Your Conference Is Like Vanity Press
Are you charging speakers a full or discounted registration fee to present at your conference?
Perhaps they must cover their own travel, lodging and expenses to attend your conference in addition to spending time to develop their presentation. And pay a registration fee.
Does your conference do that?
If yes, lawyer and speaker James H. “Jim” Moss says you are like a vanity press. Wikipedia defines a vanity press or vanity publisher as a publishing house that publishes books at the author’s expense.
You know those authors that have self-published. They are the ones with boxes of books in their basements and attics. Poor writing, poor grammar, poor content, poor storytelling. Eventually they try to give away those books during a yard sale.
Moss says that if you ask for a registration fee at the expense of the value of what you provide, you will eventually disappear. By charging the speakers a registration fee, you send a message that you do not have enough value in your event and even need the speakers to pay.
Traci Browne of Trade Show Institute raised similar issues in her post Myths Conference Organizers Believe About Speakers. Browne says, “There is no way you will get quality speakers by demanding they pay for your event AND speak for free.”
Am I the only one who’s feeling stretched too thin and wondering whether, in the end, ego strokes are worth tipping the work/life balance cart? At some point will people start deciding they don’t want to write or do webinars or speak for free anymore? Or is this nothing new and there’s always someone willing to do it?
Incestuous inbreeding at your conference
Moss states that conferences that secure speakers from those who attend the conference are only inbreeding thought and insight. It is incestuous. It is nothing more than an echo chamber with the same voices saying the same thing year after year.
As long as you only offer speakers from within your industry, you will continue to promote living in a bubble. Your conference attendees will have difficulty seeing how their profession fits within the context of the larger business world.
Inbreeding leads to abnormalities, deformities, mental illness and idiocy. Stagnant speaker pools produce motionless, stationary conference attendees and businesses. The industry presentations are so industry-absorbed that listeners lose an accurate self-awareness.
What percentage of new speakers do you provide at your conference? What percentage of new topics versus repeat topics do you offer? Does your conference speaker list look like a repeat of last year’s meeting?
New voices, fresh perspectives and dissenting views needed
Moss argues that your conference needs new voices, new minds, new thoughts, new ideas, new people and fresh perspectives. You need some dissenting voices that challenge your conventional thinking.
I agree wholeheartedly with Moss, Browne and McGary. It’s time for associations and organizations to start investing dollars in the content and speakers at their conference.
Why should conference organizers at a minimum cover industry speaker registration fees? What do you think about conferences that require speakers to pay to present?