I'm paying to put on a conference

This is based on Remy Sharp's blog post (http://remysharp.com/2014/03/07/youre-paying-to-speak/) and as a conference organiser of 7 years I have some thoughts of the topic of Paying Speakers.

TL:DR If the money was there in WDC I'd pay speakers a fee to speak, there isn't so the least I do (even if I were to lose money) is to cover their expenses. I don't get paid for doing it.

Now the point has been made, let me explain myself…

I've learnt a lot in 7 years.

As some of you probably don't know I have been running WDC since 2007. In the last 7 years WDC has come a hell of a long way and since 2010 has been run soley from funds made through ticket sales and sponsorship.

In 2007 WDC was started with backing from UWE (University of the West of England) where I was a student at the time. I didn't know any web professionals and found myself exploring other conference sites for speakers as well as looking locally in Bristol.

I had nothing to do with the money until we had local companies offering support. This went all went back to UWE as they paid for everything. All I knew was the university covered the costs of speakers travel and hotel.

Then 2010 came along

I was no longer a student, times were hard for UWE and the backing from them disappeared. I didn't want to let the event die but I also knew people wouldn't come along if the ticket price was suddenly £100s after being such a low price in previous years.

So I set a ticket priced based on the expenses of the event that I knew about (it turned out I knew of the expense of running a conference). The ones I had in mind where the ones I knew about. The venue, the hotel for speakers and their travel costs. The ones I missed where the little ones that just build up that you don't think about until the invoice is due.

In 2010, I lost about £500-750 running the event. Not £1000s but enough that when 2011 came around I knew I either had to break even or drop the idea of WDC all together (but thats another story).

I will always cover expenses of getting to and staying in Bristol.

I will always cover the travel and hotel expenses of speakers at WDC. I am always open about this and its one of the first things mentioned when I contact a speaker about the possibility of speaking.

If they can't do it for expenses I totally understand, I won't hold it against them, for a lot of speakers conferences can take up a lot of time when the could be sat at a desk working and earning money.

What about my expenses?

The bit that gets missed off is the time the conference organiser puts in to the event, espeically the events like WDC where 1 person is organising it all.

In real terms I probably put in 2+ months of real work in to the conference, before the main event. At 20 working days a month a freelancer could charge £250 a day, that's £10,000. Based off 2013, I'm £8,000 short in paying myself anything for the event.

Times that by 7 years and consider for 4 of those they all 'lost' money, you'll see I'm out of pocket over £60,000 for my time and my expenses for putting on the event since its start.

I'm thankful for all the help I've had and will have in the future.

The other thing missing when it comes to WDC is the help I've had from people who have volunteered their time to help me.

For example:

  • Rachel Shillcock designed the 2012 site, in return Rachel got her ticket, her hotel covered and a spot at the speakers dinner.
  • Luke Murphy-Wearmouth is currently working on the 8-bit 2014 site.

Both of these awesome people who have now spoken at WDC aren't being paid to design it they volunteered to help out and that's awesome!

I'd also like to thank every volunteer I've had over the years for showing up early and staying late on the day. It wouldn't have worked without you.

Finally, I'd like to thank Sam (the wife to be!) for putting up with my harebrained idea of WDC and keeping my feet on the ground while my heads go on with crazy ideas. Sam has also been responsible for keeping the day running smoothly behind the scenes, dealing with venues and suppliers in previous years along with volunteers and sponsors.