Why Don't Tech Conference Speakers Get Paid

If you’ve ever thought of speaking at a tech conference, you must be asking yourself, “Do the tech conference speakers get paid? If yes, how much? If no, why not?”

The answer is “No.” While a few conferences may pay speakers, most of the tech conference speakers do not get paid. Some conferences cover travel and lodging costs, some cover one or the other, and some don’t cover anything at all.

Background

A conference has several components, and the most important components of a conference are the attendees, speakers, organizer(s), and the sponsors. Fortunately, I have been a part of conferences as most of these components. I was a conference attendee. I was a conference speaker, and now I am a conference organizer (C# Corner).

Several years ago, I was invited to speak at one of the most popular tech conferences. But the condition was, I had to take few days off from my consulting work, I had to pay my own airfare, and I also had to take care of my own lodging and food. Of course, I declined. It’s not that I did not want to speak, it was simply that I could not afford to take off of work and also pay all those expenses.

But I always had this question: “Why would a speaker go, leave his or her family, take days off work, and not get paid?”

Today, one of my close friends and C# Corner MVP, author, and Microsoft MVP, Amit Chaudhary, asked the same question.

 

I this article, I will try my best to answer the same question: “Why do the tech conference speakers not get paid?”

C# Corner Conference

We’ve been doing the C# Corner tech conference (http://conference.c-sharpcorner.com/) for the past five years. This year, the C# Corner Annual Conference 2016 will be held on March 18, 2016.

 

The C# Corner Annual Conference 2015 highlighted several speakers and C# Corner MVPs. Check out C# Corner Annual Conference 2015 Official Recap.

 

The C# Corner Annual Conference 2014 was also a major hit with close to 1200 attendees. Check out C# Corner Annual Conference 2014 Recap.

 

So why pay this year?

The C# Corner annual conference is FREE of cost for C# Corner MVPs, key members, partners, and speakers.

OK, here is an example of our last conference. Some numbers may not be exact but they are very close.

For our tech conference, each attendee costs us about Rs.1800 (US$30), mostly for snacks, tea/coffee, and lunch/dinners. In the past we had up to 1500 confirmations. That means we had to pay venue for for 1500 people in advance. But 30 percent of the people did not show up. Not only did it cost us extra money for the people who did not attend the event, but we also had to organize bigger halls, and pay more. Eventually, the event cost us 1500 X $30 = $45,000. Now that is a big amount for a community website that is not profitable.

Besides this, we had some travel and lodging cost for MVPs, speakers, and core members. For example, we cover two nights of hotel fees for shared rooms. Each room can cost up to Rs.6000 ($100) including taxes per night. 

  • Conference day: $45,000
  • 50 MVPs (25 rooms) + 10 speakers (10 rooms) = 35 rooms x $100 per night = $3,500.
  • Travel costs = $5,000.
  • Food and other costs = $2,000
  • Cost of print media - Brochure, cards, boards, banners
  • Cost of website development
  • Cost of marketing, promotions, social media
  • Cost of event material - stage, audio, projector, DJ, and other people helping 

Total cost = $45,000 + $3,500 + $5,000 + $2,000 + $$$ = $55,500 + $$$

In the above cost, I’ve not included my personal travel costs and time, I took off of the work. I’ve also not includes all the cost our guys who have worked on the event, for months.

By having a paid ticket, not only it will reduce some of the costs, but it will also ensure that most of the people who have paid for the event will show up.

What about sponsors?

Sponsors are a big help for any conference. While total expenses of the conference were close to $55.5k, we had about $18k sponsorship. You get the idea.

How much do speakers get paid?

We don’t pay our speakers. For most of the speakers who are really popular, we do take care of travel, lodging, and food expenses.

Why don’t speakers get paid?

As you can see from the previous math, a conference doesn’t make money unless it’s a really popular conference like Microsoft Build that charges its attendees $2,500 - $3,500. Even those conferences are not very profitable when you calculate all the costs involved in hosting a conference.

Then why do we do the C# Corner conference?

Now, the obvious question you may ask is, if C# Corner conference doesn’t make any money, then why the heck do we do it?

Well, we do it for the community love. We do it to appreciate C# Corner MVPs, authors, and contributors. Not only does it help them to meet the team but also to build and grow their network. Several C# Corner MVPs met and got H1B visa opportunities in the US, some got networking opportunities with companies, and some got benefits in their careers and jobs.

We also announce our future plans for the community and get MVPs’ feedback on these plans.

What do speakers get out of it?

So, if speakers don’t get paid, and even spend their own personal money to speak at a conference, then why do they speak? Speaking at a tech conference has several benefits, and each speaker evaluates their benefits in their own ways: 

  • A stage to showcase and build your name
  • Great PR opportunity that may bring in some businesses
  • Networking and business opportunities
  • Branding and promotions
  • Recognitions and awards
  • Meeting people who you will never meet otherwise
  • Giving back to the community 
Pamela Fox writes on getting benefits from conference speaking including: It gives me a moment to step back and reflect, it gives me a new way to share knowledge I’ve accumulated, it gives me a way to learn new knowledge from many developers at once, and it gives me an opportunity to meet the amazing developers of the tools I use.

As an attendee: I have benefited a lot just by attending conferences. I have met so many authors, trainers, and speakers. I met Bill Gates at one of the conferences. I have become friends with some of the people I have met at conferences. I have done business with some of them, and I’m still doing so. So the sky's the limit. 

We bring speakers to the conference that you may never get a chance to meet otherwise. For example, you will see Glen Block, Jason Beres, DJ, and many other speakers that you may never meet otherwise. They don't go to India often. Even I visit India a couple of times and the conference is the only time when I am available to meet in person.
 
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