D'Arcy from Winnipeg
Solution Architecture, Business & Entrepreneurship, Microsoft, and Adoption

Why I Don’t Pay Speakers to Speak at My Conference

Saturday, March 7, 2015 7:32 AM

I had a few conversations at Prairie Dev Con this week with people who were shocked to find that I don’t pay the speakers I invite to my conference. There’s also been some popular blog posts over the last year from Seb Lee-Delisle and Jenn Lukas that encourage speakers to push for travel & hotel coverage along with reimbursement for speaking at an event.

So – why don’t I pay my speakers? Simple – I can’t.

Well, that’s a little simplistic, so let me explain.

First, context – I run my conference in Canada. I believe that with the fantastic North American speaker pool available to us, the conference shouldn’t be limited to just Canadians speaking. There’s much we can learn from those south of the border and I don’t think we’d have the diversity of speakers and sessions if we didn’t include them. Once I began covering speaker airfare last year in addition to hotel, the number of responses exploded – which is good for the conference and it’s attendees.

Unlike the US DHS and State Department, the Canadian government’s Citizenship and Immigration Department has a much better website with clearer definitions of who can do what in Canada, and whether additional steps are required. There’s a page dedicated to policy, procedures, and guidance around public speakers – you can find it here.

In Canada’s view, there’s two different types of speakers that can come to Canada without requiring a work permit: those doing a seminar at a University, a short intensive course of study or a conference of specialists (so speakers at a technology conference who aren’t getting paid), and those who are “commercial” speakers who perform their own seminars, sell tickets, etc. (think someone from the US coming up to sell their ‘How to Get Rich in Real Estate’ course or something like that).

What is not included in either of those two definitions are…

…commercial speakers who are hired by a Canadian entity to provide training services, or guest instructors of a particular sport coming to teach weekend seminars. Training activities are viewed as providing a service to Canadians, and therefore are considered an entry into the labour market. In these cases, other entry options must be explored including ESDC/SC Labour Market Impact Assessments or the NAFTA Professional category which allows for professionals to provide training services under some circumstances.

I do think its silly that someone from the US can come up to sell whatever under the “commercial speaker” banner, and yet I as a conference organizer can’t provide any payment to my speakers because its considered an entry into our labour market, but those are the rules. That Labour Market Impact Assessment by the way costs upwards of $1000. Each. So if I was to pay my speakers, it would be $1000 up front for the Canadian government to determine if a Canadian could perform the same role. For a small regional conference, its not financially feasible.

Why not just pay Canadian speakers then and not American ones? At least someone would be getting paid, right? Unfortunately here’s how border logic would look at that: Even though the American wasn’t getting paid, Canadians are receiving payment and therefore the American would be taking the place that a Canadian could have been paid. This could result in not only the American speaker being denied at the border, but also having them finger-printed and entered into the CBSA system, causing him/her to be flagged in future border crossings and pulled into secondary. What I just described happened to…ahem…someone I know very well, albeit going from Canada to the US. I would not anticipate the Canadian border to be any different in its views.

You may know of conferences that pay speakers, either in the US or in Canada. From my research, and from what I’ve seen/heard in talking to people, those instances rely on speakers successfully lying to border agents as to what they’re doing in the destination country. I will never suggest this as an option, as it destroys the credibility of my conference as well as puts the speakers at huge risk.

I try to make my speakers’ experience as positive as possible: airfare paid, hotel paid, arrange airport pick up, and have a huge speaker dinner. From what I read about conferences in the US, US speakers don’t always get all of that for much larger events and the feedback I get from my speakers is typically positive; they want to come back, even without getting paid.

If you encounter a conference that doesn’t pay speakers to speak, consider that if they invite international speakers there may be more at play than just budget. I do believe that conferences should look at covering as much as possible for speakers though (airfare, hotel, food, etc.), regardless of honorarium.

If you have questions about running a conference, or if you have thoughts on this blog post, please leave a comment below!

Thanks,

D’Arcy




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# re: Why I Don’t Pay Speakers to Speak at My Conference

You may know of conferences that pay speakers, either in the US or in Canada. From my research, and from what I’ve seen/heard in talking to people, those instances rely on speakers successfully Blank Calendar 2018 Printable
Blank Calendar Printable 2018 lying to border agents as to what they’re doing in the destination country. I will never suggest this as an option, as it destroys the credibility of my conference as well as puts the speakers at huge risk.
10/4/2017 4:47 AM | akshay kumar

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