Oprah and the Physics Speaker

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Oprah is an example of a key person of influence that seeks to provide a daily nugget of inspiration to Americans ready to be moved. Such is the success of her empire, Winfrey is one of the most powerful and wealthy individuals around. With that money, she has changed lives and communities and is deserving of praise.

As any KPI should, Oprah continually updates how she connects with her following and the latest effort, “Live the Life You Want” has the motivator touring the US as she preaches faith, hope and love. Attendees will leave feeling touched by her words and honoured to share her presence. But there is a third party left feeling sour.

At these events, tickets are charged from $99 all the way up to a stinging $999. For that, attendees get to hear Oprah speak amongst other spiritual spoken journeys not by the mogul herself. Those speakers, revealed by one act asked to speak – Revolva – are simply not being offered financial compensation. Even travel expenses are a dollar too far.

Profits are important and keeping them shouldn’t involve taking advantage of organisations that need to build their public profile. It isn’t like Oprah can’t afford it.

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Paying Physics Entertainers
Not obviously relevant to physics and education (I don’t think Oprah has a physics degree), I mention the above as a series of conversations I had with some fantastic academics suggested that their ability to draw a crowd is valued enough to ask for their performance but not enough to charge accordingly. Usually, these leaders in science are volunteering their time on the basis that what they are saying should be communicated to the masses. It should, but they shouldn’t have to always do it for free.

I ran a society for a year and every month we would ask a speaker to give an evening lecture on behalf of our department and would offer plenty of wine as a thank you. We did not charge members to attend and did the events at a loss made up for by our generous school. But there are an increasing amount of events where attendees pay for tickets but speakers do not make any money. The fact that these talented physicists double as influential speakers and great entertainers should be celebrated and rewarded accordingly. There needs to be a movement towards paying for events and thus, speakers being paid for their time in not only delivering knowledge but their preparation and skill. Scientists are putting up with it but might not for much longer. Their role in getting our passion out there is priceless but surely deserving of a reward.

There isn’t really the money for it. Lots of people are doing it for free which means that those wanting to charge for their time can’t really do so. We, as attendees and supporters, have to be happy to start paying for events. Next time you attend a ticketed science event, consider how generous the performer is given the understanding that they probably aren’t being paid.