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How to Set Your Speaking Fees as a New Speaker

There is a lot of work that goes into becoming a successful professional speaker, and when you’re just starting out, it can seem like a lot to juggle. You’ve got to create speaking topics, submit applications (which are not always short and simple!), prepare your bio, promote your speaking engagements, and so on. All of these are essential pieces of the puzzle, but I encourage you first to turn your attention to your speaking fees — after all, this will be one of the first (if not the first) things an event organizer will ask when interested in your services.

So, how much should you really be charging? This is a loaded question that varies between professionals, but several factors can help you land on the right rate for you.

Revisit your speaker goals

What do you expect to get out of speaking? If your goal is to build an additional revenue stream through fees, setting the right price should be your top priority. On the other hand, if your goal is to increase brand awareness and find new clients within your audience, you may have more flexibility for setting fees as opposed to someone who doesn’t have the chance to monetize the audience.

For example, a B2C professional speaking at an event full of industry peers (i.e. not their target audience) would do well to charge for their time. However, a B2B professional speaking at the same event gets a chance to promote their product or service to interested people, which may be worthwhile, even for a low-fee or fee-free opportunity.

Consider your expertise

There’s no hiding the fact that people pay for the experience. It’s the reason a wedding planner with 20 years in the industry can charge ten times the rate of someone who’s just starting out — more experience equates to more expertise. Consider how long you’ve been in the field and how long you’ve been speaking. The more accolades and experience you have, the more valuable you’ll come across to organizations.

It’s also worth adding in your personal draw — if a group were to hire you, what value do you bring in the way of promotion? Can you use your influence through social media or podcasts to attract more people to attend the event? If you can show event organizers that you have an engaged community that will come to see you speak, that will increase your value in their eyes.

Look at the market

Just like you might keep an eye on industry competitors, the market can tell you a lot about what you should be charging. Look into other speakers, both new and experienced, to see what they’re charging for speaking at wedding and event industry meetings. Do those fees change between local and national engagements? Does it vary based on whether someone is giving a keynote, leading a breakout, or moderating a panel? Experience aside, you do want to make sure you’re pricing yourself according to the market, or else you’ll end up either overpriced or undervalued.

Factor in the opportunity cost

Every opportunity comes at a cost, so you need to determine what you’re comfortable sacrificing and the price you attach to it. You may only be speaking on stage for 45 minutes. Still, you must also factor in the time you spend traveling, creating a presentation, practicing your face off in the mirror, and coordinating logistics for the event. This is time well spent, but it’s still valuable hours (or days) taken away from other important things, like client work, lead generation, your kid’s recital, or even some good, old-fashioned downtime. Learn to recognize what a speaking opportunity is worth and what it costs, then price accordingly.

Account for equipment expenses

There can be overhead costs attached to speaking, even though it seems like you only need to come prepared with a presentation and your voice. As you’re starting, you will need to invest in specific equipment and software, like a clicker, computer adaptors, stock photos, presentation software, and even a few stage-worthy outfits. After a while, these expenses will balance out, but it’s essential to consider when you’re new to the field. Regardless of how long you’ve been speaking, you should always factor in the amount you spend on staffing to cover for you while you’re out of the office.

Adjust for travel and accommodations

The goal for speaking is that you don’t want to spend out-of-pocket while traveling for the speaking engagement. If you’re speaking close to home, this isn’t much of a concern beyond minimal gas expenses, but if you’re heading to another market, you shouldn’t be coming out of the experience at a significant loss. Some organizations will pay for travel and accommodations, whereas others will not, so consider that as you set your fee.

With accommodations, request to stay nearby the venue (or, ideally, in the property, if it’s a hotel) and discuss meals and airport transfers as well. If those aren’t included, a higher rate is justified to cover the expenses. In terms of travel (airfare, gas, etc.), some speakers create a flat fee for traveling or work it into their overall speaking fee. Others prefer the event organizers to make the arrangements. There are pros and cons to each of these approaches, so it’s entirely up to you to decide what makes the most sense.

As you’re planning out your speaking strategy, bear in mind that many national event industry conferences will be quite clear about what they’ll pay for in their initial submission guidelines. Many only offer free registration and perhaps a modest stipend to put toward travel. It helps to be aware of this in advance so you can determine if it’s the right fit.

If you’ve read this far and you’re still looking for a flat number to work with, here it is: The majority of event industry speakers start with a modest honorarium of up to $500, equivalent with their experience speaking onstage. Over time, as presentation skills are fine-tuned, and new topics are added to one’s repertoire, this fee can be increased incrementally, potentially into the thousands.

With all of this in mind, don’t lose sight of your speaking goals. At the end of the day, your fees should really align with what you hope to get out of being a speaker. If brand recognition and thought leadership are your key objectives, a speaker fee may not be a big deal. However, if you anticipate speaking becoming an additional stream of revenue for your business, you’ll want to dig deep and determine the rate that makes the most sense for you, your experience, and your goals.