Ted's a world-renowned conference speaker and keynoter, with more than three hundred (as of 2013) conferences, hundreds of training classes, under his belt. With each presentation, he brings equal amounts of education and entertainment, because not only do you need to teach the crowd, but you need to keep them awake.
So you've decided that having Ted out to speak at your show is a desirable thing. Cool! He loves to talk at conferences.
But, over the years, he's found that lots of conferences have very different points of view about what bringing a speaker out to speak at their conference really means. So here's a list of the things that a conference needs to be ready to provide, if this is going to work (and yes, these are in order of importance):
Your conference has a code of conduct. This is the 21st century. If your conference doesn't understand that some people feel uncomfortable at technical events, then you're probably also missing some critical details in other places, as well. This is just plain professionalism on the part of any conference that wants to be taken seriously as a professional event.
All travel expenses must be covered. This is a non-negotiable point--speaking at your conference should not end up costing a speaker out-of-pocket expenses. If your conference cannot afford to cover reasonable hotel, airfare, taxi and meal costs, then this simply isn't going to work out. (If yours is a volunteer event, then I'm happy to discuss trying to support it remotely or to help you find quality local speakers.)
The flight will be booked through my travel agent, on my choice of airline, paid at the time of the booking by your conference, through my travel agent. Believe it or not, this to the conference's benefit. Yes, it probably won't be on the cheapest airline you can find, but frankly, the cheap airlines are usually cheap because they don't have the same reliability and/or breadth of options as the "big-boy" airlines do. By flying on a airline with which I have a million miles registered, I get priority assistance in the event that things go south (and they have an annoying tendency to go south at the worst times) and therefore actually make it to your show. For the same reason, by booking the trip through my travel agent, I have somebody with deep ties in the industry to fall back on when things go bad. Unless somebody from your conference has all the contact information required to contact the airlines and re-book flights in the event a flight gets canceled, and is willing to be accessible to me 24x7 (since we never know when things are going to go south), this is another non-negotiable term. My travel agent and I will work out an itinerary that works for me, and then we'll send you the invoice for your approval and payment (so that you can know ahead of time, before payment, what it will cost). You can provide either a credit card to which the flight will be charged, or work out another means of payment through the travel agent; a speaker shouldn't have to hold the charge on a credit card (charging interest) until you're ready to reimburse. This also acts as a deposit, essentially demonstrating that the chance of the conference actually running is high. (Speakers have been left high-and-dry around expenses incurred on behalf of a conference before, and life is just too short to deal with that.)
If this is a country in which English is not widely spoken, please be ready to help me get there and back again. I know it sounds diva-ish, but it makes the travel much easier to know that there will be a native speaker waiting for me at the airport, or a driver has been contracted to take me to the hotel, or something. I try my best to not be the Clueless American Tourist (TM), but honestly, it's really in your best interests as well as mine to make sure I can get to the hotel smoothly. And this doesn't have to be exclusive to me--I'd love to carpool with another speaker or two!
Either offer a speaker stipend, or offer to cover the airfare costs of bringing a family member along. My family has to do without me whenever I go someplace to speak, so it seems only reasonable to bring them along sometimes in exchange for the time they don't have me around.
If this is in a timezone more than 8 hours away, bring me in a day early. This is just acknowledgement that my body can't jump timezones as easily as it once could. If you want me to speak on Tuesday, I want to be "boots on the ground" at the hotel on Sunday. This gives me a day to recover and adjust before I have to be alert and ready to go. (And honestly, by including a weekend day in the flight itinerary, price often goes down far enough to more than justify the extra hotel cost. We can talk about that along with my travel agent.)
Ask me for introductions to speakers of underrepresented groups who can also speak at your conference. I know many, and I promise you, I wouldn't recommend them if they weren't good speakers. Bringing people from underrepresented groups onto your stage is a way of bringing underrepresented groups into our industry, and if you're not committed to growing the size of the people in the industry--which also raises the number of potential attendees to your show--then you're not really thinking long-term or professionally about your conference which, again, means I'm likely to be disappointed about some other aspect of your conference.
I realize that when listed out, these may seem ridiculous or intimidating. Most of them, however, I've found to be either the default way the best conferences operate, or ideas that they look to adapt to their own circumstances. (And I've heard worse--I don't require a tour guide, I don't require somebody to carry my bags, and I don't need somebody to take me out to dinner every night. And yes, I know of speakers who mandate those clauses in their speaker agreements.)
I look forward to learning more about your event, and making it an amazing experience for your attendees.
Published on 01 February 2022