Are Speaking Fees Really That Important?
Before you explore how to determine the appropriate price for your speech (or other product), let’s consider several reasons why the fixation that many speakers seem to have on their speaking fees simply isn’t justified. For example….
Some speakers do not demonstrate a commitment to their fees. They may advertise that they offer keynotes for, say, $10,000 while accepting fees of significantly less.
Is this unethical? It doesn’t violate the ethics standards of the National Speakers Association. It certainly isn’t illegal. And it’s a standard business practice in many other industries. (Cars seldom sell for their “suggested retail price”. In fact, almost all items nowadays can be purchased for less than their retail price, if you know where to look.) So the argument goes, why should speakers be any different?
On the other hand, some products — especially those in high demand — can command their retail price. And while some service providers may be willing to dicker fees with you, other services — again, those in high demand, such as surgeons or plumbers — have a “take it or leave it” attitude on the fees they charge.
So whether or not you commit to your fees is a personal decision, but even if you do, you need to be aware that not all speakers choose to do so. So the fee some speakers say they charge is not necessarily anywhere near the fee they actually receive.
Another “fee” fallacy is that speakers make most of their income from the fees they charge. Quite the reverse, more and more speakers are making their money from product sales — either back-of-the-room, e-commerce, or some other way. For these speakers, the programs they present are marketing opportunities to generate product sales. Consequently, the fees they charge for these programs become a secondary consideration.
Of course, after considering the concept of “running the numbers”, you recognize that a speaker’s fee is only one factor in the speaker’s income anyway. You also need to know how many times a speaker gives a speech. A $20,000 speaker who speaks only once a year is starving if he’s dependent on his fees for his income. But a $5,000 speaker who speaks fifty times a year is making a quarter-million dollars annually on her fees alone.
So for these and other reasons, you can see that a fixation on fees isn’t called for. Certainly, your fees and prices are important… but they’re only one consideration in what’s really important — maximizing your bottom line.