Home > Uncategorized > Agile2010 Speaker Compensation Explained

Agile2010 Speaker Compensation Explained

I have received a number of emails and seen various comments, like the following:

  • I don’t want to get stuck doing only a short talk, which doesn’t comp speakers enough
  • 60/90 minute speaker compensation policy does not align incentives with desired behaviors

The following is the analysis we did with regard to the various sessions, the length of the session, etc.

60 Minute Session

  • $250 Honorarium
  • Thursday Night Hotel Stay – $169
  • Conference Fee Waived – $1699 (I split the difference between Super Early Bird and General Registration)

The total value of presenting this session is $2118.

90 Minute Session

  • $250 Honorarium
  • 4 Hotel Nights – $676
  • Conference Fee Waived – $1699 (I split the difference between Super Early Bird and General Registration)

The total value of presenting this session is $2625.


The difference between the 2 comps is just a little over $500 which is the addition of 3 hotel nights. In almost all of my discussions people seem to discount the conference fee and only focus on the hotel nights and say that the compensation does not provide the right incentive. In fact some of the discussion we had indicated that the 60 minute session was too highly compensated. It’s too late to change it for this year, I would be interested in getting people’s feedback for next year.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. February 15, 2010 at 04:19

    Jim, while I agree that a $500 difference represents a substantial incentive, it does not take into the account typical costs associated with attending three extra days. Add dinner and drinks, and the difference might dwindle to $200 or less, especially if you’re traveling with loved ones. I could see many people judging that it costs less (out of pocket) to fly in, speak, then fly out, compared to staying at the conference for four days. I assume that, for the most part, you’d like people to stay longer and contribute more to the event and the atmosphere.

    You could try offering hotel nights instead of cash for 60-minute talks, which appears to cost a similar amount, thereby encouraging people to stay longer. They probably won’t even notice that it ends up costing them more.

    • February 15, 2010 at 05:46

      J.B. Thanks for replying. I believe that if people see no value in attending the conference other than the 60 or 90 minute presentation they give than the incentive of the conference registration is of no concern. My hope is that with the focus on more advanced sessions people will see value in being at the conference.

  2. February 15, 2010 at 16:19

    In my case, a 60 minute talk is harder to prepare, as it pretty much has to be a pure talk rather than a workshoppy thing. Pure talks are work for me, though they ought to deliver less value to the attendee. (On average: workshops have a greater standard deviation.)

    I’m biased in that I think a 60 minute slot is just about the worst length for many of the attendees, especially the “ha” and “ri” folk. A lot of the conferences I’ve been speaking at give 30 minutes, and I appreciate the way that forces me to compress. (15 minutes, as at speakerconf, is not outrageous, though I think 20 would work better.)

    When I think about it, it’s odd to peg assumed value of a talk to delivery length. (Kind of like measuring programmer value by number of lines of code or tester value by time spent testing.) Since I’ve been on committees, I know decision-making is hard enough (and under-volunteered-for enough) that adding more variables is *not* a good idea, but in a better world I’d favor having people bid for talks. That is, their submission would state what they’re willing to provide and say that they’re willing to do it for X hotel days, Y dollars, and N registrations. Some people get lots of business leads by giving talks (not me), so they might be willing to give talks for cheap. Others can bid higher because they look good on the program. Others would place a higher value on attending sessions than I do, or are still ambitiously making a name for themselves, so they might be willing to talk for just the registration (which I believe costs the conference less money-in-the-bank than a cash grant does). And so on.

  3. February 15, 2010 at 21:12

    I suppose everyone is in a unique situation, and the importance of compensation varies by individual. In my case, I don’t have an employer to cover travel costs, so the only way I can attend the conference at all is if I happen to get a session accepted. There is no way I could pay the registration fee out of my own pocket, as well as travel costs and lost income. It isn’t a question of whether I “see value” in attending the conference. It’s just a question of economic realities.

  4. February 15, 2010 at 22:18

    For people like myself coming from Europe, the biggest costs stays the travel.
    I agree with Brian that some of the best talks I have seen where very small ones.
    I’m not sure I agree that a 20 minute talk is more work.
    I think it is impossible to do a 20 minute talk without a lot of preparation. It is possible to do a 1 hour talk without preparation (if you know your subject)
    So from a customer point of view forcing your presenters to do preparation is good.

    From the other side, flying in from Europe, to do a 20 minute talk, is not really interesting to me. Yes I could visit other talks and participate in sessions.
    I talk at a lot of conferences, I have a chance of seeing a lot of these sessions at conferences much closer to home.

    Limiting the proposals to 3 either as presentor or co-presentor, seems bad to me as it makes people only want to propose something alone.
    In my opinion the best talks are delivered in pairs.

    I have another remark. I understand that you want to limit the 3 hour talks to speakers you invite. But this limits also good workshops.
    In Europe we have some people that are very good at creating agile games. Most of these games need more then 90 minutes. These new rules make it impossible to play these games at Agile2010.
    (yes I’m biased on this last point as I think I created a few good games)

    Oh and the whole setup forget’s about the open space sessions. If Agile2010 is serious about openSpace, I think you/we should come up with an idea to compensate the best sessions from OpenSpace.

  5. February 15, 2010 at 22:34

    As Brian already alluded, a 60 minute presentation is not necessarily less work, nor is the 90 minute necessarily more value.

    Given that, I would be interested in hearing the arguments that the 60 minute slot is over compensated.

    With the current compensation, the incentive pushes people to submit 90 minute talks regardless, which is why there are currently about twice as many 90 minute proposals as 60 minute proposals.

    I think 30 minute talks are great and should be considered as well. (actually, I’m really fond of 5 minute talks)

    My original point when I said that incentives are not aligned with behavior, is if compensation was the same for any accepted talk, people would propose the best length for their presentation instead of what they are doing now.

  6. February 15, 2010 at 23:34

    I like the 60 minute format but the lack of free hotel will certainly prevent me from even considering applying. The only reason I went to Agile2009 was because I had access to a nice condo in Chicago. Without that, I would have stayed home.

  7. February 16, 2010 at 03:45

    Some feedback on the comments –

    One piece of information that I did not indicate in the blog post. There are approximately 120 – 90 min sessions at the conference and 45 – 60 min sessions. That is one of the reasons that I am alright with a 2-1 proposal difference.

    I also wonder if the compensation was the same for all sessions would people propose the shortest session as opposed to the session of the correct length. Maybe this is just me being cynical.

    We (the program committee) did have a discussion about the 3 proposal limit. Last year over 80% of the submissions were not accepted to be presented at the conference. We made the decision to limit the number of submissions per person to make sure that we could provide better feedback and for the submitters to prioritize the sessions they most wanted to present.

    Thanks for the feedback so far, I am looking forward to further discussion.

  8. February 16, 2010 at 23:16

    Thank you for the information you provide, as well as a beautiful website.

  9. February 19, 2010 at 00:09

    I would be interested to see if the 3 submission has impact on the number of people proposing a session alone or with 2?

    I would also be interested to learn about the correlation between the number of sessions delivered by 2 people and the rating of the sessions by the particpants.

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