Discussion: Should We Pay for Speaker Travel

It’s been many years since we last openly discussed the question of whether or not to pay for the travel and expenses of out-of-town speakers for WordCamps. I’ve seen a few discussions around (and have had quite a few with people, myself), so I thought it was time to have a post about it.

The Background Info
Speaking at a WordCampWordCamp WordCamps are casual, locally-organized conferences covering everything related to WordPress. They're one of the places where the WordPress community comes together to teach one another what they’ve learned throughout the year and share the joy. Learn more. has always been considered a volunteer contribution. In the same way that developers donate their time writing a patch for coreCore Core is the set of software required to run WordPress. The Core Development Team builds WordPress., speakers donate their time sharing knowledge with the greater WordPress community. If a speaker chooses to submit their talks to WordCamps where travel would be required, the expectation is that they will cover their own expenses.

The global community teamGlobal Community Team A group of community organizers and contributors who collaborate on local events about WordPress — monthly WordPress meetups and/or annual conferences called WordCamps. stresses a local focus for WordPress events, to not only keep costs manageable, but also to foster that sense of community that makes our project so unique. We ask organizers to do the following things:

  • Focus on having primarily local speakers at your event
  • Choose high quality speakers (and presentations) over quantity
  • Crowdsource potential speaker suggestions from your MeetupMeetup Meetup groups are locally-organized groups that get together for face-to-face events on a regular basis (commonly once a month). Learn more about Meetups in our Meetup Organizer Handbook. members

The Current Info
The conversations I’ve been seeing/having lately often are focused on paying for speaker travel in the name of diversity; thought diversity, racial diversity, and gender diversity in particular. These are all worthwhile pursuits, without question, but it does seem to suggest that our own, local WordPress communities have none of this diversity on their own.

Some Pros

  • Increase diversity at WordCamps
  • Potentially provide assistance to those who need it
  • Perhaps increase attendance at the WordCamp

Some Cons

  • Run the risk of “tokenizing” a small group of people (tokenism, refers to an empty gesture that implies a solution without addressing the root problem. More here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokenism)
  • Potentially discourage local speakers on accident
  • Perhaps remove incentive for organizers to cultivate local speakers and relationships with groups that promote diversity locally

The Discussion
If you’ve got suggestions, or alternative solutions, please share them in the comments. We are interested in viewpoints even when they are opposing!