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You’ve been asked to speak to a local group, at a regional conference, or for a national organization—they see you as an expert organizer! That’s great— or, is it?

Speaking can be an effective way to build your business, but it is advisable to go into any commitment with your eyes wide open to ensure that your agreement to speak is a positive experience for everyone. Before you agree for the next speaking invitation, consider whether it is worth your time, and calculate your speaking fee accordingly. Let’s look at the factors you need to consider.

(If you’d like to learn more about developing your signature talk and other aspects of using speaking to build your business, I wrote about the most important basics to remember when developing your credibility as a speaker here.)

Speaking For a Fee or For Free?

Whether you are paid to speak is entirely up to you. Just make sure you are factoring in all the costs you will incur and all the benefits that will come to you as a speaker so that you can feel confident that your agreement to speak is beneficial to everyone involved, including you.

Here are some costs and benefits that speaking may involve:

  • Time away from paid client work
  • Time to develop your materials and practice your talk
  • Travel expenses to and from the venue
  • The revenue you may get from new clients as a result
  • Resume-building experience, credibility, and practice

Let’s look at each one.

Time Away From Client Work

If your speaking gig requires you to schedule a 20-minute phone meeting with the organizer, pack up your supplies, drive 90 minutes each way and wait through the group’s business meeting before you give your talk, your 40 minutes in the spotlight could cost you five hours or more of your valuable time. If you charge clients $100 per hour, then the group would need to pay you $500 for the 40-minute talk to keep you from losing money.

Time to Develop Materials and Practice

If the group is asking for a signature talk that you’ve already developed and practiced, then the cost here will be minor. However, if this invitation requires you to develop a brand-new speech rather than give your signature talk, be sure that you will be compensated for that time. Creating a short presentation with slides and handouts will take two to three times as long as the talk itself, so for a one-hour discussion, you’ll need to figure on two to three hours (or more) of preparation.

Travel Expenses

Long-distance travel may require airfare, meals, and hotels. However, even a short distance takes gas for your car, subway fare, a taxi, parking, or some other form of travel. Add those costs up.

Revenue from New Clients

Every business owner should have some idea of how much revenue they get from an “average” client. With experience, you will be able to turn your audience into clients at a fairly reliable rate. For example, you may be confident that five percent of the audience will hire you or buy what you’re selling, provided that it is an audience made up of your ideal clients. That will tell you how much revenue you stand to gain from saying yes to the speaking invitation. (Remember that speaking to people who cannot or will not hire you may be a charitable and worthwhile thing to do, but it does not result in clients for you.)

If for example your typical client spends $1,000 with you in one year, and your audience is made up of 50 people who could be your clients because they fit the profile of your ideal client, and you turn five percent of your audience into clients, then you could expect to receive on average $2,500 in new business for the talk.

$1,000 x (50 x .05) = $2,500

If your average client is much more valuable – for example if you specialize in corporate moves where the typical price tag is over $10,000, and your audience is made up of people with authority and need to hire you – then giving the talk for free makes even more sense for you. You might also be willing to fly around the world for an audience like that!

Of course, if you forget your handouts and business cards, or the electricity goes out, and you can’t use your slides that you’ve worked so hard on, you could walk away with nothing for your effort, either because of your errors or through no fault of yours. There are no guarantees here.

Experience and Practice

This one is not so easy to quantify, but you may want to say yes to a speaking opportunity because it will make you a better or more attractive speaker, for example, by speaking at a very prestigious organization or conference or by speaking internationally, if you’ve never done that before. Consider what part of your marketing budget you want to devote to speaking even if you aren’t compensated for it.

Intangibles and Other Good Reasons

Finally, there are a few other factors that may weigh in your decision about what to charge for speaking.

Where is the meeting? Is it in a destination you’d like to visit? A meeting in Orlando when you’ve wanted to take the family to Disney World or a meeting in a place where you have friends you’d like to visit could make sense if it gets you something else you’ve been wanting.

Asking For Your Fee

When you require a speaking fee, it’s best to address it early in your conversation with the host organization.

If you’d like the experience but don’t want to sell yourself short, you may want to ask, “Do you have a budget in mind for this presentation?” The organization may tell you what their budget is, or they may say that they regret that they have no budget, but you will get lunch, for example. Then decide whether there is any other factor that makes this a good deal for you. (I’ll say a few more words about non-monetary benefits in a moment.)

Alternatively, they may say that they offer only a $200 honorarium and that you’ll need to cover the airfare and hotel for yourself. Again, decide whether there are other reasons from the calculations above to accept this offer.

Maybe it’s a conference you were already planning to attend, so there is no extra cost involved. Or, if this is an audience of 200 of your ideal clients and you can convert a good number of them into actual clients from this talk, it may still be a very desirable opportunity for you.

Your Added Value

Let the organization know how you can add value to their members or audience. Feel free to state something like, “My fee for a one-hour talk is $500 plus the IRS rate for mileage to your venue from my office in Springfield. I am also able to offer each of your attendees a complimentary copy of each of my three e-books, a $45 value for each of your 50 members.”

Or, perhaps they’ll ask you how much you want. In that case, be prepared with a solid number. You will base this number on a number of factors including;

  • Lost work income
  • Travel expenses
  • Preparation time
  • Future business you’re likely to get from the audience

You do not need to spell this out or justify it to your contact at the organization. They don’t need or want the details, but it helps for you to be clear in your mind about why you are asking for the number you are asking for.

Other Kinds of Value

Not all payments come in the form of dollars and cents. Consider some of the non-monetary benefits you’d like to request. For example, if you’re an organizer who specializes in helping people pack for a move or de-cluttering and staging homes for sale, the opportunity to speak with a group of realtors may bring you many future referrals. In that case, you may want to ask for a link in the “Resources” section of their website.

Some other forms of value you may ask for include:

  • An article in their newsletter
  • A Facebook live chat
  • An Instagram story
  • A LinkedIn testimonial

When you speak always share something of great value with your audience. When you give something of great value, don’t hesitate to ask for value in return. Ask for and receive a fee you’ll always be happy with.

Want to speak with ease and confidence to build your organizing business? My Public Speakers’ Essentials Toolkit can help. It includes questions to ask and points to remember from your first contact through your event day and presentation. (Never again forget to request testimonials!)

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