How to Set Speaker Fees


(Mark Dalgarno) #1

Hi folks, I’m wondering what people’s experience is of setting speaker fees.

Do you easily reach agreement on a price?

Do you manage to set a fair price for all speakers?

Have you ever had a speaker who has agreed a price but then come back later and asked for more or who regretted setting a particular price with you?


(Mark Walker) #2

When I worked in conferences, we rarely paid speakers a fee at all. Occasionally we would ‘go big’ and hire a well-known name from the business world, and we would agree a fee with their agency (usually based on a fixed price advertised upfront).

Personally I never once thought we got value from them. Generally they won’t know your industry / audience, and usually won’t tailor their talk either (even if they claim they will). We even paid over £10k for one guy - a so called ‘internet pioneer / tech guru’ - who spent the whole talk speaking as if it were a new phenomena…I’d have been better paying my Grandad, so it’s also worth checking they’re still actually on-top of things and remain relevant, and aren’t just dining off their legacy.

Anyway, back to agreeing fees! I would say just ask what they want, offer them X% less (don’t accept their first offer!), come to an agreement if they’re within your budget then sign a contract. I would never entertain renegotiating after you’ve agreed (and signed a contract). That’s really unprofessional on their part.


(Ashley Edmonds) #3

Hi Mark,

You can definitely negotiate a price that works on both ends. I have had experience where a speaker has pushed back later on asking for either more in terms of travel expenses or time flexibility. I have been most successful with having an agreement to purchase x number of books or other products they have which I can re-sell and a lower speaking rate. I also negotiate contra deals with hotels and ground transport companies to decrease my travel/hotel costs from speaker fees as they can be quite high.

Usually it depends on how they feel about your company and if it is worth it for them to be at your event, this will dictate their cost as well as how in demand they are. If they are in high demand then usually the cost the agent sets is harder to negotiate down.


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(angela eisermann) #4

Anyone who come to you AFTER an event and tries to renegotiate is not worth working for/with. I have faced this on the speaker/talent side, the freelancer side and the client side. No mater what the case I will not work with people who do this. If you can’t tell this is my biggest pet peeve.


(Hélio Vogas) #5

I completely agree with you Ashley.

As a speaker, there are things that is worth lowering my fees for. For instance, If an event is professionally recording my presentation, getting an original copy of the presentation is worth quite a lot so I’m willing to lower my price to have that. The same goes for what you mentioned with books, hotels, airfare, etc.

When being booked through a bureau though, we have way less negotiating power because we give a fee for the bureau and they put their commission on top of that. Since most of the time they negotiate the price for an particular event without including us, the flexibility around the fee is a lot less.


(Nick Lawson) #6

@Helio_Vogas thanks - really interesting insight :slight_smile:


(Richard Millington) #7

I’ve been on both sides of this. I’ve been paid up to £5k for a talk and paid around £3k + expenses for people to speak at my events.

I’d note a few things:

From the organizer side…

  1. If you’re paying for a speaker, make sure they’re going to promote the event to their own audience. You might want this in writing. Soemone with a 100k+ audience might be easily worth paying £10k if they can promote the event to a big audience. Someone who won’t promote the event, usually isn’t worth paying a huge amount for. Unless they are a VERY big name that people will instantly recognise, I usually wouldn’t pay more than £1k to £2k here.

  2. Make sure they know (in the contract) that the talk slides have to be approved by [date] and should be customized to your audience. Having a date where they need to set the slides in advance was useful.

  3. 90% of people I approached who asked for a speaking fee (up to £5k) would usually settle for speaking for free if we covered reasonable expenses. Unless they are a big, big, name they know the value in getting their name out there by speaking at events. Feel free to say “sorry we can’t afford to pay speaker fees for the event, I’m happy to cover travel expenses though”.

  4. Check they own the rights to ALL of the images they show at events.

  5. If you’re recording video, make sure they sign a waiver that you can use / sell this as you like. Not everyone will agree to this, but most will.

  6. Tell them how many people will be speaking at the event. This is weird, but the more people who will be in attendance, the more keen I am to speak without receiving a fee for it.

As a speaker…

  1. If you’re asking for a custom-version of my talk to a specific audience, I’m probably going to ask for a fee. It varies, but around £2k to £3k + expenses is my standard. By offering to buy my books, promote me to your audience, if you have a big audience, or if the event is in an interesting place, I might be willing to drop that.

  2. Flattery works well. I don’t think any speaker is immune to flattery.

  3. Being kind and friendly works a lot well. Also, if I know the organizer personally I’m usually willing to do whatever I can to help. Relationships with speakers are always worth building up.

  4. Be flexible in some areas. I’m going to make a few demands. These are usually along the lines of 1) I don’t want to speak right after lunch, 2) I want to have time to check my slides / test the equipment before the talk 3) I want to use a lapel mic, 4) I want a few minutes to walk the stage before the talk. This is less about ego and more about being confident to deliver a good talk.

  5. Promote me. It helps to see my name or face used in advertising / tweets (especially when I can retweet that to my audience)

  6. Be clear about deadlines, expectations, slide format, presentation software, whether I can use custom fonts, etc…

In short, there are a lot of things that will help me reduce my rate. These usually come down to the size of the event, how well I know the organizer, and what else you can offer.


(Richard Millington) #8

Another one I forgot.

I’ve found that saying the “fixed speaker rate is £xxxx” tends to discourage people from negotiating it.


(Hélio Vogas) #9

Richard, as an organizer, demands such as having the venue lights full on during the talk bothers you?

I personally don’t have any rider but I noticed that I perform a lot better when I can look the audience in the eye, and some events lately are going more for a darker room with the lights on just on the stage. When all other speakers are ok with speaking at a darker setting, having one asking to have the lights changed would bother you?


(Richard Millington) #10

As an organizer it would probably bother me. I probably wouldn’t agree to it I’d add caveats to that though.

  1. If the speaker is asking a question, it really helps to see how many people raise their hands. Dimming the lights for a moment can be useful.

  2. I’d important people can clearly see my presentation slides behind me. (again, not meant to be an ‘ego’ thing here. If it’s bad lighting (often happens in a hotel conference area), that would be an issue.

It would also affect the quality of the videos, photos, and the general sense of performance too. So I probably would refuse that request as an organizer.

As a speaker, I’m more worried about making sure the slides look good and the a/v works perfectly. I’d estimate around 50% of events screw up on one of these two really simple areas to get right.


(Belinda Booker) #11

Great tips, Richard. Amazing that you can get people with sizeable speaking fees to do it for free. I guess that’s why it makes sense to choose someone who has a vested interest in the industry you’re in rather than a reality show star, or such like?