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How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Speaker?

John Speaking

Speaking fees vary greatly depending on a number of factors. This article is a guide for readers to know what to expect when engaging a professional speaker. Common types of speakers include keynote speakers, event speakers, and subject matter experts. Depending on your event, selecting the appropriate speaker is critical to the outcome of the event and the audience experience.

·        Keynote speakers primarily set the tone for a conference or large event and establish energy for the audience. They are 80% entertainment and 20% content. Technical speakers are not usually effective for keynote presentations. I recently attended a large event in Galveston, Texas and the luncheon keynote speaker was a governmental attorney. While very knowledgeable, many audience members glazed over or left during her presentation.

·        Event speakers are industry-specific presenters that provide information relevant to the event. These speakers are typically 50% experience, 20% content, and 10% entertainment. These speakers often have a reputation in the industry and present legitimate information. Event speakers are ideal for lunch and learn or industry banquets.

·        Subject matter experts are information providers to legitimize content for an event. They are 90% content and 10% entertainment. Science, medical, and academic events are typically ideal for subject matter experts. A doctor introducing a new medical procedure at a conference is an ideal speaker for the audience. They may have delivery talent; however, the primary outcome is expertise.

There are 4 tiers for approximating speaking fees depending on the audience or event. These tiers are merely guidelines. Other factors impacting cost include location, travel, and speaker demand.

·        Tier One: These speakers are at the beginning of their career or working to establish a reputation. Fees range from free to $2000 per event.

·        Tier Two: These are established speakers with a proven reputation. Fees range from $2000 - $10,000 depending on the size of the event.

·        Tier Three: These speakers are in high demand as a result of a highly popular book or another platform for name recognition. They are usually sought as a method for increasing attendance at an event. Fees range from $10,000 - $20,000 per event.

·        Tier Four: These are celebrity speakers with global name recognition. Famous politicians, actors, and well-known business leaders occupy this space. They are sought for rewarding attendees at a conference or increasing interest in a large event such as a national trade show. Fees range from $20,000 to $300,000 per event.

This information is an effective method for approximating the cost of a speaker for an event. Keep in mind there are no hard rules and demand is the large determinate for pricing. Most speakers are flexible and an honest conversation regarding your budget is recommended. I am a tier-two keynote speaker and my fees depend on the size of the event as well as the amount of travel required. 

A common mistake is booking a well-known personality (often a retired professional athlete) on name recognition alone without vetting their ability to speak. Famous does not equal competent as a speaker. Look for video of speakers in action before making a commitment. A disappointed audience will resonate long after the event is over.