The Economics of Education – The Educator's Side

Posted by Sarah Sloane on Apr 27, 2009 in Uncategorized

(this will be followed up by two additional posts – one on the attendee’s side, and one on the event / group’s side)

The average presenter pays money out of their own pocket in order to teach.  In fact, almost every presenter pays money in order to teach – there are only a very few that make enough money from the classes that they schedule to cover their cost.

The basic economics:
On average, presenters are offered compensation ranging from free entry for a single class up to registration compensation for a weekend event.  Occasionally, a group is able to offer assistance with transportation and hotel rooms.  Some groups offer a flat fee or percentage of the total income to the presenter as payment.  Rarely, if ever, is someone compensated for the time that they will be taking off of work, for home expenses (dog / cat / baby sitters, etc.), for the majority of their food, or expenses for their assistant / partner / traveling companion, unless the companion is also presenting or volunteering at the group or event.

Even as much as this sounds, this leaves a financial gap which many presenters are happy to fill.  For an average hotel event, eating two meals per day in the hotel runs over $30 per day, excluding water, snacks, coffee (a must!).  Parking, especially in major metro areas, can run $8-$30 per day.  Cab rides to cheaper restaurants add a few bucks in.

Compensation for presenters, regardless, always falls a little short of what the actual expenses are.  This isn’t  big issue except for two things:  first, presenters who teach more than a couple of times per year and/or are limited in their income will carry a heavier burden because of this, and second, there is a prevailing attitude in some areas that a presenter who asks for more assistance is being greedy.

Most of us understand that money is a finite resource, and even the most financially solvent groups (Black Rose, for example) run their education programs in the red.  There has been bickering back and forth with some nationally known names on both sides of the fence tossing their $.02 into the discussion.  However, in my mind, the real issue is respect.  Both the presenters, and the groups, want to feel that they are being heard and respected.  Nobody wants to feel less valued, or that they’re being taken advantage of – regardless of the side of the fence they’re on.

So, how can we create a more win-win situation?

First, start thinking in terms of fairness.  Is it fair to ask someone to present three to four classes at an event without offering them a place to spend the night?  Is it fair to ask a small group of maybe 30 members to cover an airline ticket?  Is it fair to treat a local presenter who is giving the same amount of work as an out of town presenter differently, because they shouldn’t need as much compensation?  Figure out what it’s worth, in dollars and in energy, before you make your desires known.

Second, start thinking creatively.  All compensation does not need to be financial.  Helping presenters find roomshare options or rides to and from the event can cut their costs down considerably.  Asking the event to arrange for a fridge in the hotel room can make food expenses drop drastically (as well as helping us to eat healthier over the course of the weekend).  A small area in a staff or presenters lounge area stocked with bread, sliced meats & cheeses, and salad fixings costs a minimal amount of money but can keep the presenters taken care of.

Third, say thank you.  This is one that I’m personally guilty of not being good on, but I have noticed how much more pleasure both presenters and event organizers / staff feel about their experience if someone says a sincere “thank you”.  At a recent event that I staffed, I gave each presenter a small moleskine-like journal and pen as a thank you gift, and I got so many lovely comments from the recipients (and by shopping creatively, I was able to purchase them at an art supply store for far less than the full-priced name branded versions).  At that same event, I received a thank you note and gift card from the organizers to thank me for my hard work.  The exchange of appreciation hopefully left the presenters feeling appreciated and welcomed, and I know I got a very happy vibe after receiving the thank you note!

Fourth, communicate clearly.  There is no harm and no foul in saying “I’m sorry, I can’t do that”.  I’ve never heard a presenter trash an event’s reputation because the event was unable to make it possible for the presenter to attend.  I have, however, heard many presenters get upset after agreeing to present somewhere to have additional requirements (financial or time) tacked on after the fact.  The reality is that once an educator has agreed to present, and put the info up that they’ll be attending, they’re very hesitant to back out if necessary.  Get all the info up front – in fact, a contract isn’t a bad thing to do, even though many of us think it’s a bit cold & calculated.  In this case, clear communication can prevent misunderstandings, frustration, and the damaging of reputations.

Finally, cross promote.  Many groups & events find that by coordinating with other local or regional groups, they can afford to host presenters that might not otherwise be able to attend.  For instance, I’m occasionally able to do a “tour” through a few different cities, which often reduces my overall expenses and almost always helps drum up more support for the events themselves.  It’s important in these situations that the groups & the presenter are clear about what expenses are being covered, but they can definitely make for a great experience on all sides of the event – producer, attendee, and presenter.


Screw the tax man…

Posted by Sarah Sloane on Apr 17, 2009 in Uncategorized

This week has been pretty busy.  I taught “Press Here For More Options” at Good Vibrations in Brookline, MA to a really engaging bunch of people who were curious about (and in some cases, experts in) G-spot play.  GV is a great shop, and their staff is educated, helpful, and totally affirming – so it’s a real pleasure to teach there.  I’m currently getting ready to head to Philadelphia for NDDS’s Boot Camp II tomorrow, and then back home for a few days until I leave for Fort Lauderdale on Thursday (oh, sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve finally found you…).  This spring is definitely my “busy season”, and my brain isn’t keeping up anymore!

There’s been a lot of talk this week about sex addiction, both on Twitter and in a number of online articles.  Satine Phoenix’s comments on Twitter inspired me – she brought up that the concept of being passionate about sex and being addicted to sex are two different things.  I am definitely passionate about sex, and about the intimacy that results from it…but I know enough about addictions to know that the dividing line is when sex starts having a negative impact on one’s life, either physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or financially.  If you can’t feel good about yourself, can’t pay your bills, can’t get to work on time, can’t have honest relationships…maybe it’s time to look at it.  However, don’t tar all of us sex-positive people with the same brush…the great majority of us have healthy, happy, busy, balanced sex lives – they just don’t necessarily look like the rest of society’s!

(Then again, I just realized that it’s a Friday night after 8 PM, and my plans are to watch a little TV, then go to bed early…so I’m obviously not the person with the crazysexycool sex life. Can someone call me when it’s my turn to have it?)

Last note for today – this week my article “Catching Cancer Off The Toilet Seat” went live on EdenFantasys.com.  So far, I’ve gotten a few great comments on it, and I’m really pleased to have a chance to talk about the current body of knowledge about HPV, as well as break down a few myths.  I hope you enjoy it!


Lack of updates makes Sarah a dull woman

Posted by Sarah Sloane on Apr 7, 2009 in Uncategorized

So, since I totally suck these days at keeping everyone updated, I’m going to attempt to do at least a quick bullet point list here, okay?

This past week, I…

  • Received my copy of Lee Harrington’s “Rope, Bondage, and Power”, which I have a chapter on rope and vulnerability in.  There are some amazing authors in this book, including my friends Janice Stein, Lee (of course!), Lqqkout, Graydancer, as well as luminaries such as Maria Shadoes, Madison Young, Van Darkholme, JD from Two Knotty Boys, and others.
  • Started to schedule an interview on a Canadian podcast in preparation for the TEASE event in July
  • Confirmed that I will be teaching for TESFest this July (the weekend before I go to Canada!)
  • Posted a new article, Five Ways to Ruin Your Sex Life Through Communication, at SexIs Magazine
  • Did my laundry, finally unpacked after IMsL, and am making progress on knitting the camo-colored socks!
  • Confirmed the date for the upcoming bootblack skill share that I’m working on coordinating (it’s October 17!

Next week, I will:

  • Teach my G Spot class at Good Vibrations in Boston, MA on Tuesday, April 14
  • Teach at NDDS BootCamp in Philadelphia, PA on Saturday, April 18
  • Spend time with friends & clients in the Boston & NY areas
  • Put lots of miles on my truck

Later this month, I will:

  • Teach at Beyond Leather in Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Teach at FSG Beltane in Darlington, MD

I didn’t really get a chance to post after IMsL, but I’m honored to have been selected as the first runner up in this year’s contest.  The winner, Lamalani from Seattle, WA, is an amazing woman, and the leather community is fortunate to have her as a spokeswoman this coming year.  I’m also especially proud of my friend Pony, who won IMsBB 2009!  I’ve known her for a number of years and she’s grown and changed so much…I’m so excited for this opportunity for her, and I think she will be a great role model for female bootblacks out there – especially those who are girly girls, like her!

Lastly…you can find me on Facebook now, as well as Twitter and FetLife…so it should be easy to keep tabs on my whereabouts.  Have a great week, everyone!

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