My colleague, Gbenga Sesan, took me up on my recent article, Why I Stopped Speaking For Free. If you haven’t read the article, you should. Gbenga is of the position that the premise of the argument is flawed. I love a good engagement and so we exchanged thoughts. Note that this is purely an intellectual exercise between Gbenga and myself (I know the tendency for voltrons on both sides to jump in with guns blazing). Gbenga and I are on good terms.
Anyway, I thought it would be nice to share his counter arguments and my responses for the benefit of those of you who may have missed out on the Twitter exchange. Enjoy.
Gbenga: I can imagine people thinking free means being taken for granted but some of us choose to give back. And yes, exposure pays
Me: Choosing to give back is different from being compelled to give back. I choose when, where, and how to give back. Giving back is voluntary and at one’s discretion. No-one has the right to tell another how/when/where to give back.
Me: It isn’t putting a price tag on all of my knowledge. It is putting a price tag on a service that I provide: speaking.
Gbenga: Saying you’ll never speak for free is surprising, especially when it’s not a professional day-to-day career. But I’m biased.
Me: Who says speaking is not a professional day-to-day career? That you don’t do it as a career doesn’t mean its not for others.
Gbenga: All the best, but I think that guy’s TEDx article is a piece of crap. Platforms like that pay better than cheques can do. Plus life isn’t about money. There’s also something called impact which doesn’t always come in the same envelope with money.
Me: True; some platforms are worth more than money, but it is brash to expect speakers not to be paid as a culture. Anyone can label whatever they disagree with as “crap”. I’m sure that guy thinks your arguments are crap too, but we are not going to ask him.
Gbenga: No one said they shouldn’t be paid as a culture sir. What is ODD here is the “no fee, no speech” cult. Odd.
Me: And the “No fee for your speaking” cult isn’t odd? Truth is, the “No fee, no speech” cult is a response to the “No fee for speaking” cult that has grown over the years. Here in Nigeria, on the tech scene especially, the “No fee for speaking” is standard practice, the norm. Everyone can see it.
Gbenga: There are people who speak for a living. I wouldn’t think you would claim to do that 100% of the time, it’s secondary, no?
Me: There are very few people who do any one thing 100% of the time. It doesn’t change that they do it for a living.
What annoys me is that same people who claim to not speak for free once chased speaking gigs and platforms:( So, it upsets me when you “use” these same platforms to practice and then suddenly grow the “no free” wings.
Me: In every field, people often start out doing free work to build a profile before fixing a fee for their services. Standard practice. Why does it annoy you that speakers do it?
Gbenga: I’m sorry to say this but some of us who don’t insist on fees command much more than those who insist. Odd?
Me: I am glad you said “some”. That’s how life works. There will always be “some”. There are many others who don’t insist on fees, yet command less than those who do.
Gbenga: Your blogpost even mentioned that you won’t speak in a church that can’t afford. Toh, you’ll miss a lot.
Me: You clearly misread my blogpost then. I suggest that you re-read.
Gbenga: Final point: if you’re still insisting on being paid, you’re not yet there. People know to reward real value.
Me: I’m not one to let myself be defined by others’ definition of what “being there” is. I define that for me 🙂 The fact that an event’s organisers invited me to speak in the first place indicates that I have more value to offer than they probably care to admit. 🙂
There it is, folks. Gbenga’s objections, and my responses. What is your take? Are value and price mutually exclusive for public speakers? Are public speakers wrong to demand compensation? Feel free to join the conversation.