade draft edit from Seb Lee-Delisle on Vimeo.

To my great relief the system worked really well and Lazer Arcade proved to be a huge hit – there were constant queues throughout the GEEK festival.

So what did I learn?

Well the big surprise was that out of all the games I made, the simplest was the most popular. It was just a target and I made it in a couple of minutes as the first game to test with. But I had accidentally hit upon a few playability features.

It was easy to get some kind of score, even if it was by hitting the outer edges of the board. This is important when you only get six shots. And by making the bullseye difficult to hit, it meant you had to come back and try again. I gave the bullseye a score of 50 points (the outer rings got 10 and 5 points) so you’d be guaranteed a high score if you got one. I think the highest score of the weekend was 180 (which requires 3 bullseyes!).

Adults enjoyed the 80s aesthetic of Asteroids but it was completely meaningless to most of the kids. The coconut shy was really hard to even get one coconut, but I guess that’s the same as the real life ones.

The Nerf guns proved to be a bit problematic too – they kept jamming up. I think I’d probably work on some modifications to the guns if I ran it again. The smaller kids in particular had a bit of difficulty with them.

But all in all, it was a hugely enjoyable experience. It was great to meet and hang out with the other artists who all made great games. Thanks to everyone at GEEK, especially Rhianna, Stefan and the other volunteers who basically spent hours loading and picking up sponge darts.

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This post first published on the Margate Games blog February 28th 2014

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Margate Games : ready to play?

It’s been an intense week of troubleshooting calibration – but I finally got it working today! It’s still a bit fragile so I’m not sure how well it’ll hold up over the festival but fingers crossed.

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There have been so many things to fix – just one was the vibrations from the floor so I bought this massive lighting stand from Amazon and strung up the board on bungees – this has isolated it from the surroundings.

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Of course with all the craziness I’ve barely managed to make any games, but I hurriedly put together a target practice game today, and just now finished an Asteroids style game.

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Emma Coopers photo of the Target Practice game – she got a high score of 80!

All set for the official opening of Geek tomorrow, where I’ll be on a panel talking about the project.

This post first published on the Margate Games blog February 21st 2014

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