An Open Letter to Garbage from photographer Pat Pope over whether the band should pay to use his photos in their new book struck a cord with many creatives last week but I doubt it made even a ripple in the world of conferences.

Like most of these “Open Letters” it makes for fascinating reading not only because the content is challenging but the writing is fantastic. I’d encourage you to have a read of it before going further. And appreciate Pat’s work below:

Pat’s website is here:

Pat’s website is here:

The budget is “financially limited”

 The crux of the letter and this blog post is around the not paying for content and as event planners we are guilty as charged. All too often we make a call to a speaker starting or ending with the line “the budget is “financially limited”, by which we of course mean “we’re not going to pay you”. “how much should I pay a speaker?” As little as possible is too often the response.

I’d like to highlight this paragraph from Pat’s letter:

“Against all the other lines, for writing, for printing, for distribution, for retailing, for marketing, for the management company, for the band……somebody, somewhere, working for you, has written a number down because that’s what it costs. But that same person has written zero for photos”

How much should I pay a speaker – Nothing for money

I’ve written before about what we can do in place of a monetary payment and these types of things go along way to adding value. However like Garbage’s management company simply offering a “credit” is anything but: it adds nothing to your bank balance in the short or the long term.

One of my favourite event industry speakers Julius Solaris has been brave enough to write great blog posts on the issue of not paying speakers. Julius’s “Dear Event Planner I hate you…..” add a lot to what really should be a debate within the conference industry.

Perhaps these should have been open letters to event organisers?

Blogs on the subject seem to fall on deaf ears however this is an issue that should be addressed. To demonstrate how bad it is even when you speak at an event for free you come up against the budget. After speaking at an event industry event I submitted by travel expenses. A week later I got the call. “We’ve gone over our budget for speakers expenses, so we can only cover your flight not your transport to and from the airport or to and from our venue.” Perhaps I should have delivered my sessions from the boarding gate?

Follow the links. Put yourself in your speakers shoes and have a read of that heart felt, well written letter again. Replace “photographer” and “photos” with “professional speaker” and “content” and see if you shift uncomfortably in your chair.