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Adobe MAX scrimps on speaker expenses… again

Just when we thought this particular battle was over, it seems that Adobe have slipped back into their old habits.

I was approached by Adobe a few weeks ago to speak at MAX Milan, and, like Aral before me, I had to turn them down. Why? Because they have a policy of not paying for speakers’ travel expenses.

I don’t think I could explain my reasons more eloquently than he did on this full blog post so I quote:

“I don’t know about you, but this is not what I expect from a professional conference and this is not an industry norm when you look at other professional conferences … The problem is not that I cannot afford to pay for a flight to the US or for a few nights accomodation … It’s just that I refuse to do so as a matter of principle. Here’s why:

“People attend conferences primarily to listen to the sessions given by the speakers who present there. If it wasn’t for the speakers, there wouldn’t be a conference. This being the case, it gets my goat when a conference like Max charges over $1,000 a ticket for entrance to the event and then is too cheap to pay the expenses of their speakers. This is the least I would expect as a show of respect for the time and effort speakers put into presenting at an event. And I believe that this is the least that any speaker should expect. Conferences that make a profit off of the backs of speakers without meeting this minimum standard should not be rewarded for their exploitative policies.”

It seems that they actually did a U-turn on their policy, and Aral actually ended up speaking at MAX 07. I know they paid his full expenses. So why stop now?

It’s just a shame, I think that my Papervision3D session would be a useful addition to the line-up.

I think Phillip Kerman sums it up perfectly :

14 replies on “Adobe MAX scrimps on speaker expenses… again”

Seb,

In my role of MAX Content Lead, I manage speakers and session content for MAX North America, Europe, and Japan. I agree with you that we need to provide great benefits to our speakers who attend MAX and contribute to making the event great. The question here is a matter of being consistent with all speakers.

Here are the MAX 2008 speaker benefits:

1. MAX Conference Pass and Meals.
2. Hotel during MAX.
3. Gift for Speakers.
4. Session recording, and video syndication. (500x larger audience)

Last year I obtained an additional $20K to spend on MAX and I (Ted Patrick acting alone) chose to spend money to get speakers who were traveling a great distance to MAX. We got Geoff (AU), Aral (UK), and several other “Inspire Speakers” to MAX but I was very discrete about the travel arrangements. It is actually my fault that things were inconsistent last year but I wanted MAX to be a better event and I thought that helping speakers traveling great distances was the right thing to do. This year we decided to make the speaker benefits consistent, so we ended the inconsistent and exclusive policy of assisting with some speakers travel.

Seb, If you want to speak at MAX Europe we would love to have you speak. You are an amazing developer and are pushing the limits of your medium, Flash Player. The MAX team however cannot extend travel benefits some without providing the benefit for all speakers equally.

Please let me know within the week regarding your speaker status for MAX Europe. I hope you would reconsider MAX Europe.

Regards,

Ted Patrick
MAX Content Lead
Adobe Systems

With all due respect Ted, I think covering expenses last year was less about helping those speakers traveling a great distance than it was getting some well-known community members that were very vocal about not speaking at MAX because of the speaker compensation situation.

Remember hearing that the issue was being looked at and things would improve for the next edition. Seems to me like a missed opportunity.

I personally was happy to do the US and Europe last year and agreed to speak before other ‘inspire speakers’ were offered their expenses paid. From what I gather many of the inspire speakers were not aware that others would not get their travel covered and vice versa.

While I completely understand wanting to keep the policy consistent this year, why not have fewer non-adobe speakers and pay for their expenses? Have the community vote on who they would like to see.

Alternatively if you just offer a fixed amount to all speakers they can choose how to spend it. While its nice to get hotel accommodation covered, some might prefer spending money on their flight and not necessarily want a four star hotel.

– Peter

Ted, it’s weird complaining to you because you’re “one of the good ones”… however, with respect to your wish to make things consistent–I think that’s great. However, why don’t you start with not paying expenses for SOME speakers and not others!? Ah, but I did read your message. What you (Adobe) don’t seem to understand is that you ARE paying for some speaker’s travel expenses! Aren’t you? Aren’t you paying for Adobe employee speakers travel? So, there you have it–pay for everyone’s expenses and people won’t complain.

Hi Ted,

thanks for the clarification, and I’m honestly sorry to be making a fuss about this one. I actually hate how I sound LOL.

I appreciate that you can’t pay my travel expenses without also paying for the other speakers’ travel. But to be honest I don’t want to be some elite “inspire” speaker that gets greater benefits than others! I want all speakers to at least have their expenses covered so they’re not paying to speak.

The conference pass is a benefit? That’s just insane. Would you consider inviting a speaker and then not give them a pass to the conference?

And the other benefits? A hotel : well I wouldn’t expect to have to sleep rough!

A free gift? Well to be honest I have no idea what this is. If it’s a copy of CS4 Master Collection then I’ll happily pay the air fare, and this argument is closed 🙂

Greater coverage? I pride myself on the fact that I share code and reveal all the things I’ve learnt. In fact most people don’t realise that I’m actually a company Director at Plug-in Media, because my presentations are never a sales pitch.

I’m sure I could justify covering my own fares and hotel fees if I did give an hour’s pitch selling my company’s work. But I feel that the audience wouldn’t enjoy it so much. Surely it’s better to gloss over that stuff and spend the time showing how to make a particle system or get started with Papervision?

I feel like your whole model here is aimed at people who need the coverage. And I’m not sure that’s necessarily the best speakers. Or perhaps it’s just different, like Peter says.

And I’m honestly pleased that you asked me – I love presenting and sharing the things I’ve learnt. Is the free gift worth more than the airfare? Is it something I would want? I think that’s the only way I can make this one work at this stage 🙂

cheers

Seb

Let me add a couple points:
–MAX isn’t the worst… take SXSW. I found it a fun party but a total rip as a speaker.
–MAX is a great conference to attend. I spoke at every Macromedia UCON/DevCon/MAX from 1996-2003.. but then in 2004 I only attended… and it was a much better experience.
–I’ve paid my way to every MAX I didn’t speak except for 2008 (because I made those videos in exchange).
–Ted is on our side… but, really, this is just about the shortsighted attitude of someone inside MAX… maybe that person to stand up… pay their own way to MAX and I’ll buy them a beer to try, one last time, to help them see how they’re missing an opportunity.

My .01 (damn economy)

I think the biggest problem was paying for some and not others, then not paying for anyone. Paying for speakers full expenses is expensive. and hard to do. There’s no if ands or buts about it. I heard about the Inspire ‘thing’ a while back and new it would end badly. As is (again it seems) the case.

Short of a blanket stipend, there’s no fair solution. Even an event like MAX would need a small team to make or pay for individual travel arrangements. Tom and I know we can’t, we thought about it. A blanket stipend is uneven. The guy that lives in SF gets nothing, while the guy from Egypt get’s a nice big check? Hotels is orders of magnitude easier, and the cost is the same for every speaker. Strictly speaking it’s the fairest approach, IMO.

I know exactly what Tom and I spent just on hotel rooms for 40+ speakers (and believe me, it wasn’t 4 star at all), and can’t imagine us being able to support airfare too. We’re definitely for profit, though not getting rich profit, LOL, and even then we couldn’t swing it.

(disclaimer: ‘you’ is the global you, not you seb personaly, LOL)

My personal opinion, is this; if you wanna speak, speak. I feel its giving back to the community, and it certainly doesn’t hurt the career either, so there’s lots of ‘soft’ benefits to speaking at a conference. Yes you’re not billable, but you’re not exactly sitting around. You’re networking, meeting potential new clients, making new/stronger connections inside Adobe, etc. There’s a business value to that.

If you’re not interested, as much as it’s a bummer, that’s how it is. My only advice to Adobe is make peace with not having certain people at the event. IMO, it’s their loss, not the communities. It really just comes down to what’s more important to you.

Like I said, my .02 on this never ending issue, 😀

For me, personally, it’s very simple: As long as Adobe tries to make MAX profitable by not paying expenses for speakers, i won’t even attend this conference, let alone considering speaking there. A billion dollar company can’t pay speaker expenses for a conference that, at its core, promotes that company’s products? That’s not only ridiculous, that’s outrageous. Paying certain speakers and not paying others is *beyond* outrageous.

Claus I completely agree (except for the fact that I will attend the conference). There’s no free lunch when doing marketing. Marketing costs money. A lot of money. But of course most people attending Max are already customers so I guess the marketing budget for ‘keeping existing customers’ is more or less 0 whereas the budget for ‘getting new customers’ (for example through advertising on TV, magazines, …) is a real marketing budget. I really hope things will improve by just doing 1 TV commercial less…

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