what I think is my last word on speaking and presenters and money and power

Karen has a nice long post about the current ALA discussions including presenters getting paid/paying to speak, and ALA’s proposed dues increase. I share her feeling about giving presentations

It’s also a not-too-well-kept secret that there are some speakers who only speak when their presentation costs are fully funded, and in some cases when they receive honoraria. I don’t ask, and I don’t care, if the speaker in the next room got a perk I didn’t get. My assumption is that none of us are getting rich on presenting, and that we all know what we need to make it possible for us to share what we know.

I talk to my colleagues in general terms about reimbursement, honoraria and comped registrations, but I must admit to having a sort of “Aw shucks” response when people offer to put me in a hotel room. The first time I got reimbursed for hotel room expenses, I got all ootchy because the room cost over $150 a night and I was amazed anyone would pay that! I am a bit of a yokel in terms of money and so I try not to speak as if my opinions reflect those of a larger segment of travelling and speaking librarians, but I think I represent the low-budget traveller pretty well. Clearly I live in some alternate universe where staying in someone’s home is preferred over a hotel — one of my favorite speaker overnights was at the home of a library student with beer, wifi and company all night — and where money for speaking doesn’t have to be the deciding factor in whether I give a talk or not (library schools take note, I LOVE speaking to library students).

Since I talk about poverty issues often — financially poor, information poor, technology poor — watching this whole tennis match has been informative since a lot of it is about money and how much you should be grateful for having it as well as ethics regarding sharing it. Of course money can be code for other sorts of priorities as well — your value to the association versus the association’s value to others, tithing to your professional institutions, paying your dues — and I feel that this is where things get trickier. Some people see public speaking as a similar type of encoded message — you must have a big ego, you must think you’re better than other people, you must be some sort of shill for corporate America or evangelical zealot, you must be broke and desperate for attention, you must need tenure — and it’s harder to untangle this one. While we all have experience with money, for good or for bad, we don’t all have “get up in front of a room and say something” experience and even less of us have “get an invitation to get up in front of a room and share your expertise” experience.

I’d love to hear some of the people who have been saying “it’s an honor just to be invited” share their public speaking experiences and impressions, or maybe just tell us a little more about how they assess whether a public speaking engagement is “worth it” for them to attend. I’m sure we all have a line demarcating just how much sacrifice in the public good is too much sacrifice, and I have to admit that I bristle when people say or imply that they can make that judgement for others. Of course, discussing these money and power sorts of questions is thought by some to be tacky, and the cultural taboo against discussing status openly or specifically means that I’m sure this isn’t the last time this issue will come up. I know that the ALA Executive Board was talking about it last week and I think that can only be seen as a good start.