Organizing a conference that assists with travel for their speakers usually means a good amount of the conference budget is spent on getting speakers there.
Especially for community-run conferences with lower budget, this can be a burden. However, we believe that covering travel for speakers is important!
If you only depend on employers paying for travel, obviously budget required for travel will be lower. Typically there are less talk submissions, and can eliminate speakers who are self-employed, under-employed, or simply don't have anyone chipping in for their travel cost.
As a conference, you'll miss out on a large number of excellent talks if you don't!
Do we need a travel policy for speakers?
Yes! If your conference decides to sponsor travel for speakers, it's still important to be clear about what is and what isn't covered to avoid any misunderstandings.
What would a travel policy for conference speakers look like?
The intent of a travel policy should not be policing - it should be about making expectations on all sides clear. Keep it as simple as possible, but make sure to cover:
Tell your speakers they are valued, and offer them full access to other sessions at your conference. Having speakers around in different sessions makes your conference worthwhile for attendees, as they can have a hallway chat with someone they saw present, and speakers will be happy they can attend some of the other sessions. Always provide event entry for speakers, and be clear you do.
How are your speakers coming to the conference? By plane? Train? Car?
With SpeakerTravel, it's easy to invite speakers and set policies around coach vs. business flights, as well as the budget.
Will you cover airport transfers? Rental cars? Here's an example paragraph you could include:
Our conference will cover transport to/from the event in coach or economy, whether it is a bus, train or plane, unless otherwise agreed. For air travel, we will work with you to book your flights, unless agreed otherwise. Airport transfers should always be made using the most economical transportation option, for example a ride share app, bus or train. When those options are not available, we may cover taxi costs. Rental cars will not be reimbursed.
When using your personal car, the conference will reimburse fuel cost when that cost does not exceed reasonable cost for the traveled distance. Parking costs will be reimbursed when it is required to use paid car parks near the event location.
Keep it simple, but be clear about what is covered and what is not.
Will you reimburse hotel? What's the room budget? Will the conference book rooms or should the speaker do this? How many nights are covered?
Is there food at the conference? Maybe that covers lunch. But what about dinner? Is it covered or not?
Are there any other expenses covered by the conference? Think of hotel-related expenses (pay TV, valet, bar, mini bar, telephone, internet connection, etc.), flight insurance, presentation preparation of slides, overheads, handouts, etc., audiovisual equipment, entertainment of other speakers, attendees, spouse, etc.
When in doubt...
In your travel policy, mention what to do "when in doubt". If a speaker wants to do laundry in the hotel, is that covered or not? You could add that as a clause in your speaker travel policy, or advise to give you a call on whether or not something can be reimbursed.
Spell out your travel policy, make it clear what is covered and what is not.
Ideally, define your speaker travel policy as part of your CfP submission process to set expectations early on. Doing so will save you and your speakers a lot of potential headaches.
See how SpeakerTravel can help your conference by inviting speakers to pick their preferred flights, and have you approve when they are within budget.