Understanding Why Professional Speakers Charge Fees

“Can You Speak for Free? It’ll be Great Exposure.”

Don’t Have a Clear Understanding of Why Speakers Charge a Fee?

I wanted to help ease the awkwardness that can emerge when people on both sides, Speakers & prospective clients,  don’t have a clear understanding of why Speakers charge a fee. I’ve been there myself. As an employee I used to speak ‘for free’, as part of the many roles I’ve held throughout the past 25 years. All this with the blessing of my past employers. I never had to worry about my wage. I’d simply get paid at the end of the fortnight or month. Keynotes at conferences, seminar presentations, facilitating workshops, mentoring sector colleagues, well it was all part of the senior management position. Getting paid or the company being ‘reimbursed’ for sharing my expertise was never discussed.


But what happens when the Presenter OWNS the business?


Professional Speakers combine years of subject matter and personal life experience with acquired expertise around key knowledge bases, study and a unique communication style and personality!


Transitioning from Corporate Refugee to professional speaker meant I had a lot of reframing to do. I knew how much we paid trainers to come in and deliver programs, and the price we’d pay for staff to attend one-day workshops for example. It’s confronting to learn that there are experts out there who do this for a living.

With a bunch of great mentors, I began to see the extraordinary level of expertise involved and you might too, through the following article. Be sure at the end to leave your comments and share the love through your networks.


Professional Speaking Isn’t a Hobby

It’s a whole different ball game when you do this for a living! As a Professional Speaker we need to give ourselves permission to be valued for our intellectual property. We live and breathe increasing knowledge, statistics, world events, economic factors, case studies, marketing, online development and the list goes on. Professional speaking isn’t a hobby.


Speakers as InfoPreneurs, EntrePreneurs, Information Companies & Small Business Owners

Professional Speakers are in fact “InfoPreneurs”. Many Professional Speakers are members of National Bodies, working with professional Speaker Bureaus and Agencies to negotiate invitations, content, speaking fees and follow-up on their behalf.


Others run their professional speaking business as part of their own enterprise. These Speakers are entrepreneurs and small business owners. When you ask a speaker to speak for free it’s like:

(A) going into your local butcher and ordering the best cuts, letting them wrap it and handover it over you without paying. Seriously! Too much? Try this one then

(B)  it’s like asking your staff to come into the office and work for free AND often pay their own resources AND give you the IP they’ve developed over the years for FREE.

(C) asking that highly qualified individual to take leave without pay from their employer to come into your event or workplace, and share knowledge that their employer trusts them with to serve their own paying clients

(D) saying to your own clients who have paid you for a service, ‘that’s okay we don’t expect you to pay for our service; but we recognise that other business might’


It all kind of leaves a funny taste in the mouth doesn’t it?


Here’s a few things that you may wish to consider when negotiating with professional speakers to contribute to your conference, inhouse or public event:


Professional Speakers Know Every Business Is Running On a Budget

If you’re planning on hosting an event, always be encouraged that professional speakers understand you’re on a budget. We simply ask in return that you consider the nature of your event, the change you want to effect in your audience members lives, the nature of the topic you want covered, the proven communication skills a professional speaker can bring to your platform. You are buying a value package…..a transformation!


 The Buyers Mindset – What Are You Prepared to Pay for a Speakers Input

In complementary fashion, please also consider if you’re planning to ask for a fee reduction determine from your company value set, what you are willing to pay for that value package?


A huge thanks to my clients who have valued us by understanding that our fee embodies more than a transaction. We’re committed to transformation! Our clients become part of a diverse community where we delight in looking for ways to shower extra love and attention, insight and tools to help them flourish! Side comment – I have the most wonderful clients!


Here are some of the Frequently Asked Questions or Comments, Speaker’s Come Across:

[Note this list is growing through our recent social media invitation to professional speakers and the responses are being compiled. If you have more questions you would like us to list please email us at info@tarrandeane.com and we’ll be sure to invite responses from our Speaker network]



Q. “No one else is charging a fee. They want to align themselves with our brand or we’re doing this to raise money for charity. Can you speak for free?”

Tarran’s Response:

  • Are you charging a fee for people to attend?
  • Are you paying for tea and coffee, morning and afternoon tea, a meal?
  • Are you paying for the AV Team?
  • Do you have people on staff who are coordinating the event?


If you have answered ‘yes’ to any of these points, you are in fact ‘paying someone’. Many conference organisers are sincere in their bid to attract top communicators to their platforms, while at the same time, not fully aware that they’re asking a Professional Speaker to go without his or her payment for services rendered. It’s not really fair is it?


We also recognise though you might not be the final decision maker and negotiating can be unfamiliar to you. So, how do we help put everyone at ease to achieve a win for the event organiser, the audience and the presenter? We hope the following FAQs might equip each of us that little bit better so we can all be commercially savvy and values centred.


Let’s take a look:


Q. We don’t have a budget. Can you speak for free?

Tarran’s Response:

Reality: Sharing our expertise through speaking is our primary income source.

We’ve given careful thought to our pricing structure. 90% of speaking engagements are at full rates. We must always cover costs, particularly travel, transfers, handouts, marketing, administration and a minimum fee for Tarran as a Speaker. We have a Board of Directors and we are accountable to them.

Other factors:

1. Let’s first talk about you and your business. Are we a good fit before we go any further?

2. Let’s talk about your audience. Are you charging a fee? What is your aim for the event?

3. Is there an opportunity for some kind of contra-arrangement, strategic alliance or joint venture? Is there a guaranteed opportunity to work together in a paid capacity beyond the event? Will you promote the speaker to your database, provide opportunity for pre or post event mingling or discuss some form of mutually beneficial ‘contra’ arrangement e.g. In the past photographers, venue organisers, networking groups and large conference hosts and I have shared our collective wisdom for the benefit of both of our respective target market and professional growth but always respecting the other persons decision to defer to standard fees

4. What is the topic you’re wanting to cover as you be able to access different budget allocations for the presentation costs e.g. part technology (for my Toolbox Leadership component and HR for Culture Leadership)

5. Filming the event? Can you provide the Speaker with the Raw footage ON THE DAY as a thank you gift for their express purpose

In every instance, it’s vital we gain a clear understanding of what’s involved before we let finances impact on the discussion.



Q. We’re a non-profit and don’t have much money. Can you speak for free?

Tarran’s Response:

I love working with NGO’s and NFP’s. In fact, I worked in the sector for almost 10 years in a strategic and operational management capacity. Working alongside organisations that are passionately committed to their cause is very admirable! I’m delighted by the number of flourishing NGOs & NFPs that understand that to be not for profit, one must be ‘not for loss’.

In short, no. I understand the sector is not for profit, and yet it also needs to be ‘not for loss’. Sound financial management and best practice HR encourages all employers to provide learning and development for their team.

Investing in the growth of your People, Practice and Processes yields a positive return. Funding that investment can be drawn from non-traditional funding pools such as:

  • Marketing (developing their communication & PR skills),
  • OHS (strengthening teams, creating more collaborative cultures and reducing risk exposure to breaches of the OHS legislation),
  • IT (developing your online leadership presence through the development of appropriate automated systems, including social media scheduling tools etc)  depending on which of our  Leadership Suite of Topics you’re seeking!


Q. How much do you charge and what is your payment method?

Tarran’s Response:

Our fees are reviewed quarterly. Quotes are valid for 30 days. Payment terms are per your individual quote. International Speaking quotes are customised.

All proposals exclude travel, transfers, meals and accommodation and should be considered when budgeting for your event.


Q. Why is your fee this amount $xxxx? You’re speaking less than an hour…

Tarran’s Response:

On top of the ACTUAL time a speaker is on the platform, every Speaker typically allocates a minimum of 30 – 40 hours preparation, research, administration, accounting, crafting the story, designing the presentation, tailored responses to research results, pre-event social media marketing, practice of the presentation before the day of delivery, so that it is rehearsed but beautifully natural and ‘spontaneous’, engagement and follow up strategies per individual speaking engagements.

These factors are also inherent for Facilitators and MCs who often have to be across the full program to guide the conversation, provide introductions and summaries. MCs and Facilitators are at times the linchpins to the success of event.

Additionally, our travel, pre and post networking components are all designed to enhance the desired outcomes for the event organiser.

It’s never just a 50 minute speaking engagement or a half day workshop! Most professional speakers care SO much about the organiser, the audience, the outcomes, their topic of expertise and own brand reputation, that we invest a lot of ourselves in YOUR success!


Q. I know you said that on this occasion you’ll speak for free, but please we insist on paying you and valuing your time and expertise

Tarran’s Response:

Oh, this has got to be one of the sweetest compliments an event organiser can give a Speaker. When hearts and values align… when grace has been extended, the integrity of the organiser is still to ‘honour’ the speaker by making a financial gift or ‘token’ of their appreciation. They understand the principles of sowing and reaping.

Learning to receive graciously as the speaker and accept the nominal figure also honours the ‘giver’! It’s then up to the speaker to determine if their own  financial obligations give them the room to ‘pay it forward’


Q. Can we have your powerpoint presentation in advance, like 1 -3 days?

Tarran’s Response:

I need to understand the framework around such a request first as the IP that is shared is unique to me. Most speakers guard the presentation content for maximum impact until the morning of the event.

Unless I’ve worked with a company before or it’s a very large conference (e.g. more than 1,000 people, with a guest list of many speakers and the audiovisual team need it) my preferred electronic delivery of the presentation, using ‘DROPBOX’ or similar, is no sooner than 24 hours before.

With multiple clients and sometimes back to back conferences, I like to make sure my content carries references to emerging news items, trends or case studies. In some instances, I could be on a plane tweaking the final keynote presentation as much as 2 hours before the event. I prefer to email a copy to the host the day before but have the freedom give an updated version on arrival to the event if necessary. It doesn’t happen often but occasionally world events, local issues add that little piece of magic to the presentation


Q. Can our audience members receive a copy of your full powerpoint?

Tarran’s Response:

Generally speaking… no.

Alternatively I often like to do a special landing page within my website where I have some control about how my IP is accessed. I have been known to give conference attendees a special password where they can access the presentation or a special offer following the event for a limited timeframe.

This approach has highlighted the conference attendees who are serious about implementing their learnings and taking accountable actions.

It’s another way professional speakers continue to add value beyond the platform.


Q. Will you include giveaways in your Speaking Presentation

Tarran’s Response:

Like many Speakers my presentation is ‘the tip of the iceberg!’ Complete to the brief and valuing adding, there’s still greater opportunity for audience growth when participants have access to additional resources following the event!

The toughest decision a speaker may have is deciding on what gets left out of a presentation – it’s easier to speak for 10 hours than it is for 1hour!

Therefore to ensure that participants in the audience can expand their knowledge, you’ll find we offer more information, resources for growth, and engagement strategies to help them flourish in their professional and personal lives. Some of these maybe give aways, saleable resources like learning materials, or tailored opportunities with time-limited access.

It is common practice to provide the speaker with a resource table near the entrance to the room for traffic flow or even an exhibition table if they’re there for the whole event – it creates a great atmosphere for book signings! Generally the table will be a linen covered trestle, so unsightly boxes may be hidden underneath.


Q. We know you’re coming to our city in xx month. Can you stay an extra night and we’ll cover the cost of transfers to the airport plus your speaking fee

Tarran’s Response:

As a Speaker you’ve got to be very clear on who your target market is and what your not negotiables are. Staying that extra day could mean you don’t get to speak at that full paying event in another city, dramatically impacting your cashflow. Alternatively, staying that extra day could be an unexpected bonus, putting you in front of a group of individuals that you’d simply love to do business with!

My thoughts: always ask a speaker if this is ‘doable’ and be realistic and gracious if they can’t.


Q. What if we cross-promoted you during the event and provided you with an opportunity to share your resources with our audience at the end of your topic?

Tarran’s Response:

Cross promotion and a link back to the speaker’s website is a minimum expectation, so too is the opportunity for the Speaker to provide learning resources and / or additional programs for audience members PROVIDED there is no conflict between what the Speaker sells and what the event organiser sells…. If in doubt, simply ask…


Q. Can we record your session and send it out to our network and charge a fee, even though we’re not paying you, the Speaker?”

Tarran’s Response:

As part of my Speaking Engagement Contract, the audiovisual rights of my presentation belong to Corporate Cinderella. These rights may be shared only through the express written permission from Corporate Cinderella and stated on the Booking Proposal PRIOR to the event.

Interestingly, I was recently speaking with a videographer who is called into conferences to film events. He’s been caught out on occasion when an event organiser has not thought to obtain permission from the Speaker to be filmed. This leaves the Videographer and the speaker in really horrible positions. Both would like to serve, but the content of what is shared is again the IP of the Speaker.

Permission must be gained for any type of recording.

If permission is granted, it is professional courtesy to ensure the speaker receives both the professionally edited and raw footage versions of the recording on the DAY, with FREE reign to use it for his or her promotional purposes. Professional etiquette suggests that co-branding of the audiovisual material, based on permissions, is well thought of.


Q. Thank you gifts for the Speaker…. is it okay to give wine or books? What other ideas do you have as thank you gifts?

Tarran’s Response:

This depends on how well you know the speaker really. Here’s some considerations:


* Are they travelling by train or plane – bottles of wine are a nightmare for packing

* Do you know their lifestyle choices – they may not actually drink wine, whether it’s lifestyle or religious beliefs

My personal preference, while I like the occasional glass of red, I’d prefer NOT to receive it as a payment for my work.



* Is it a book I mentioned in passing? If so, I’d be bound to love it! 🙂

With all grace, I’d rather you equipped yourself with further growth opportunities by purchasing my resources than give me something big and heavy to carry back on the plane or train! It’s another way you can also encourage your guests to “take me home with them”


Other Present or Thankyou Gift Ideas: it’s always best to think of the context and the ‘who’. what do they do, why are they speaking, who are they?

  • Vouchers for online sports store.
  • Restaurant Dinner Vouchers
  • Letters of Thanks
  • 5 Video Testimonials
  • 10 x single word impressions of the Speakers content, connection or ability
  • An iTunes Card
  • Year Long Membership to a particular hotel chain
  • Complimentary inHouse Massage | Nail Bar
  • Gift Basket delivered to their office within 72 hours
    A Special Gift I Received: Courtesy of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants I receive a thank you Speaker Present on arrival to the conference. A gift pack with a Coupon for the Expo downstairs, to have a tailored, monogrammed shirt made up for me while I was onsite at a 3 day conference. Wow. That was very cool.




Until I became a professional speaker I didn’t understand what it all involved.

For more than 20 years I’d speak at different conferences, financially underpinned by the safety net of my employers salary.

InfoPreneurs, Professional Speakers, we’re in the business of speaking. We employ staff, host numerous events and programs ourselves, in many instances. We carry insurances and risks. We’re researchers, analysts, futurists and more.

So next time you’re considering a Speaker for your event may I invite you to honour them and the expertise they bring to your event?

And in the words of an anonymous speaker…..

“Don’t clap – throw money!”



So what do you think of these FAQ’s “Understanding Speaker Fees?” We’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences and suggestions. Connect with us on social media @tarrandeane @corporatecinderella
by Tarran Deane, Corporate Cinderella. Tarran is a Professional Speaker, Author, Consultant & Executive Coach. Tarran’s passion is helping leaders lead with a clear understanding of what they stand for! If you’d like Tarran to speak at your upcoming event, contact us today: +61 (0)417 654305



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