Derek Zeller | , , , , , , , ,| By
Speaker Pay & Diversity; The #truestory
I have said it before, and I will repeat it; I have been in this business a long time. I have been boots on the ground, in the trenches, a recruiter, and a sourcer before many of you reading this have been in this industry. I have seen many, many things come and go. Fax machines fell to email, job fairs fell to job boards that came and went then seemingly are coming back again. The one constant though, the one thing that I can honestly say has been a regular in the community; sadly its ego.
I have always been ok with it really you want to put up some defensive wall and tell the world how impressive you are when, frankly, you are not. There is a world of difference between confidence and arrogance; there are several people in our industry who don’t know how to use a dictionary to figure that out. It seems that the talking heads out there are doing what they do best stirring trouble on social media accounts to make them feel better knowing how each impact your message is frequently lost on people. They try to bully their way into speaking events so they can be “HR famous,” but many are not in HR nor some have ever been in the industry but they are going to tell you how to source or recruit, and you should pay them to talk oh, the irony is rich.
I work with a few different conferences as a volunteer as I believe these events are much more than a getaway on the corporate dime to party and attend free dinners to be wowed by vendors. It is about real learning from people who are willing to share their experiences, show their scars, and help others possibly traverse the pitfalls they fell into. They volunteer their time, and it is glorious. Very few make a living at this or are paid to do this as well. Yet there seems to be at the beginning of every conference season the conversation that speakers should be paid. Why? Is your name going to sell tickets? Other than 45 minutes what else do you bring to the table? Have you ever gone to the conference you want to speak at before? Do you have experience speaking in front of 1,000 or more people? What experience do you have speaking at all? Hell, are you in HR for God sakes?
Sadly I have been to conferences where I have seen people fail miserably and it was hard to watch. There is an art to speaking and holding an audience’s attention, especially after a day of listening to speeches all day there needs to be a dynamic and that takes, time, experience and subject matter that you should have at least done that pertains to the industry. Just because you think you are great does not mean it is so just yet. You have to pay your dues in any profession or job that you do, and speaking is no different.
The Diversity Deflection
One of the conferences I work with was recently attacked in a social media rant by the speaker that wanted to do a talk demanded to be paid. She was asked to speak by the conference owner. Now, this person is not a practitioner, she was a “former recruiter” who decided to do employer branding. Seriously, I have no idea what these folks do that a good marketing department should be doing, but I digress. This speaker told her that she would only speak if she were paid with all of her expenses paid for. The organizer told her that she did not have the money as this was only a day conference and it was her third one, so vendors were not exactly beating her door down at the moment, but she hoped to get there. Instead of doing what many speakers had done said to the organizer that did not really need to be paid but a night’s stay or flight would be needed but they politely thanked her, and ALL of them are actually pulling for her. However, this “former recruiter” was so incensed she was told this ran to twitter she ran to social media to rant that she should be paid; how mature! Funny enough after her she posted the rant she, I guess, she did not like the fact that no one really cared. This is normal and unless your name is going to sell a boatload of tickets you are not getting paid, period. Free ticket, sure but that is about it.
So, if that is not going to fire up a base behind you let’s play the diversity card. She then decided, as all the speakers were not yet vetted or committed at that point were not on the website other than four men one Latin, the other three were white and well known in the industry. Que rant two, now she was angry because she felt that there was no diversity and now it was not about the money but D&I. I call BS as after having conversations with many in our industry about this, and I was shocked to hear from a VERY diverse set of people in our industry be outraged at this. This type of behavior is both condescending and it the moral decay that fuels real problems of the world by using a bullying technique to get paid, not further an agenda, and just pull it backward. Hi, Jusse Smollet just saying. Lastly, there were more bullying techniques like a photo of the organizer, a woman, with fire behind her; yeah that was lovely.
You see the world has become increasingly angry and everyone seems to want to be some sort of famous. There are Instagram and Twitter people who post to post and fill the world with vitriol to feel better about them; self-delusional fame is real people. Hate just fuels hate and it is unproductive and abusive. It seems that if you are not angry at something in this world, especially here in the USA, then you feel like you are missing out. You are supposed to be mad even if there is nothing to be angry about. Inclusion is an excellent saying until you start excluding others to make yourself feel important. That includes EVERYONE. So, you turned down the event not because you are a minority or a woman you got turned and thought you were a token speaker; it was because NO ONE is being paid! So, you make veiled threats online; attack the people putting together conferences to make your mighty ego filled, which is called a bully, way to go for joining the very thing you are pretending to speak out against. There is rarely truth or facts, but these days everyone wants to be part of a movement and like lemmings, they jump off the cliff. These are sadly not even millennials or whatever these are grown ass people acting like pouting 12-year-olds that did not get their way.
Every conference I have been to is not only diverse but promoted it with women making the choices and lifting up every group. The conferences have gone to great extremes to include everyone in our community that does bring something to the table, and frankly not many get paid to play, and the community is good with it because there are people that speak that other people want to pay to see, sort of like a concert. I have zero desire to see Cher perform, so I do not pay for a ticket, but if NWA ever were to get back together for a concert, I would pay top dollar. To say that they are being used by a conference I say BS. Many speak as they own their companies and are looking for clients and often close them. Others find it an honor to express and share the knowledge they have acquired and pay it forward, not get a paycheck. That is what your day job is for. You get a free ticket to the show and national conferences tickets can be upwards of $1300. That seems like payment enough to me. The thing is the ones that pull this crap are not day in day out recruiters or sourcers. They are cursory and don’t really care about the conference they want to speak at. They just want to be HR famous!
Listen if you don’t want to speak without being paid to go ahead and get comfy on your couch. This is not about diversity; it’s about your bruised ego. I have seen the ratios at many conferences, and there was a problem between men and women as well as people of color in the lineup. I get that, but I know every conference has busted its back to change it with some of the largest and in this case, smallest conferences changing that yet they, we, need your help.
Where are you?
There is a great line a friend used to tell me when I became frustrated with the world and its glaring irresponsibility; “you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.” THAT is the problem in my opinion. There is just not enough people that want to step up in this industry. A prominent number of sourcers and recruiters in this industry are introverts, and it takes a great deal for them to even show up to a conference let alone speak at one. Others are just simply afraid to do so period. I am one of them, you may think that I am super extroverted, but frankly, when a conference is over, I am spent and need two days of almost silence.
We, the OG are getting older and like Luke in the Star Wars trilogy wants to hand the reins over to the next generation YOU need to step up and speak knowing that you need to pay your dues. It takes time and patience, but you can get there. Volunteer your time or sign up to run a roundtable at these events. Start writing articles or start a blog, get on to podcasts and SPEAK. Practice the craft of speaking at a toastmaster and get better. Start taking the time to brand yourself and spend the time to become noticed and heard. There are no monsters here trying to hold your voice back we are here to lift you up no matter who you are. Stop listening to the talking heads that want to skip to the front of the line because they think they are worth something and work. If you want to know how to start then email me, call me, text me! I help people behind the scenes all the time and am happy to show how to get you started.
One of the greatest moments of my life was being introduced to a crowd by a WOC and a friend at a conference. You see I rarely speak publicly, I am just ok at, and frankly, if I have something to say, I just write it down and let you be the judge. When I finished my presentation the people in attendance smiled clapped and went on to the next presentation. She was waiting for me when I got off stage, and after shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries, she told me that she hoped to one day be a speaker too. She is now, and she could care less if she is paid, she is on her way because she, like the rest of us did or are doing for the love of this community; not just to get paid.
Here is looking right at you, so what are you going to do? #peace #truestory