An Open Letter to Survival Expo Organizers

Posted on: July 8, 2013

If I had a dollar for every email I’ve received from a survival expo organizer that said something along the lines of, We’d love to have you speak at our event, but we can’t afford any travel or hotel expenses for you… I’d have, well, enough to pay my way to the next event.

Look, folks, if you can’t afford to at least pay the flight and hotel for your speakers, you’re doing something wrong. You either don’t know what you’re doing or you’re just looking to fatten your own wallets a bit more.

Let’s look at the situation using simple, 3rd grade, math. When pressed for info, most of these organizers tell me they are expecting about an average of 3,000 attendees at their event. They also seem to be charging an average of $10 a head.

3,000 x $10.00 = $30,000.00 in fees at the door. With me so far?

In looking at the websites for these events, we’ll lowball the rate they are charging for vendor booths and estimate it at $300.00 per booth. Say, 50 booths total, which again is a little low.

50 booths x $300.00 = $15,000.00

Add the two figures together and you get $45,000.00 in revenue. Now, that’s not counting any additional fees they might charge for special training sessions, cuts of food/beverage sales, or anything else. And, that’s also figuring just a one-day event. Multi-day affairs bring some complications in calculations, such as discounted ticket fees for multi-day passes but it also increases the take from vendor booth rental fees.

Anyway, back to the $45K. Let’s say you’re planning on 5 main speakers at the event. Again, that’s an average based on cursory research. Round-trip airfare for each speaker can be likely had for about $400 or less if you shop around. Hotel, if you negotiate properly, could be free for the speakers or at least at a greatly reduced rate, let’s say $100. For ALL FIVE SPEAKERS, you’re in the hole for a whopping $2,500.

You really mean to tell me you can’t squeeze that out of a working budget of $45K?

Now, in all fairness, I’ve had more than a few organizers offer up a free booth for me to use to sell books or whatever. While well-intentioned, all that means is now I have to bring someone else with me to man the booth while I’m speaking and such. I’ve doubled my own expenses, wonderful.

Look, when you bring in speakers to your event, you are asking them to leave their homes and families for at least a day or two. They are giving up time they could be spending earning money at a day job or working on their next book. Let’s say you were a plumber. Would you jump at the opportunity to pay for a flight and hotel room just for the chance to spend an hour telling a group of people how great you are with unclogging sinks?

Don’t get me wrong. I love doing expos. I very much enjoy speaking to groups who are interested in what I have to say. Personally, I try to entertain as much as I work to inform. Based on the feedback I’ve received from audience members, I succeed with both of those much of the time. I have a great time meeting new people and learning as much from them as I teach.

I’m not trying to be a diva, here. I’m not looking for a chartered jet and a bowl of M&Ms with all the brown ones removed.

All I’m asking for is an economy class flight and a night at Super 8. That really shouldn’t be too much to ask. If it is, there’s something wrong with your plans or your math.

2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Survival Expo Organizers

  1. I agree 100%. The POV seems to be that the event coordinators are doing us a favor by inviting us. But as Charley said, we actively promote these events and often, our reach is broader than that of the expo organizers!

  2. Show promoters are using speakers as a form of advertisement to draw traffic. By using well known names they increase attendance. What they fail to recognize is that often this is a business and attending a bad show is a risk for us as speakers as well so we aren’t in a hurry to to spend money on an unproven show. Another attractive value for them is that we will advertise for them if we participate. If they put on a bad show the word will get out quickly and we aren’t returning next time. The other problem they can’t seem to understand is the usually disjointed and dysfunctional sales people that change the arrangements after every confirmation which makes an agreement a moving target, eventually we just get tired of dealing with them and drop out. For these shows to continue, they must improve the interface with vendors and speakers and make it a partnership whereby we want to show up. If not, there is always somewhere else for us to go.

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