Book Marketing, Author Publicity, Branding

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Guest Post: How to Know What to Charge for Public Speaking

How to Know What to Charge for Public Speaking

How to Know What to Charge for Public Speaking

By Meredith Liepelt

So you're a business owner who is interested in spreading your message through public speaking. Good for you! Public speaking is arguably one of the best ways to promote your business. The problem is that you don't know if you should or should not charge for your speaking engagements. And if you do charge, how do you set your fee?

Here's the answer - you just decide.

This sounds very simplistic, but this is the reality. You just decide what is right for you at this point in time. There is no "speaking fee system" that you have to fit into, thank goodness! That would severely limit what you as business owners want to do in your business.

In fact, that concept reminds me of my former work in corporate human resources, where I had a hand in creating compensation systems for three different organizations. For example, it was determined that if you are in job A, then you are in pay scale 1 and the salary range is $X to $Y. (I don't miss that work.)

There is no system like this for speakers, thank goodness. You just make it up.

That being said, there are many things that you need to weigh for yourself to find out what is right for you. Here are a few considerations to ponder.

1. Do you get clients when you speak?
One of my clients was going through this struggle. She regularly enrolled clients after speaking, to the tune of a minimum of $20,000 each over the course of their relationship. So, I asked her this, "If you can enroll a few clients at this level each time you speak for free, is a $3,000-$5,000 speaking fee worth limiting your speaking opportunities to only paid engagements?" Bottom line here, don't let your ego get in the way.

2. When someone asks about your fee, go into "journalist" mode by asking them questions first.
There are many things that go into a speaking engagement. For example, are they expecting original material or can you tweak your signature speech? Do they want power point slides, how many people will attend, who are they, what information are they expecting and/or wanting, can you sell from the stage or sell products at the back of the room, is there travel and an overnight stay involved, and so forth. Gather as much information as you can so you can assess if it's even an opportunity you want to pursue. If a relevant audience will not be there, just pass on the opportunity.

3. Ask who else is speaking and who spoke last year.
While this won't tell you exactly what the venue is accustomed to in terms of speaking fees, it is a clue as to what caliber of speaker they expect and what they may have budgeted for a speaker, if anything. And who you may be able to meet.

4. Find out all the "soft" benefits.
If they tell you upfront that they don't pay for speakers, find out if there are any "soft" benefits instead. For example, will they record your speech and send you a copy? Will they add a small amount to the ticket price to cover the cost of giving your book or a DVD to each attendee? Will you receive a list of attendees with their contact information so you can follow up with them once? Note - don't just add the attendees to your email list. This is called SPAM; it is not ethical and will not do you any favors.

5. Can you chalk this up to good PR and high-level networking?
Many times at large events, one of the benefits of speaking is that you get to meet and network with the other speakers. This can be worth way more than a $2,000 speaking fee. Or, you receive positive PR for your business, and being a speaker at the event builds your credibility. Again, that could be worth a lot more than a speaking fee.

6. Raise your fees
If speaking is your main source of revenue, keep raising your fees. In fact, increase it by at least 30% for the next inquiry you receive. One of my clients doubled her speaking fee and to her surprise, she keeps getting it! Now, she's raising her fees again. If nobody is saying "no," you're not charging enough.
So there are arguments for charging a fee and not for charging a fee. What's your business model? Are you working toward being a professional speaker or are the relationships that you can make worth more than the speaking fee? The beauty of being an entrepreneur is this: you decide what's right for you. And your answer can change over time.

Copyright 2011 Meredith Liepelt, Rich Life Marketing
Meredith Liepelt, President of Rich Life Marketing, offers a free report called "101 Ways to Attract Ideal Clients, Build Your List and Raise Your Profile," which can be downloaded immediately at

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Frankie, the Walk 'N Roll Dog said...

Meredith this is great information! When I started speaking, promoting my books, it was at first hard deciding on a fee. But all the points you listed is exactly how one determines if they will do an event. Each one is different and you have to weigh everything out.

I recently wrote a how-to book to help authors in determining what to charge (that elusive question!). My target audience is elementary students. I have a fee I have set, but will also work with each school and library budget to determine if we can find a good fit for them and me. This was not easy at first, but with practice I am much better at handling every situation on a case by case basis.

I believe once you build a great reputation for speaking your fee, like you said, can be continually raised. But keeping in mind each event and what it can ulitmately offer you... and what you can ultimately offer their audience.

Again, thanks so much for such great information. I'll be sharing your post!

Doreen McGettigan said...

I never charge a fee for speaking. I usually speak to raise money for a non-profit or a charity so I ask for donations for 'the charity' and now I will request the ability to sell books. I find the networking far out-ways any fee.

Terry Cordingley said...

Doreen, that's a good point, too. Sometimes the ability to sell books or ask for donations far outweighs any fee you might charge.

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