If you want to ask me to come talk at your con, event, or show, that’s cool. I like meeting cool people. Here are things I consider when you ask me to show up and talk. This only applies if you ask me to come as a speaker: if I decide to come to your event without an invite, that’s on me.
I get enough invites that I could speak at a different conference every week. Even tiny conferences meet these requirements without trouble. Don’t bother telling me your conference should be an exception: it is not.
Everything is political, and everything is financial, and everything impacts my health. These are all important, but let’s talk health first.
Health: I am in my 50s. I have several health conditions that make me especially vulnerable to covid. I will only attend cons that have and enforce a strong mask policy. If you cancel needing masks at the last minute, I will cancel attending your con. If I get there and the mask policy isn’t enforced, I will leave. My health is more important than your bare face.
This isn’t political — politics is below. Copious medical research shows that masks work, and YouTube is not science. I follow this policy everywhere. Yes, that means I don’t eat indoors at restaurants or go to movie theaters. Ever. I practice at the dojo wearing a mask. (Yes, a sweat-saturated mask is disgusting, what’s your point?)
Money: For me to speak at your event, you must cover my expenses: notably, travel, lodging, and meals. I am strongly biased towards events I can drive to.
If I do agree to fly: no, I’m not going to fly across the country on my own dime to give your keynote. Yes, I’ve been asked to do that. I don’t need first class airfare, or even business class, but basic economy “condemned prisoner on way to execution” class doesn’t work. I need on the wings or in front, preferably on the aisle. Regular economy is fine, although if the carrier has one of those $100 upgrades for Less Torment Economy I’d really prefer that if I’m flying long across the country. Put me in the bouncy back of a plane and I’ll be nauseous for three days. (I can’t do roller coasters or fast elevators either.) Me being ill at your event is counterproductive. I need transportation between the airport, hotel, and event.
I need a quiet hotel room. Young Lucas didn’t mind sleeping on someone’s couch, but I’ve hit the age where “sleeping wrong” is a thing.
I’ll eat meals in my room or outdoors.
Want to get on my good side? Arrange a couple 20-oz bottles of cold Coke Zero per day.
For that, I’ll do one prepared talk a day and sit on as many panel discussions as you want. I can do a second standalone talk in a day, if it’s a talk I’ve given before, and a whole passel of panels. I also promise not to hide in my hotel room between talks.
I make my living off my writing. If I’m speaking at your event, I’d like the chance to sell a few books. I don’t sell near enough to cover a flight, but it covers incidentals. I’d need a spot to stash a suitcase of books between talks.
Politics: Your event needs a harassment policy. It needs to be obvious. You need to enforce it. If there haven’t been complaints about your group, that’s fine. If someone’s upset with your group, well, that happens. If you had complaints, instituted a policy in response, and have improved, that’s okay–we all learn. But if your group or the organizers have a history of letting harassment slide, or if the event organizers of have a history of sexual, homophobic, transphobic, and/or racial harassment, then I’m going to pass. I pretty much agree with Scalzi’s post on his policy.
This is not about “safe spaces” or “special snowflakes.” This is about me and my readers not being subjected to creepy jerks. (The word I want isn’t “jerks,” but I’m trying to keep this post G-rated.) I already loathe traveling. I’m not going to go somewhere that welcomes jerks, because jerks go where they are permitted.
If you don’t identify your organizers, I’m going to ask. Save everyone a round of email and post them on your web site. Be proud of what you’re doing, even if you’ve never done it before.
If I’m aware of your event and decide to show up on my own, as a guest, of course I’ll pay my own way. But I’ll check for your harassment policy. If you don’t have one, or if you have a bad history in that regard, I won’t attend. And you’ll never know.
Am I saying you have to have a harassment policy? Nope. I’m saying I will choose to not attend your event unless you have one.
As a result of this: I will not participate in events run or majorly sponsored by the Free Software Foundation, as long as Richard Stallman remains associated with the organization. (Yes, he left, but a year later they brought him back in.)
I’m not interested in debating this policy here, or anywhere online. Talk to me in meatspace about it.