Thursday, March 29, 2007

valuing ourselves and being valued as speakers

I read Dorothea's post about reimbursement for speaking at conferences this morning. She points out the disparity between her experience with the TXLA and Michelle's experience.

I cannot even begin to count up how much I've personally spent to speak or otherwise participate in events at conferences. I taught a workshop for AAM once and encountered a similar experience to Michelle's -- I was asked to pay to register when I was teaching a workshop they'd make money from. I was on the MCN Board and MCN is an affiliate organization, so MCN gave me one of their exhibitor comps so I wouldn't have to pay to teach my workshop.

But, the year that I was president of the Museum Computer Network board, I had to attend six or seven conferences to give presentations or represent MCN at meetings or lead board meetings. It was MCN's policy never to reimburse anyone. I had a limited travel budget at MPOW, which paid for two of my six or seven trips. It never occurred to me to say no.

I've given talks at dozens of conferences. Every so often I get comped registration. On very rare occasions I get a night or two reimbursed at a hotel. I've never been offered a speaker's fee for a conference. This doesn't include the occasional gig where I've been comped and paid to teach one or two-day workshops outside of conference venues.

A couple of months ago I gave a talk at Open Repositories 07 that was very well received, and some folks approached me afterwards and suggested that I come to their institution to give the same talk. My colleague Grace Agnew sat me down at lunch and gave me a semi-stern talking to that I undervalued myself as a speaker. Always ask for something. Part or all of your travel. Comped registration. Speaker's fees. You may not get it, but you might get something when you expected nothing. If you get offered nothing and you weren't already planning to attend with institutional support, decline.

Yes, we might miss some professional opportunities. I'm going to put this in harsh terms -- conferences and organizations often take advantage of us. We want to give back to our community, but that doesn't mean that we should pay to give back to our community.

Do you still want to be my agent, Grace? ;-)

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