“We’d love to have you speak at our event, but we can’t pay an honorarium and are unable to cover our speakers’ travel.”
“We’d love to have you attend the event in [another city across the country] and contribute to the growth of our community, but we’re not able to pay for travel for [attendees/speakers/anyone]. We will, however, be serving [insert 1 or 2 meals] each day.
These are invitations I’ve received from various industry events around the country. Not paying for varying degrees of participation is standard practice for most event planning committees–and it’s a practice that’s doing a serious disservice to communities and hurting business and organizational objectives.