With over 100 keynote presentations and dozens of workshops under my belt after 5 years as a professional speaker, I want to share what I’ve learned about being a better speaker and a better paid speaker (and the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand).
Each has a specific set of things you must do. I’ve discovered what has helped break through each level.
It’s worth noting I’ve only just broken past being an entry-level professional speaker. In Australia at least, I consider a someone who charges $10k+ per speech a high level speaker, $5k – $10k mid level, and under $5k an entry level speaker. The US market is way bigger so it’s common for speakers to earn $20k-$50k+ per speech but it’s rare in Australia.
However being a good speaker and being a well paid speaker are vastly different things.
Good vs Paid – what’s the difference?
Highly paid speakers:
Speakers who collect huge fees often aren’t the best presenters but they have a profile and people want to hear them. Credibility and demand more than make up for any presentation shortcomings.
Really good speakers:
Many great speakers don’t collect a cent but are funny, informative and knowledgeable but they lack profile and demand. Think about the hilarious speakers you’ve heard at weddings, 21sts or corporate Christmas parties. They are laugh out loud funny, thought provoking and throughly memorable but they aren’t taking a trip to the bank afterwards.
The common ‘industry’ trap
Many great corporate speakers get trapped only speaking at their own industry events, which can be great for credibility but not for the wallet. Speaking inside your own industry eg. being a marketer speaking at a marketing event, or a financial planner speaking at a financial planning conference rarely pays. Occasionally international speakers may get paid, but seldom, so be aware of this before getting to entrenched in ‘free speaking’.
The opportunity for paid gigs
Speaking at other industries events is where the money is. Looking back I’ve spoken to mortgage brokers, financial planners, carpet cleaners, entrepreneurs, funeral directors, lottery executives, real estate agents, CEOs, kitchen designers, accountants, CPAs, food service executives, chefs, travel agents, rental industry execs and many more. If you are the outside expert coming to educate their crowd, they expect to pay.
Why this is much easier anyway
To be an expert you need to know more than the people you are teaching. At an industry event, this can be daunting. I am most nervous speaking to marketing professionals because many may be more accomplished than me, and they are often likely to be the most critical given it is their ‘space’.
Tips to speak and present well
- practice and rehearse, even when you are seasoned.
- always be watching, learning and studying the craft.
- If you speak well, you will get rebooked and you’ll build momentum from there.
Increasing your fee
I went to Andrew Griffiths‘ Business of Being a Professional Speaker recently and got a lot of clarity around increasing what you earn from speaking. I went into the session thinking the goal was to get my keynote fee higher, and I came out realising the best way approach is to keep your keynote fee in the ‘sweet spot’ but add value by adding in an offer to do workshops, masterclasses, panel discussions, MC duties, coaching sessions, signed books or online training.
$10k+ speakers in Australia are typically big picture motivational or inspirational speaker, not more practical ‘how-to’ speakers like me. Rather than squeeze a maximum price on a single presentation, look to grow it into a multi-presentation engagement! Great advice.
How I’ve charged
There is no right and wrong and as much of this is holding your nerve when you quote. For the record here is where I was at when I reached each level.
$500: I’d done ~15 free presentations over 12 months and took the leap of faith to become pro. I also engaged a speaking coach. (2010).
$1000: After one speech at $500 I had the confidence to double the rate for the next preso, and then raised it again (2011).
$1500: I sat at this level for all of 2011. I had ~30 presentations under my belt and credibility-wise had a Top 20 Australian Biz Blog and had been in some national press like BRW, Financial Review and SMH.
$2,000: I did my first international gigs in South Korea and Hawaii.
$3,000: With 80 keynotes to my name and a book deal, I did ~20 presos at this rate (2013)
$4,000: I skipped this level entirely since my book had come out
$5,000: I had a book published (plus a podcast and had done 100 keynotes) (2014)
$6,500: I bundled in books for delegates for this fee (2015). That said, most booking so far in 2015 have been multi-presentation bookings, so rather than one-offs. So they’ve been $10k-$20k engagements with different cities, workshops and panels and a lower rate ‘per presentation’ but there’s been lots of more them.
Tips to get high paying bookings
This is what I’ve found helps getting bookings.
- you need to be visible (especially on Google and LinkedIn!)
- you need to have a highlight reel or a bloody good endorsement, unless someone has seen you before.
- you need some degree of credibility. A book, a blog, a podcast or a compelling story are good ways to boost credibility.
- you need to hold your nerve on pricing (you set the fee!)
- Build relationships with conference organisers.
Comedy and humour
My new friend (sounds like high school!) David Nihill teaches TED talkers and CEOs how to add humour to their presentations. His book Do You Talk Funny is excellent and funny, his website is a great resource and the 50 Tips download is a must.
I’ve studied comedy from David and others like Marty Wilson and Kevin Ryan. Firstly I was relieved when they said you don’t need to a naturally funny person to be humorous on stage. How to be funny is the topic for another blog… and another blogger!
But rest assured you can be funny, when you follow what comics will teach you.
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