I speak at a few conferences. I don’t consider myself a professional public speaker – no more than I am a professional blogger, it’s an aside from my main business – but I like public speaking. It gives me an audience for high level views of my ideas, forces me capture the essence of my thoughts in 40 minutes which in turn helps me to develop the concepts into 1/2 day, 1 day or 3 day workshops. I meet people who love what I talk about and I get free coffee and bikkies. Sometimes a rather average glass of white wine at the evening meets.

Sure, public speaking gigs can lead to paid work, but mostly prospects come from word of mouth of past participants from strategy sessions, or my public University one-day courses (How to Blog, or Facebook, Blogs and Marketing or Managing your Community (forums)) or the Australian Film Television and Radio School public masterclasses ( Building Social Networks and Growing Communities) , readers of this blog, or (and most likely) from people I hang around with on Twitter.

I am usually paid for public speaking – I don’t have enough free time to do any more *free* marketing – but I am a sucker for a cause. Save the Endangered Freelance Journalists is my new project. 😛 WebDirections cos I like the conference – I get an entrapped audience of around 600 to listen to whatever my latest pet project is (this year: Monetizing social networks). But given that I’m self-underemployed -heh – and don’t have a boss who will give me a few hours/days off to prepare and fly hither and thither and indulge my Big Mouth ™, I limit my free shenanigans to three or four a year.

What I do find weird is being asked to speak and – for this great opportunity – I can pay $7,000 or $8,000. Wow, I can advertise my products and services to an audience who have paid themselves anything from $1000 to $3000 per ticket. (./sarcasm)

There is something inherently wrong with this double dipping. Like old media, where the consumer pays for a fashion magazine full of … ads! Yes, conference organisers should cover costs and make a profit. No they shouldn’t inflict advertising on us. By advertising I mean pure promotion of the speaker’s company’s own products, with little or no relevancy to the topic of the conference. Of course advertising that is meaningful and relevant is considered information. But even so, do you really want to pay a couple of grand for a ticket to be advertised to? There is nothing worse than sitting in a conference for 2 days listening to ‘the spiel’ … There should be a badge next to the speakers name saying “sponsor” so we know what’s coming.

Please don’t invite me to pay for a speaking spot. Please don’t invite me to speak “for free” and then tell me I have to pay for ‘the other day’s‘ ticket ( I sometimes attend both days to get a feel for audience level of knowledge/interest). Please don’t ask me to buy a ticket to a conference that looks like it could be interesting but turns out to be long-form live advertising. I use “live” loosely – some of the speakers look as bored with their products as we, the audience, are.

Sheesh, no wonder they think I’m good at speaking – look at the competition! Heh.

(no this is not directed at any of the conferences coming up that I am speaking at – they have been very ethical and engaged in truly educating the audience. In particular, Glen from Frocomm New Media Conference (for PR people in Melbourne). )