How can we support marginalized creators at conventions?

While I did not give any specifics for PodCon 2 hopes in the previous issue, I think it would be helpful to talk briefly about one thing: featured guests, speakers, and why podcasting as a medium growing into having multiple, international conventions needs to stop itself from falling into the trap laid by previous media. The trap?

Lack of payment for guests and speakers, especially when adjusting to the demand for honestly diverse line-ups.

I sometimes think that I’m preaching to the choir, but then I remember not getting paid to do convention work, both as a planner and as a speaker, and I get very tired. Listeners, convention planning is hard (if this sounds familiar, I said the same thing last week) and budgeting for young conventions is even harder. When we ask all conventions to improve their diversity, we need to be sure to include that they get paid; when we plan a convention or a conference or even a little workshop or retreat, a necessary pat of that plan is who is getting paid and how much. PodCon 2 added a ton of late speakers after the schedule was posted, and a surprisingly large quantity were added in response to the call for more POC and trans folks in particular.

But they weren’t paid. They should be, and speakers everywhere should be paid proportionate to the amount of work they put in. Several speakers at PodCon 2 had more panels and workshops than featured guests, as well as booths or tables, and yet they weren’t paid for the professional labor they put in to help make the content as excellent as it was. To continue to not pay the people who present at a convention or conference, especially when they are already marginalized voices who may not be able to afford to come otherwise, is, I hope, something that we as a community can continue to push for.

It will most likely mean more expensive tickets, especially in order for young conventions to cover that cost without good sponsors. Accessibility to conferences is still important to keep in mind, and this is where ticket tiers can come in handy–Austin Film Festival, for instance, has tickets that allow entry to a specific track of panels and viewings, or across a certain number of days.

There are not that many large conventions dedicated to podcasting–the largest is likely Podcast Movement, started in 2014 via crowdfunding on Kickstarter. This means the podcasting community does have an opportunity to set and follow a standard. Not paying presenters at conventions is nothing new or unusual; in fact, it’s partially expected, and we react in surprised delight when we hear someone even had their hotel or travel comped. I would encourage fans and creators, when buying tickets or when submitting to speak, think about what the cost of their ticket is going to be supporting, about how to ask to be paid for your work, and to bring an understanding of these issues to the convention floor. PodCon 2 was frustrating in some respects, but I had a wonderful time connecting with fans and creators for many days; what I want is a better and more equitable future.

I can’t go into all the knotty parts of convention planning here (plus, I’d need at least one bottle of wine while dredging up those memories), but know that this is complicated, and that’s why I’m going to keep talking about it. I’d highly encourage you to read Wil Williams’ thoughts in her newsletter yesterday. And if you went to PodCon 2, please remember to fill out their audience survey; you should have an email somewhere in your inbox and if you don’t, ask them for one!

This essay was originally published in Audio Dramatic Issue #23, January 28, 2019.