Sunday, February 17, 2013

Why Do we Undervalue Ourselves?

Right now, along with many other ITSM specialists, I am completing speaking proposals for a number of ITSM conferences around the world. This is quite an undertaking; every conference has different requirements for submission with different levels and types of information needed. It can take hours to complete the process and successfully lodge your request to speak.

Once that has been done there is the huge task of preparing your slides and other presentation material, maybe I am a bit slow, but a good presentation takes me many, many hours of work to put together and will be revisited and changed regularly leading up to the event. If I were putting in this level of work for a paid assignment, I would be expecting a healthy payback in monetary terms.

But, like most of my colleagues around the world who are doing the same thing, I currently do not expect to be paid for any of these efforts. In fact, every conference I am selected to speak at will cost me a considerable amount in travel, accommodation and other related expenses…the only thing I will get out of it is a free conference registration.

We are told that we should be grateful to be on the programme as it will enhance our reputation and build our influence in the ITSM community.

The sad fact is that  we are currently fighting a losing battle to have a financial value placed on the contributions of the hundreds, or even thousands, of skilled ITSM professionals who appear on the programmes of industry conferences globally each year…and we only have ourselves to blame!

My friend, Chris Dancy, tells us, very firmly, that we should not be speaking for free, every conference that wants you on their agenda should pay for that privilege…and I agree with him 100%. But sadly it is not as simple as that.

Until there is a groundswell of speakers who say ‘you can have me if you pay me’, and that groundswell reaches a critical tipping point where event organisers cannot fill the programme with a majority of free speakers, then we  will get exactly what we ask for…nothing.

Currently, if I insist on being paid, then the organisers are most likely to just go to the next name on the list, who is offering their services for free. There are an elite few, those highly sought after speakers, who attract a healthy appearance fee and prime billing. But only the tallest poppies in our industry attract this treatment.  The rest struggle to poke their heads above the weeds and will accept whatever scraps are thrown from the conference table.

Now, I am not saying that there is not a place for utilizing free speakers. The first time you speak at a conference, you are an unknown commodity, they are taking a chance on you…take the opportunity to show what you are worth, after all many companies offer free samples to first time buyers!

Think outside the square, conference organisers are not the only ones who can pay you to speak at their event. If you are a practitioner using a particular ITSM tool and you want to go and speak about your business, approach the vendor and ask them to help you get there…making it quite clear that you are not going to be doing a tool promotion talk, but that you are happy to talk to other conference goers about your experience with the tool and their service during the event.  Vendors know that practitioner presentations attract good audiences, so being associated with your session makes good business sense.

Oh, and there are some great conferences out there that do pay, at the very least expenses, for all their speakers, so hunt those ones out this year.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, whether you are a speaker who has managed to climb above the pack and get paid for your appearances, if you are happy to speak for free or if you are a conference organizer who either pays or not for your speakers.

1 comment:

  1. Public speaking is not a major component of my work, so I would not know how the pros do it. Seth Godin recently posted a blog entry “Should you work for free?” That particular blog viewpoint might be worth checking out. In our increasingly connected environment with social media, the attention a speaker gets from the conference can also be a form of payment for someone’s work. I think people just need to value “attention/exposure” appropriately for themselves.