Professional New Year Resolution: No Unpaid Speaking Gigs

My speaking experience runs from global executive workshops at Yale School of Management, to MCing a weekend conference, to interactive workshops for code school graduates. I’ve spoken at conferences in the US and abroad. I’m damn good at it. I love public speaking and getting audiences fired up.

I also like getting paid for it. Lately I’ve seen more conferences charge their speakers to attend the very conference they’re speaking at. This is particularly common in higher education spaces. This practice goes beyond not paying speakers; it’s taxing the very people who are helping educate their community. It’s also cheap AF. It’s particularly infuriating when I see conferences for women charging their speakers (mostly women), further contributing to the invisible work women are expected to do.

As someone who teaches women how to negotiate for a better salary, it’s particularly insulting when organizations who promote women’s empowerment neither pay nor waive the conference registration free.

I took an unpaid speaking gig earlier this year because I had a professional crush on the organization that asked me to speak. They too tried to charge me to attend (though I negotiated for a free ticket). The experience wasn’t worth it.

So this year I’m a no on all unpaid speaking opportunities. My expertise isn’t free.



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