How much should I charge to speak at an event?
July 18, 2012 7:34 AM   Subscribe

I've been asked to speak at an event in a major American city in front of one or two hundred people. How much should I ask for my speaker's fee? Is this an accurate guide?

A few more data points:

• I've written a few published books (including one with a unique perspective on the topic of the event), and I've been published in one very prestigious magazine, but I'm neither an author of best-sellers nor a household name.

• The event organizers have mentioned the name of somebody else they hope to get speak, and he is DEFINITELY a household name, which suggests that they do have a budget for speakers.

• It's a for-profit organization, and I have no qualms about charging them fair market value for my speech.... I just want to know what a fair market value would be!

(I'm making this anonymous because my MeFi account is associated with my real name, and if I'm going to be negotiating with somebody over fees, I'd rather they not stumble across this thread. If you have any questions, or want to message me privately, I've set up a throwaway account:
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
When I've done this - typically a business presentation that's needed a day or two to prepare, I've charged between $5,000 and $15,000. The more usual rate I've been paid is around $7,500.

But often for profit trade conferences will pay expenses only, or some token fee.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:43 AM on July 18, 2012

I don't know market rates for speeches, but I would consider a few things in addition to cash compensation.

- Will this in any way further your career in this field?
- Will being on the same panel as well known dude, by association, increase your own credibility?
- Do you hope to give other speeches or publish additional material in the field? Will this be a good resume stuffer?
-My definition of fair market value includes what you are willing to accept, not just what others have been paid in similar situations. Do you know what the lowest amount you are willing to accept is?
- Are there expenses they will need to pick up in addition to the fee?
-Is this a good opportunity to get paid expenses to visit a city you wish to?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:44 AM on July 18, 2012

Depends on how long I'm speaking and if I need to travel.

Personally, I would actually use that guide for speaker fees only if you're talking about using it specifically for the length of time you are speaking + travel and accomodations and food.

So, let's say this guy recommends 5,000 per hour. Are you speaking for 30 minutes? Then it's 2,500. 15 minutes? 1,250. Do not charge them for your preparation time.

His ideas about if it's a nice city or if you're going to get more exposure are certainly very valid though.
posted by corb at 8:26 AM on July 18, 2012

I think it's totally context dependent. In the circles that I know this data for, the rate that MuffinMan and you link quote would be so high, and so far off, that I probably wouldn't even email you back to try to negotiate.

This is in legal and academic fields, though, so a different market.

The more standard model here is that travel and accommodations would be covered and the honorarium, if any, would be ~$1000-2000.

I'm not saying this to contradict others that their quotes are accurate in some settings, just to say that you either need them to set an initial price, or you need to get more data.

If you do quote high, but don't have any other clues, I'd include something that gives them some clue that you are flexible (if you are) such as:
"My standard speaking rate is $5,000-$7,500 depending on the structure of the event, and what other travel support is provided. What is the budget that you were planning in this case?"
posted by mercredi at 8:42 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've done a lot of public speaking [mostly for small library organizations but sometimes at bigger things like SXSW or other tech conferences] and also been part of groups that hired public speakers and I agree, the standard answers really are all over the map, so here are some things to think about.

- Does your fee include lodging/meals/travel?
- Are you keynoting or just being a regular speaker?
- Are you giving a fresh-for-them presentation or is this a stump speech of some sort?
- Is there a lot of travel time involved in getting to your location? Is it a location you'd like to visit anyhow?
- Is this event a prestigious thing for YOU to be invited to [i.e. leading to more sales or speaking events, as the page you link to indicates] or is it outside of your core audience/mission?
- Are you an accomplished speaker, that is do they have every reason to believe you'll do a great job or are you an X factor?

When we've had a well-known local author keynoting our (small) state library conference, we've paid them low five figures. When the American Library Association has a famous person keynoting their national conference, they pay them high five figures (and money often comes from vendor sponsorship and not just from the org). When I keynote library conferences I usually get somewhere in the very low four figures area. When I'm just giving a normal talk at a library conference, I aim for high three-figures. SXSW pays no speaker fees at all but gives you a free badge [unless you are very high profile and I don't know what the deal is there]. The Alaska and Hawaii library associations don't pay anything for speakers (except keynotes) but you get an all expense paid trip to Alaska and/or Hawaii which is pretty great.

Sorry this isn't more helpful but depending on the exact niche you're talking about the answers may be very different.
posted by jessamyn at 8:57 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hi, everybody-- I was the OP.

I ended up using a variation on mercredi's suggested phrasing.

Unfortunately, their budget ended up being low enough that we weren't able to come to an agreement. I let them know that my fees were on the high side (for them) because this particular conference is at an awkward time and place for me, and I'd have to turn my life a bit upside down to get there. But I told them I could well be more flexible on other occasions, so they should keep me in mind, and we parted on friendly terms.

Thanks for the answers, everybody! They were all really helpful.
posted by yankeefog at 3:33 AM on July 25, 2012

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