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  1. #1
    SitePoint Enthusiast TheLunchBox's Avatar
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    Unhappy Opinions about Conference Expenses

    My wife an I both work for an interactive agency together. This year, we were both invited to speak at SXSW. Our boss asked us to hand out promotional material while at the conference, which we agreed to do.

    We paid for airfare and hotel out of our own pocket, as well as food and other expenses. When we returned, our company had charged me 5 vacation days and docked my wife a week's worth of pay since she was out of vacation time.

    Does this sound fair to anybody? I'm currently pretty outraged that we not only paid for all expenses ourselves, but were also charged vacation time. Am I being unreasonable, or does this sound completely bogus to the rest of the sitepoing crowd?

  2. #2
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    It sounds like a terrible relationship that you and your wife have with your employer. There certainly seems like there is a lack of respect in both directions. Might be time to find another employer.

    One thing that is confusing is that you stated your "company" charged vacation days. Wouldn't that be your "boss" that input the vacation time? What does your manager say about this? Why was he assuming that this was a vacation for you?

    I hope you can get things worked out with your company. How did the speaking engagement go?
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  3. #3
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    PLEASE, READ CAREFULLY AND SLOWLY to understand it in full.

    So you were invited as individuals to speak in the conference as invididuals, and not as part of the interactive agency you work in.

    If this invitation was personal, then your boss could be "right" somehow.

    That doesn't mean that his attitude isn't cheeky, to say the least, and sneaky, but after all, this "job" is not for the agency, and handing out promotional stuff is also a personal decision.

    He should have told you in advance that, since it is something personal, he would take the days off from your holidays, and that the company will not pay for the expeses, before you decided to participate there... if you knew that you had to pay for everything as well as losing part of you holiday tme, you may have decided not to go.

    It is also possible that you didn't ask the right questions because you assumed that the company will pay for everything since you were also promoting the agency. This comes to prove how wrong is to assume things...

    Now, if you were invited to speak as part of the organization, that is, the invitation was made to the organization to send two persons to speak in the conference, then it should have been your boss who made the decision of participating and the company should pay for everything and your holidays time should remain intact.

    All in all, there has not been proper communication between the two of you, and although it is hard to judge because, obviously, there is just one view here (yours) and it may be a misunderstanding... the way you say it... well, I would search for another job somewhere else.

  4. #4
    SitePoint Enthusiast TheLunchBox's Avatar
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    Thanks for the feedback guys.

    Just to clarify. There really is no manager involved as there are only 9 members of the company. I guess that's what makes it even more frustrating. It's not like this was determined by some archaic policy set by HR, it was a decision made by the people we work with everyday.

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    But there is a structure, and someone responsible for expenses, and someone has the power to control when you go on holidays, etc.. you said it was your boss who asked you. No matter how small the company is, there is someone above you, so everything I said before is valid.

    And even if you take decisions like this together, then you should decide how this kind of situations must be handled and have some kind of policy. That's not being archaic nor anything, it is simply common sense.

    Again, the situation is the same: was the company invited to speak, or the inviations was personal to the two of you? If the second, did you agree anything in respect of who will pay the expenses, or if this trip would considered business or leisure?

    It looks like you didn't.

    As I said, by the way you say it, it looks like your boss has been sneaky and has taken advantage of the two of you and I would search for another job.

    But I accept that maybe it is a simple misunderstanding because neither of you asked the right questions. Therefore you assumed that it would be a bussines thing, and your boss assumed that it was going to be a leisure trip, maybe because you enjoyed the chance of speaking in an important conference, and that you were handing out promotional material as a favour as it was not big deal for you.

    If this is the case, then learn your lesson, and if ever happens again, clarify under which conditions you would go and speak there, and if you decide to do it on your own, negotiate expenses, etc, in case that you are asked again to help to promote the company.

  6. #6
    doing my best to help c2uk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheLunchBox View Post
    My wife an I both work for an interactive agency together. This year, we were both invited to speak at SXSW. Our boss asked us to hand out promotional material while at the conference, which we agreed to do.

    We paid for airfare and hotel out of our own pocket, as well as food and other expenses. [...]
    I'm just wondering, is this, that invited speakers have to pay all their expenses, common practise? I know other conferences (in a complete different field) pay these types of expenses for their invited speakers.
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    Quote Originally Posted by c2uk View Post
    I'm just wondering, is this, that invited speakers have to pay all their expenses, common practise? I know other conferences (in a complete different field) pay these types of expenses for their invited speakers.
    That's normally true. Furthermore, the speaker is paid for participating in the conference, but I don't know which type of conference is this one, in particular.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheLunchBox View Post
    My wife an I both work for an interactive agency together. This year, we were both invited to speak at SXSW. Our boss asked us to hand out promotional material while at the conference, which we agreed to do.

    We paid for airfare and hotel out of our own pocket, as well as food and other expenses. When we returned, our company had charged me 5 vacation days and docked my wife a week's worth of pay since she was out of vacation time.

    Does this sound fair to anybody? I'm currently pretty outraged that we not only paid for all expenses ourselves, but were also charged vacation time. Am I being unreasonable, or does this sound completely bogus to the rest of the sitepoing crowd?
    That is pretty ridiculous, IMHO. It sounds like you discussed the matter with the various employers beforehand, and they should have mentioned the terms of the leave then, rather than after the fact.

    From a strategy perspective, having your people presenting at something as important as SXSW is such a marketing opportunity that not picking up your expenses in exchange for some plugging is a mistake IMHO.

    Off Topic:

    Was definitely good to catch up at MIX.


    I'm just wondering, is this, that invited speakers have to pay all their expenses, common practise? I know other conferences (in a complete different field) pay these types of expenses for their invited speakers.
    Really, really depends on the conference. We throw a rather large, high-end, industry oriented convention & exposition and, outside of very special cases, speakers are on their for own expenses and only give them one-day passes. We do, however, often hold hotel rooms and otherwise provide alot of service for them. I should note that, normally, most of our speakers would normally be going to the show on the company tab, so that has not been an issue.

  9. #9
    SitePoint Wizard samsm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jondolar View Post
    It sounds like a terrible relationship that you and your wife have with your employer.
    This rings true for me. Apparently there was a misunderstanding and the company was unable to effectively apologize or compromise, leading to this thread. Perhaps you were unable to communicate how upset you were about this issue.

    So I'd imagine you're two unhappy campers. Do you want to do your best work for this company after this? Do you think you will do your best work when you don't really want to?

    There is a lot of room for the company to not back down, but throw you something to help make you feel better about it. Lack of compromise sends a message ... either "we don't really value you", or "we aren't very good at HR". Heh, I'd bet on the later.

    My suggestion is to have a heart to heart with them with no anger, ultimatums, or expectations ... just explain how you feel. If they clear it up, great, everyone wins. If they don't, you've gained some wisdom about how they'll handle the next misunderstanding.

    Quote Originally Posted by wwb_99 View Post
    From a strategy perspective, having your people presenting at something as important as SXSW is such a marketing opportunity that not picking up your expenses in exchange for some plugging is a mistake IMHO.
    Seconded.
    Using your unpaid time to add free content to SitePoint Pty Ltd's portfolio?

  10. #10
    SitePoint Enthusiast TheLunchBox's Avatar
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    The expenses covered by the conference vary greatly. I've spoken some places where I was completely covered, but that's not all that common. Usually I get a free pass and frequently a free or discounted hotel room. At SXSW, I was provided with a free conference pass.

    My suggestion is to have a heart to heart with them with no anger, ultimatums, or expectations ... just explain how you feel. If they clear it up, great, everyone wins. If they don't, you've gained some wisdom about how they'll handle the next misunderstanding.
    That's the main reason I posted here. If this was a common thing, I didn't want to be too pushy on the issue.

    Also, as if it was already frustrating, the company just put out a press release titled [[studio name]] sends 2 speakers to SXSW. This really defines my frustration. The company wants to be visible at conferences, but feels that employees should pay.

  11. #11
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    It sounds like "the company" is either going to have to make a change or lose their viral marketing options. In a small business, travel is a big part of overhead and people out of the office hurts so I can understand why they may not want employees leaving for a week but that's the cost of getting the exposure... that's marketing (and employee education).

    I've worked with a lot of companies and agencies and while not all let employees get to events, even events they spoke at, I've never heard about an employee using their PTO to be there if the company endorsed the trip and wrote it up as an event they attended.

    It's unfortunate this wasn't something you discovered in advance; I'd highly suggest bringing the issue up, if only to try and get your vacation time back. Be polite but firm... it's a small company so there's simply no reason they can't say yes and credit you back your time. Depending on what your goals are you may also want to consider what's best for your future. Personally a company that refused to get me any events (which really are the education in this industry) isn't the company for me. In the case we don't see eye to eye on one show, no sweat... there will be others. But if I decided to get there on my own, they wouldn't be positioning themselves as being involved in any way shape or form.
    - Ted S


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