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How to Find Speaking Gigs that Pay


I just got off the phone with a client who was told by somebody that there is no money in speaking and that you should only speak for free.  

Huh? Well, if that’s true, then someone is going to have to explain to me how it is that my clients are getting paid, $3,500, $7,500, $15K, and $30K per speech!

There is money in speaking. And to get some of that money, you need to know how to find speaking gigs that pay. So, let me tell you that today!

How to Find Speaking Gigs that Pay

Has every speaker heard a client say, “we don’t pay our speakers.” Sure. But when that happens, you either find creative ways to get yourself paid, like finding a sponsor, or you move on to the next prospect.

So, when it comes to finding the money in speaking, where do we start? Let’s drill it down into two major categories and the sub-categories within them.

Category One: Associations

Associations are where we always start when searching for speaking gigs.

Associations are where we always start when searching for speaking gigs. Why? Because Associations publicly promote their events to draw in new members, so finding the details of their annual conference just takes some research. 

The question then becomes, “Do associations pay?”

While some associations may have their own industry specialists speak for free at their events, many associations realize that to keep their members happy, they have to hire “pro’s.” That’s where we come in.

When looking at Association events, you need to understand the breakdown of an association meeting. Meetings may include daily general sessions for their entire audience, followed by deep-dive learning sessions called plenary or breakout sessions. When interviewing Lori Pugh Marcum of MPI (Meeting Professionals International), I was surprised to learn that they did have a budget for some of their breakout sessions. So let’s not rule that out.

Additionally, Lori clued us in to the fact that it’s not unusual for a group like MPI to put out RFP’s – requests for proposals – for their events. Sometimes these RFP’s will ask the speaker fees.  So let’s not assume that an RFP means no money. Instead, let’s assume everybody may have money if we just dive deep enough into the well!

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My friend, David Avrin, has the perfect approach. “We fill out a lot of RFP’s, and we turn down a lot of freebie breakout sessions. But we can often convert interest in me being their breakout speaker by offering to do both a keynote and a breakout,” says David.

The other thing to know about Associations is that as you move regionally, fees can go up. Here are the various levels of Associations you should know about and what you may encounter for money in each.

Local Associations

You might do a freebie at the local association level. For instance, the Greater Chattanooga Realtors Association may not have the budget to pay for their monthly meeting speakers. I’m not saying this is true, they might have a budget, but more often than not, at this level, you are doing free work.  

State Associations

The Tennessee Realtors Association may indeed pay for speakers at their Annual Summit. I did check out their agenda, and while it didn’t look like they were spending big bucks, I did come across this list of events that might interest you, including dates for the National Association of Realtors conferences. 

State events can sometimes top out around $7,500, but of course, this isn’t written in stone.  Some of the larger state or regional events (when several states or provinces join together) do have very healthy budgets that may surprise you. You’ll have to research the industries you intend to target to find that out.  

National Associations

The national events aren’t guaranteed to have budgets, but in my experience, these events are where you’ll find the most opportunity to get paid. As your fee goes up, you’ll see yourself moving from local, to state, to national association events.  

Category Two: Corporate

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Fortune 500 companies will pay to solve their problems. This includes bringing in experts to speak and train their leadership and employees.

One of my clients, Deb Shaw, was the former Senior Vice President, Chief Global Diversity & Engagement Officer at Pepsico. What does that tell you about how committed Pepsico is to diversity and engagement?  A lot!  

Many large corporations have executives in charge of entire divisions like this. And these executives have budgets to bring in outside help. That’s excellent news for speakers!

Corporate as a category can feel very broad, so let’s break it down a bit. Here are just some of the industries that you may decide to investigate for speaking.

  • Banking 
  • Credit Unions
  • Finance
  • Real Estate
  • Insurance
  • Mortgage Brokers
  • Wealth Advisors
  • Education
  • Construction
  • Education
  • Hospitality
  • Direct Selling
  • Non Profit (don’t let the name fool you)
  • Government
  • Automotive
  • Technology
  • Health care
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Retail
  • Luxury Travel
  • Franchise
  • Transportation
  • Agriculture
  • Utilities

It can sometimes be challenging to know who to try to connect to at a large corporation. If you speak on sales, it’s a whole lot easier – you simply call the SVP of Sales. But if you speak on leadership or another topic, would you start with one of the SVP’s or HR? This is where you’ll need to put your research hat on and start digging in to see how you can get in the door. Sometimes you can find bits of information looking at past events, their company LinkedIn page, or simply calling to find out. 

The next time you are feeling down because it feels like there is no money for you in speaking, come back to this list. You will have to put in the research and work to find the gigs that pay, but I promise you they are out there!

See you soon, Wealthy Speakers!

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