Christian Heilmann

⚡️So you want me to talk?

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Do You Expect Me To Talk?

Conference organisers: I also made a shorter cheatsheet with all this info for you.

Hi, I am Chris,

I love public speaking – so much that I spent most of the last five years on the road (with an average of 37 conferences a year in over 30 countries).

I am also a very busy man (yes, my Twitter stream might make you think otherwise, but I am not kidding) and I am getting roughly 200-300 emails a day and about an offer to speak each day. This is not boasting, I am happy that people want me to speak, and I don’t want to disappoint anyone.

If you’d like me to speak at your event send me an email with the subject [Speaking opportunity]. Please include:

  • The dates and location of your conference
  • The nature of your conference (who do you target, how many people you expect, how many talks will be there)
  • The nature of the talk (keynote, workshop, panel…)
  • If there are any travel arrangements or not (more on that later)

Speaking Terms

I am a professional presenter with lots of experience. Therefore I want to make sure that there is no misconception about what I expect and deliver.

If I speak at your event I will:

  • Deliver a fitting talk for the intended audience. I am happy to discuss content with you but I will not send slides for review and allow changes by conference organisers. I tend to deliver a unique talk every time I can and it will be an up-to-date talk. This can not be achieved if I need to send in the deck weeks in advance. Slides to me are wallpaper of a presentation and I treat them as such.
  • Deliver the talk on time and stick to the defined format and duration. I need to know what time frame you expect and what format you want it to be in. I will show up at the times you need me to be there and set up on stage with enough time for AV people to wire up microphones and other equipment. I tend not to need any dry-run or setup, but I am happy to do so if that is your conference policy.
  • Use my own computer to deliver my talk. Many times I will go beyond slide decks and show live code and examples. My setup is a Surface Pro or Macbook and I will bring my own dongle and remote control.
  • Attend your event to mingle with attendees. I do speak because I want people to learn something. Therefore I will take part in your conference to be able to answer people’s questions before and after my presentation or workshop. I consider parachuting in and out of conferences and only mingling with other speakers a waste and unprofessional demeanor for a conference presenter. We’re not rockstars or actors who deliver a concert or play and leave. That said, I can’t always be there for the whole conference, especially for multi-day events. I’d appreciate a schedule where you really need me to be there.
  • Promote my presence at your event. I will tweet and blog before, during and after the event about what I will do at your event and interesting things I encounter.
  • Publish my slides and screen recording after my talk. If there is a good enough connection, this normally happens right after the presentation. Everything I create at your event will be licensed Creative Commons unless otherwise agreed.

I expect you to:

  • Provide me with a prime speaking slot. I’ve proven to be a good keynote speaker and find interesting topics to open or close conferences. I also work well as a moderator or on-stage interviewer. I don’t feel I am used to the best of my abilities for your event when I speak to a half-empty room in a side track. I am happy to promote and remind people of side-track activities though.
  • Deliver a professional stage setup. I bring my own laptop and connectors, but I expect at least a power plug and a microphone. I am very good with audio engineers (having been one myself) but I am not there to fix audio issues or set up projectors. I expect this to work and be available. I normally don’t need an internet connection, but would love to have one.
  • Record and publish my talk. As each of my talks are unique there is no danger that people can attend one they already have seen on the web. Recordings are a great advertisement for your conference.
  • If possible, I’d like you to cover my travel and hotel. I am on stage and need to be able to concentrate on that. I can not do so if I need to find lodgings and organise travel to your event in addition to presenting. I don’t expect first class or business class flights, but I do expect to arrive a day before the event and leave the day after with lodging organised in between. I do not want to book and pay myself and get reimbursed. International payments are a mess and I don’t have time to deal with paper work in between events seeing that I am presenting almost every two weeks. I am sorry if that sounds harsh, but I want to concentrate on my talks, not try to explain to the tax department what all these invoices are about.
  • Keep me out of sponsorship discussions. I am at your event as Chris and to present. I will not “pay to play” and I won’t speak at sponsored speaking slots. I am happy to provide you with contacts of who to invite instead when we negotiated my participation. I am also happy to introduce you to company colleagues dealing with sponsorships, but this is not – at all – what I do. If you are looking for a corporate sponsoring to sell speaking slots, I am not the person you want.

All this is a lot of work, and beyond what is generally considered practice for presenters. Therefore I expect professional treatment by the conference organisers the same way I am professional about this.

Some of these are negotiable and depend on the nature of your event. For example I am fine to cover my own travel expenses for a single track, independent, not-for-profit event, but I don’t see a point in doing the same for a commercial multi-track conference with a high price tag on the ticket. If you make money, it is just fair to share the load. I go above and beyond my call of duty as a presenter and I’d like to see this being appreciated.

Deal breakers

I am an agreeable person when it comes to supporting events, but there are a few things I am not happy about:

  • I will not deliver sponsored talks and I am not interested in being asked to speak so you can get my company to fund your event. I want my presence to be disconnected from any sponsorship. Paid keynotes are terrible for all involved, the 90s are over.
  • I will not come to speak at an event that supports any kind of harassment or offers a platform to presenters who bully others
  • I don’t pay to play. If I can’t justify my time and effort to my employer to come to your event then I can’t come. Unless I take holiday and then I expect to be fully reimbursed for my efforts
  • I don’t support events that didn’t make a good enough effort to represent the diversity our market should have. I am happy to introduce conference organisers to people I support and know to be great presenters on my behalf

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