I'm not in academia currently, but a former professor from grad school has asked me a few times if I would give a talk to his classes based on my professional experience.

I have said yes the past two times because I like this professor and was honored that he would ask me; I also enjoy teaching, and felt that speaking to his class would be an interesting opportunity. But, I also looked upon it as a favor because as a non-academic, these things aren't going on my CV.

He's now asked me a third time, and I am wondering at what point it might be appropriate to ask for a small stipend. The presentations last about 30-45 minutes with questions, and I do put a considerable amount of effort into preparing for them, plus the time spent travelling to campus. I'm not sure if I would describe myself as more of a visiting speaker or a guest lecturer in this situation because the talks are less about me and more about the field I work in. The classes are at well-known law schools; by contrast, I have received stipends in the past for speaking at events at much smaller colleges.

Is it customary to receive a stipend in this situation, or should I consider this more of a favor to a colleague?

  • 4
    Would you consider an honorarium or just a nice dinner out afterward with some faculty and students?
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 21:22
  • How secure is the relationship? How much do you value it? What is your usual hourly rate to clients? How disagreeable do you find these lectures and the effort t prep for them?
    – puppetsock
    Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 22:49
  • The talks are quite enjoyable, and I would be comfortable saying no if they weren't But, it does take some time to prepare them, and I usually have to leave work early to get to campus, plus parking is $$, so there is some cost to me. $50 or $100 would go a long way. Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 22:55
  • Also, I value the relationship enough that I would do it for free - it would just be nice to be reimbursed for my time, especially if I end up doing this every year. I'd just like to know if this is an unusual request. Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 23:02
  • 3
    @modalmixture I feel like parking reimbursement would be a good place to start. I don't think it's very common to pay for a single guest lecture in a class, but parking would be very reasonable, especially if you're in an area where parking on campus is very expensive. Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 23:52

3 Answers 3


I would look at this from the perspective of the professor inviting you. Most of the people a university invites to speak are professors (or postdocs/ phd students) from other universities. For these, giving the talk is beneficial career wise so there is no additional speakers fee. But they have to travel to the university, very often from out of town. This means there is no easily available budget for paying you to speak but there usually is a budget for your travel expense. Usually this also covers inviting you for a meal.

So I would recommend asking for travel expenses. They should definitely pay for your parking ticket and if you come by car there is probably some fuel money or something like that as well. If you are interested the professor will probably also offer to take you out for dinner afterwards. This should be easy from their perspective. Asking to be paid for the talk as such could be a lot more complicated. If you want that to make it worth your while be prepared that the answer might be no.

  • There's also the side of the academic who speaks: at least where I am, getting reimbursed for travel expenses is tax-free, and doesn't even need to be reported. So no hassle. But a stipend/honorarium is taxable income, and may even lead to burocratic consequences as triggering a duty to file income tax (which comes also with a very much earlier deadline). Plus it's not uncommon have foreign academic speakers, which puts the whole thing to the level of knowing how to deal with international income. Thus, looking at the whole thing somewhat as a zero sum game: a speaker that is booked for...
    – cbeleites
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 21:18
  • ... for a honorarium should by rights take the time off at their work. However, if on the long run an institution invites as many speakers as their own employees are invited, it doesn't make a difference but saves a lot of hassle for everyone to not pay speakers and count travel to speak somewhere as working time.
    – cbeleites
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 21:20
  • Thank you. From your (and others) comments, it sounds like an honorarium would not be commonly offered in this situation, but it would be reasonable to ask for parking reimbursement. Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 21:58

Some years ago, as a senior employee of a public sector body with no teaching or 'outreach' responsibilities, I accepted an invitation to "give a talk" at a business school. It turned out that I was expected to run a two-hour session for the MBA class.

No fee was offered. At that time any fee would have gone to my employer so I had no particular incentive to chase the school for a few pounds, and my employer, quite uninterested in any fees I might earn, would have thought that there was a benefit in influencing some MBA students that my organisation had such brilliant teachers as me... or if the students did not think I was brilliant, then the loss to the organisation would be minimal.

But if I were asked to do give a talk, now that I am no longer employed by such an organisation, I would go straight to the point " Are you offering a fee?". Then make the decision on the basis of the answer to that question.


Yes it is reasonable to ask for some form of compensation. It could be monetary or some privilage or networking benefits or even a nice dinner invite (as Jon mentioned). As professional ettiquitte, the professor should have asked you about compensation or at least asked about your comfort level. This should have been done for the very first lecture.

Asking now is awkward, but you can still ask tactfully. There's no shame in doing so. I'm quite sure the professor can easily request the administration to either waive your parking fee or pay it on your behalf. You are a guest.

Also learn the art of saying "no". I recently said no to a neighbour who asked if I could give a talk at her kid's school. I asked if I'd be paid for it. She said "no", and I just said that if there's no payment, I'd not be interested. There were no hard feelings afterward. It's understandable if someone does not want to spend time and money for free and get nothing in return. Moreover, I've noticed that people who don't value others time and money tend to take you for granted.

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