(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.