Things To Consider When Submitting Sessions to Paid Online Conferences

Lots of paid conferences are happening online these days, so some of you will be presenting an online session or pre-con for the first time. I’ve done a bunch of these and been burned in a bunch of ways, so lemme save you some time and heartache.

Does the conference own the recordings? And if so, what are they allowed to do with ’em? Do you get any veto or say over what they’d like to do with the recordings? For example, one site I used to work with in the past would take the live session recordings and then re-present them online later, acting as if they were a “new” event. They kept bundling past recordings slightly differently, changing the titles and the abstracts as if they were new material, and then running them at specific dates/times as if I was standing in front of the camera, live. I was furious because the material wasn’t really new, and they kept doing it even when the material was outdated.

Do you own the recordings too? If you have a successful event and you’re happy with the recordings, can you get a copy and use them as you see fit? Can you distribute them to your clients? Can you upload them to your YouTube account to help spread awareness? Can you sell them online at Shopify or Gumroad? That’s an easy way to make a little side money, by blogging about your recordings and linking to a shopping page at those sites.

How will the conference distribute and protect the recordings? If the attendees get the recordings in a downloadable format, they will share it with all their friends, and that’s the end of your sales. I’ve sat in local user group sessions where the leader said, “If anyone wants the recordings from Conference X, just borrow this USB drive, copy the files to your laptop, and hand it to the next person. Who wants it first?”

Can your recordings be sold in a bundle with others? And if so, how is each speaker compensated? For example, one conference used to take all their pre-con recordings and sell them in an attractively priced bundle. Sure, attendees loved getting all the pre-cons for $200, but when you sliced out the revenue per speaker, $5 for an all-day training class ain’t great.

Can you and the conference agree on a minimum price for your recordings? Even if it isn’t bundled, the conference could pull a Udemy and sell your material for $5-$10 because it’s still free money to them. The problem is that you won’t be able to sell that material anywhere else when they’re selling it so cheaply, and you’ll even have a tough time getting private clients to pay you for training. They’ll just buy it online for $5-$10.

Do you get veto rights on the recording? If you have a really crappy pre-con day with failed demos, bad Internet, or a person asking harassing questions all day, can you nix the recording sales and get a do-over on the recording? Or what if you decide you want to sell that material online yourself, can you get them to stop selling it?

Can you give them the recordings? If you record the session on your own side locally, the video & audio quality can be way better than the conference’s recording, which happens after the video & audio are heavily compressed by their conference platform.

Is there an exclusivity clause on the live session? Some conferences don’t want you to present this same material at any other conference in the months before or after their session. They’re trying to protect their own revenue, which makes sense. However, now that all conferences are online for the foreseeable future, this can also limit the number of conferences you get involved with. If you’re going to tie yourself down, make sure you’ve got the right partner who’s going to maximize your audience in that time range.

Is there an exclusivity clause on the recording? Are they the only ones who are allowed to sell it online? Is there an expiration date?

When will you get paid? How long after the conference, and if they’re selling the recordings going forward, how often will those payouts be done? Even though the conference organizer gets their money ahead of time, don’t think that you will. For example, one event organizer kept telling me “we’re working on balancing the books” for months after the event finished.

What happens if the session delivery fails? If the conference’s online meeting platform has a terrible experience for the end users, like constant disconnects or users can’t log in or can’t hear things, do you still get paid? If users complain about the conference platform, your audio, your demos failing, etc – how will revenue disputes be handled?

Just like you, most online conference organizers are new at this right now too, and you’re probably going to find that they don’t have answers for these questions right away because they haven’t thought about ’em either. Having these discussions together helps everyone come to an agreement that works well for both sides.

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5 Comments. Leave new

  • Christopher_Style
    June 29, 2020 9:58 am

    From your Q&A here, it sounds like the paradigm shift from in-person to online conferences is a huge problem for many experts. Thanks for sharing!

  • George Walkey
    June 29, 2020 10:49 am

    Good questions all

  • I DO realize that this was written because so many more people are able to present online than in person but it all sounds like “normal” things that should be asked of any conference whether in-person or online.

    To be honest, there are a couple of sites that don’t want you to publish anything having to do with an article you published with them. A couple of them want to “own” your stuff for at least 10 years just because they throw some bobbles in your direction for an article. I simply won’t do anything for those sites.

  • Heh… or even “simple” full time jobs. To your and Daniel’s good point, I’ve turned down a lot of so-called “opportunities” simply because I wouldn’t sign the NDA and “Covenant not to compete” the way it was written. And (I don’t have to tell you because you know probably better than anyone but have to say it out loud for others) always remember that “verbals” aren’t worth the paper their written on. 😀


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