I do not charge extra for wearing pants.
That’s what I’m tempted to say when someone suggests I should charge less for a Zoom presentation than I do for a live speaking engagement. But because my mother taught me to be polite, I resist temptation and don’t mention the pants.
Ah but this is Garden RANT, where controversial opinions are not only appreciated, but required! It seems the perfect place to announce that I’m considering changing my fee schedule to charge more for Zoom presentations than I do for live gigs. Here’s what I’m thinking:
Zoom presentations are already less expensive than live presentations because there are no travel expenses.
A quality organization knows this, and will not nickel and dime a quality speaker. Por ejemplo: I’m travelling to Alaska in 2023 to keynote a Master Gardener conference. In addition to my speaking fee, I’ll be reimbursed for airfare, airport parking, hotel, etc. If things change on the Covid front and the conference is required to go virtual, all of those travel expenses disappear. Poof! My speaking fee remains the same, and the Alaska MGs are wise enough to know that my work will be of the same high quality whether I present live or virtually.
Zoom presentations are more difficult for the speaker than live presentations.
Essentially, what I’m doing up there is a one-woman show. Maybe there are no props or costumes (or maybe there are!), but make no mistake, a quality speaker is as focused and energetic as any Broadway performer. How do I know this? Because I was a Broadway performer! When a speaker engages with a live audience, the exchange of energy is exciting for everyone. They’re connected to me, I’m connected to them, and together we’re having a synergistic good time, just like at the theater.
There is no difference in content between a live presentation and a Zoom presentation.
If my content is worth X dollars live, why would it be worth less when delivered virtually? My slides are the same, my words are the same, and I am the same. And while attendees may not be able to see what I’m wearing, I assure you, I have pants on. Viewers at home may choose to wear pants or not…I won’t judge.
Zoom Rooms aren’t free.
Professional speakers use professional equipment, and professional equipment costs money. Next time you’re in a Zoom Room, look around and notice everything the speaker has done to create a good-looking, good-sounding setup. This requires reliable, high-speed internet, a paid Zoom account, special lighting, a quality microphone, and often a realistic backdrop on a frame, so attendees won’t be distracted by piles of unfiled papers or books waiting to be reshelved.
I understand there are times when traveling for attendees isn’t appealing. Winter weather makes both air and road travel risky, and evening meetings can be difficult for people who don’t like to drive at night. But neither of these things affect the quality or value of the presentation itself, so why should they affect the presenter’s fee?
I’m already making less money when I present virtually because I can’t sign and sell books.
Even if my fee remains the same on Zoom, how do I sell books to a virtual audience? Enthusiasm is contagious and the best time for an author to sell books is when the audience is all revved up immediately after a fantastic presentation. Sure, they could order on Amazon after the fact, but the book won’t be signed or personalized, and we won’t get to meet and talk.
Intangibles are worth something!
I love my work, and one of the things I love most about it is the chance to meet people face-to-face who share my interests, or who want to learn something I’m passionate about. Being able to engage with an audience before, during, and after a live presentation is an intangible bonus that I value highly, and that I lose when I’m speaking via Zoom – which makes my job a little harder.
And you know what? A live presentation is better for the audience, too. If I’m speaking in person, I can see if attendees are tuned in or zoned out. Do they get my jokes? If they’re not laughing, I’ll adjust my sense of humor. Do they understand a principle I just explained? If they look puzzled, I’ll go back and explain that principle another way. In a Zoom webinar, I can’t see my audience, and by the time I finish and we’re in the Q&A, people may have forgotten their questions. In a Zoom meeting, the faces of attendees are so small I can’t read their expressions.
The pandemic changed a lot of things, and Zoom allowed us to go about our business (for the most part) without risking our health or the health of our families. But I miss people! I’m ready to mingle, chat, converse, schmooze, shoot the breeze…and I want to do that face to face. So sue me. I’m a people person.
Yes, I know not all speakers share my P.O.V. And the above may make me sound cranky, perhaps even petulant, but this is Garden RANT, after all. I care deeply about the quality of my work, and if you hire me to speak at your event, I want you to have the best possible presentation for all your attendees. The only way for that to happen is if I give you 100% of my heart and soul, and I am happy, nay eager, to do that. But in return I have to know that you truly value my work. Pants or no pants.