March 8, 2019

How to get compensated public speaking gigs?

Michaela @Madamdo

Hi fellow hackers,
I decided I want to get into speaking. I did quite a few (35+) technical talks, including two keynotes at international conferences. I spoke at well known events such as EclipseCon or the International Conference for Software Engineering (ICSE).

I did those talks mainly to present my research findings during my PhD studies and my research work at Microsoft.

Now, I want to shift away from the academic world, and speak more at industry conferences. I am also not looking to speak at pay to speak events. Rather, I am looking for compensated gigs. At least travel and accommodation must be covered.

What is my best strategy to get started?

I found a few websites (such as and and also created a basic profiles:

Are such sites worth the effort to maintain a profile?
What else should I be doing to "advertise" and get in contact with the right people?

  1. 1

    Well, if you can speak about something related to testing, then consider TestBash (run by Ministry of Testing, my company).

    We've put a lot of effort into making it fair and not pay to speak. All speakers get travel costs covered. We don't generally pay fees for speaking, but we do pay for workshops and training that often happen on the day or two before the conference. Have a look here for what we offer speakers -

    I find it is not easy to find the terms of conferences. Most conferences do not go to the lengths that we do. Some only cover entry, others only cover keynote speakers, some have a set limit (that normally doesn't cover the travel costs), and some do nothing at all.

    It's also worth asking them about diversity too. All male line ups increasingly annoy me, for example.

    I'd suggest perhaps looking for conferences that fit what you would like to talk about and then check out their terms. And also have a think about what you want to get out of it - will the conference you apply to help you get to where you want to go next?

    1. 1

      Hi Rosie, thanks for your great advise. I actually have already submitted to testbash a week ago.

      I was very impressed by the clearness of the speaking conditions, the fair compensation and I also really like that the community is actively involved in the selection process.
      I hope they find value in my proposal. I’d be thrilled to be speaking at a testbash conference...

      In addition, I’m planning to reach out to a few conference organizers from my network to let them know I’m available and see how that will turn out.

      I like your remark on reflecting about what i get out of it. I think it will change per event, but I should definitely give it a through thought. As I’m still not sure which direction I’m going professionally (next) it’s not so straight forward.

      Giving talks and engaging with people is just something I enjoy a lot. In addition, I have quite a few things to share from my research studies and work experience. What more? Experience speaking and building a personal brand. Other than that, I have no direct benefits yet as I don’t do consulting and have no product at the moment.

  2. 1

    Although I'm not interested in speaking, I've come across this book when I was reading other books by Alan Weiss
    The title is quite cheesy as for my taste, but Alan Weiss is really good. So I guess it can be an interesting read for you.

    1. 1

      Hey Alex, thanks for the tip. Indeed a bit too catchy, but I’d definitely have a look.

  3. 1

    @Madamdo nice work getting talks at 35 conferences! That's quite a feat.

    I am at a conference right now and was just asking the keynoters about this. We're in a niche tech area, so most speakers (including myself) just get free tickets and travel.

    Anyway, getting paid to speak is a sales and marketing challenge. You have to get known for something that is in high demand and then know the people in the industry who run conferences. My colleague here who keynotes told me he sometimes applies, but usually just emails the organizers and asks them if they're looking for keynotes. Because he's given hundreds of talks in our specialty, everyone knows his name and he keynotes a lot of conferences.

    As an aside, if you want help keeping up with open CFPs, I made this free tool:

    Good luck!

    1. 1

      Hey Karl, thanks for the tips. And thanks for the tool link. Is there a possibility to sort by speak to pay and compensated cfp?

      It’s quite time consuming to dig through the cfp to find out the nitty gritty. Such a functionality would be great.

      1. 1

        A couple people have mentioned that so it's on my roadmap. I was planning to offer compensation and maybe even past speaker/talk data from previous years.