Every now and then, people ask me to speak at events. If that’s you, here are a couple of things to please consider.
Firstly, I’m passionate about every opportunity to add value, through whatever means I can, and I know speaking about Shoebox and some of the things I’ve learned in and out of that project and mahi, add value.
At the same time, however, I have very limited time to do the mahi that has probably made you consider having me along to your event in the first place.
The limited time I have gets serious prioritisation:
1) My mental health activities (I can’t add that value if I don’t maintain my hauora or wellness)
2) My wife, my two young tamariki, and other immediate family and friends (Huhana and Kāhu are 2 and 5 at the moment, home life is busy!)
3) Wider whānau
4) My paid 9-5 job
5) Shoebox Christmas (there are thousands of volunteers and children taking part – again, busy!)
6) My other commitments to whānau/community businesses and boards I’m a part of
Things to consider:
Headspace and time.
While it might only be a 30-minute talk that you and your event receive – please remember the time and headspace creating that 30 minutes is a lot more significant, and comes with an opportunity cost of time spent on all of the above. While telling the story is important, the mahi (the work) is critical.
I take the privilege of having a platform seriously, and always want that platform to be given justice/used well. Depending on the topic and length, I can spend anywhere from 2-8 hours prepping for a talk. Because of what my paid/unpaid work and my whānau time consists of at the moment, two weeks of 30-minute slots might be the only way for me to find that 8 hours.
If I’m doing 30-60min of Shoebox Christmas work a day, that 8 hours of prep sometimes needs to take place instead of 2 weeks worth of my allocated Shoebox Christmas work. Or if I’m in a period where I can’t miss that 2 weeks of Shoebox Christmas mahi, it might mean two weeks of me at my desk after I’ve put the kids to bed, working on the talk, instead of spending the only real down-time I have with my wife during the week.
Time of year.
While I work all year on Shoebox Christmas, November – December is where the most time-sensitive work happens. Unfortunately that’s also when I get the most requests to speak.
Location of event.
Unless your event is at my house or office, I’m going to need to travel there – chances are that’s an hour extra time and cost at least. Probably more.
Promotion of Shoebox Christmas or whatever else I’m working on, is not in itself, more important than any of my listed priorities.
A big part of my mahi goes into spreading the word and making Shoebox Christmas as attractive to take part in. I’ve been running the project for over 6 years now, and have found giving talks is not nearly as effective as my other approaches to telling the story. I also spent too many years doing free gigs as a musician, in promised exchange of exposure plus a few beers, so I’m probably a bit jaded by the concept of “give free value to me, and you’ll get free exposure“!
OK, so there’s a bit of context, what’s a speaking gig cost?
I don’t like asking for money when the value I think is important to give, but it’s a great way to ensure the talk is worth putting alongside my priorities above, to filter out those who really want to hear the particular messages I talk about, and if it means I can take the whānau out to lunch for some focused downtime in exchange for my absence prepping for your event, I will ask.
If your event is paid/ticketed, then my ask will be different. If it’s school-based, then it will be different. If it’s for rangatahi in need, or for a group I think needs to hear the message, it will be different again. It won’t necessarily be putea or money I ask for, but remembering the opportunity cost of my time, it won’t usually be free. Just like you’re asking of me, I’ll, in turn, ask of you.
A koha to Shoebox Christmas is an easy and always appreciated way to pay for my time, I can then think of the time I spend on your event, as donated time to the project.
If you’re interested, kōrero mai, flick me an email and we can chat.