Speaker Rights At International Conferences – OpEd


“International Energy Conference” announcements held in luxury venues in Istanbul come to me in one way or another throughout the year. They invite market participants, professionals, engineers, often not paying native speakers. They call one or two foreign speakers. They provide them with “business” round-trip air tickets and accommodation in the conference hotel. They pay a negotiable $1000-5000-10,000 for the foreign speaker. The foreign speaker presents powerpoint outdated information at the audience, repeating, in polished ornate English, the hollow presentation he has made perhaps a thousand times before.

“This is how we did it, we do it, you should do the same,” he/she says. Our practice environment is very different from theirs, their advice is meaningless, it doesn’t work anyway.

The companies that make the organization receive serious money from the participants, but they do not give money to the native speakers. Our native speakers are just as good as foreigners. Since they know the domestic market, our legislation, domestic practices and our bureaucracy better, they can provide much more useful information, but they do not and cannot get paid for all this valuable information. The organizing company said, “Are we going to give money on top, we made your personal advertisement free of charge, what else?” says. Company advertisers do not hide this situation in their presentations and do not ask for money anyway, moreover, they sponsor the conference and give money on top.

Authoritative senior political personalities arrive on the first day, attend the inauguration, cut the ribbon, give a standard speech, mostly in rush, and leave. As for the high-level political will, high-level bureaucrats affiliated with it are expected to attend the conference. The high-level bureaucrats of the same institution immediately accept the invitation, the state already pays them per diem for their travel expenses. They make a speech with an approved old presentation – the main information and leave immediately. Most information in presentation is 1-2 years old, out of date, useless.

Former senior bureaucrats, who have just left the ministry, or at supervisory board, or in authorized institutions, definitely attend the conference if they receive an invitation. In this way, they hope to find a new job, well-paid consulting. Older professionals who have just left senior staff at large private companies see such meetings as new business opportunities for them.

The organizer receives 500-1000 US dollars per participant or listener. I’ve seen people who even try to take money from the key-note speaker. Most of the time, speakers don’t charge conference fees, but I’ve seen people ask, “If I can make it.” Bill Clinton receives $200,000 per speech. Barack Obama is always a sought-after popular speaker. A standard expert invited speaker in the United States charges between $20,000 and $40,000.

We have to take a stand. I respond to the invitations that come to me in the standard way,

“Thank you for your invitation to public speaking on energy issues in our environment, I expect the organizer company to pay my business class return plane ticket, pay my accommodation in conference hotel plus pay a reasonable fee for my presentation.”

Is anyone paying? There are only a few, but when they don’t pay, I don’t feel sorry for missing the invitation. Anyway, these things are destiny, the invitation is canceled, “Why was it cancelled?” It is absurd to ask, you’ll see the next one.

Institutions such as CNN and the BBC later pay the specialists who appear on the screen in the specialty field. If you have made a good statement and received good comments from the audience, then the institution calls you, asks for your bank account, and then sends a reasonable amount of money to this account. This situation is difficult for Turkish environment to account for, it is easier not to give money. What happens next? It’s full of people who don’t know. There is a voice coming out of every head who knows or who does not know.

There are many invitations to TV news programs, but the programmer interrupts your speech with a ridiculous question every 50 seconds, and you forget what you’re talking about. They don’t give any money. They have a preconceived idea in their head, they are trying to get you to say it. It’s better not to participate the show.

In conferences, unless there is a special warning to the contrary, you can record audio and video, share these recordings with your relatives and friends. It’s called “public speaking”, that is, everyone can record and take written notes.

The panels we hold in the conference hall of the METU Alumni Association are like this, we first get permission from the speaker, if he doesn’t allow us, we don’t let him talk anyway. Speeches in closed meetings are subject to well known “Chatham house” rule, that is, the information given can be used, but references cannot be given, the name of the speaker cannot be given.

In my age group, we don’t need personal advertising or promotion anymore, we are who we are, those who know us already know. If we all stand up and want these prerequisites, we will get the payment we deserve. There may be some who learn these and switch to conference organizers, but the market has had enough of conferences. From now on, more job opportunities in the conference industry seem limited.

The market expectation for the development of increasing investments decreased. Energy and electricity production is almost saturated, the escape from fossil fuels has begun. Because of the Ukraine-Russian war, western countries tended to reduce their fossil fuel imports sold by Russia in order to get rid of Russia’s dependence. They quickly turned to domestic fuel and renewable energy investments.

It is a duty to attend the meetings organized by universities and professional chambers when a speaker is invited.

Haluk Direskeneli

Haluk Direskeneli, is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP, Entergy), in fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant/ energy analyst with thermal power plants basic/ detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.

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