Call to conference organisers: pay your workshop instructors

A little background: speakers don’t get paid

Speakers like myself don’t get paid for doing a talk at a tech conference. That’s why I call this work “open source”. People will get a video or audio recording of the talk, including separately viewable or downloadable slides for free. The idea is, a conference costs a lot of money to organise. It is quite expensive to fly in all those speakers. So there’s no money to pay the speakers for all their work (for me personally it’s about 80 hours of preparation, plus time spent travelling, usually half a day before and after the conference). Speakers get their travel costs reimbursed, they often get two nights at a hotel, and a ticket to the conference. Plus, they get advertising for their personal brand (increasing their reputation as an expert, a funny person, or just a person with more Google results for their name).

Workshops: also not paid

Every since I realized that creating workshops is something I like a lot, I started submitting them to conferences as well. This, to me, is a whole different story. There’s many hours of educational experience, preparation, and again travel going into this. And delivering a workshop always costs a lot more energy than a single talk does. Often you won’t get paid for all that. Nevertheless, it earns the conference organisers a lot more money than a talk does.

Workshops are often planned within the days before the main conference. Ticket prices range from 200 to 800 euro. It often happens to me that I’m delivering my workshop in front of 20-25 people. This means that the conference organisers receive 4000 to 20.000 euros per day per workshop. Surely, there will be costs involved. But even after subtracting those, a workshop instructor will often generate thousands of euros in revenue.

To be fair

I don’t think it would be fair to pay workshop instructors the entire amount either (after subtraction of the costs). Having a conference organising your workshop has value too:

  • They have reach: hundreds of people will know about your workshop.
  • They deal with all the administrative work (payments, registration, refunds, etc.).
  • They take care of the well-being of the attendees (parking directions, food, drinks, etc.).

Call to conference organisers

Still, I wanted to point out how wrong the situation is for tutorial/workshop instructors at many PHP conferences I know of. I want to ask you all, conference organisers: next time you organise workshop days for your attendees, make sure to pay your instructors.

Some useful suggestions, which I’ve learnt from conference organisers I spoke with:

  1. Pay instructors for their work day: €1000,- (plus the usual reimbursement of travel costs, and a hotel night). This isn’t quite enough to cover preparation time, but it’s a reasonable amount to me.
  2. Let instructors share in the revenue, after subtraction of the costs, e.g. give them 50%. This makes up for the day, and the required preparation. It will also make instructors happy workers.

In fact, Laracon EU is a conference where they do this. Shawn McCool, one of its organisers, said to me:

Paying people for their work is the right thing to do, for both ethics and sustainability.

I totally agree with him. Now, do the right thing and make that change!

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Original article title: Call to conference organisers: pay your workshop instructors.
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