Someone asked me to speak at their event. Now what?

Congratulations! Being invited to speak at an event is a great honor.
Having been a speaker at several venues around the country myself, I’ve been able to sharpen my skills through experience and flesh out what works, and what doesn’t.
Here’s my advice on how to make your speaking gig fun, profitable, and memorable for all.

What To Charge

With so many variables, there’s no set answer for what to charge when speaking at an event. You’ll have to determine what this is worth to you and what it might be worth to your host. Here are three ways to come up with a fee everyone can agree on.

1. Know your worth

Use these questions to help put things in perspective:

  • Have you ever done this before?

  • Are you a good (confident, engaging) speaker?

  • What unique things do you bring to the table?

  • What will the information and advice you dispense be worth to your host?
    Will the fact that you’re a speaker be enough to fill more seats, thereby making the organizer more money? What is your presence and the promotion of the event within your own circles of influence worth to them? Getting more people to buy tickets and placement of the event in front of a large, new audience has value to the event host. You have the right to be compensated for that.

  • What will the information and advice you dispense be worth to the audience?
    In other words, will they walk away somehow better off than of they had not attended this event?

    2. Know the standard going rate

    Look around at what other experts who have commensurate experience within your industry are charging, and proceed accordingly.

    3. Put it on them

    You shouldn’t ever feel uncomfortable charging for your time, after all, you’re the expert. But if you’re really struggling to come up with a fee you feel is reasonable for a particular event, ask the organizer what their budget is. This should help give you an idea of what they feel you’re worth. If the rate is acceptable to you, then you’ve got a range to work within. Don’t be afraid to negotiate.
    Keep in mind that your fee might vary from event to event. Each individual gig has different parameters, all of which can come into play when you’re deciding on what to charge for speaking at an event. Things like:
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  • The size of the audience. (Talking to 300 is a lot different than talking to 30.)

  • How long you’re expected to speak.

  • Will you be allowed (or required) to have visual aids?

  • Who pays for travel, hotel, transportation expenses, and dining?

  • What are they charging their audience for admittance? An event raking in thousands of dollars should be willing to offer more than a non-profit event might.
  • [/checklist]

    Before you jump into accepting any speaking commitments, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. You can do that by asking any interested event sponsors to fill out a speaker’s request form. Luckily, I created a sample on you can use, right here.


    Be Prepared

    Once you’ve been announced as a speaker, event attendees will want to know more about you. The first place they’ll look is your website. Here’s what you need to do right away:

    Get a Media Kit together

    A media kit is a snapshot of all of your promotional materials, offerings, and associated information. It’s a great place for people to learn all about you in a single, convenient document. You can read more about them, here.

    Make sure your Bio is updated

    Your bio is really more about the reader than it is about you. They’re there to see what you do because they want to know how you can benefit them. Share your story in a way that makes people feel drawn to you and want to hear more about what you’ve got to say. Having some images of yourself online is helpful, as this subliminally creates a sense of excitement when these pictures come to life as they see you for the first time in person.

    Have something for sale

    Take advantage of this influx of visitors by making products and services available for sale. Even if they don’t buy something before the event, they’ll get an idea of what you offer and may come back afterward to make a purchase.
    Another way to be prepared is to make sure you and the event organizer are on the same page.

    Put together a Contract

    You have the option of coming up with a speaker’s agreement of your own or (better yet) have an attorney draft one for you that you can use over and over again. While it’s acceptable for a host to provide you with their own contract, I don’t recommend signing anyone else’s document without having a lawyer take a look at it first.

    Have a Cancellation policy

    Things happen, so it only makes sense to have a strong cancellation policy in effect. You can have this embedded in your contract and/or have it on your website. Something to the effect of:
    A deposit of 50% of the agreed fee is required upon booking confirmation. The remainder will be required when the speaker arrives on site. In the event of program cancellation, the initial deposit will be considered as a full and complete payment. If scheduling conflicts on the day of the event should arise causing the speaker to be unable to perform, full payment is still be required.


    What to bring

  • Take along any visual aids you think will help you in your presentation.
    (Props, a power point presentation, etc.). It’s likely the host will provide any A/V equipment you might need, though don’t ever assume that to be the case. Let them know what sort of projectors, screens, pointers, or other equipment you may need and ask that they have it tested to be sure it’s in working order beforehand. While you’re at it, you may want to ask if a podium is available or if you’ll be standing on stage.

  • Business cards.
    Always have plenty of them on hand to pass out at a moment’s notice.

  • Other marketing collateral takeaways like postcards, flyers, worksheets, or handouts.
    I have used (and loved) Moo cards in the past. They provide original (sometimes unexpected) die-cut shapes and designs to help your print collateral stand out from the others and making people more apt to hang onto it.

  • If you’re traveling, take along a few business casual outfits in addition to your speaking attire. You may meet people you want to mingle with later on in the evening or during your stay.


    How To Make The Most Out Of Your Moment In the Spotlight

    Promote the Event

    There should be a lot of promotion in the months and weeks leading up to the big day. Ideally, you’ll see social media shares, email blasts, and other advertising strategies to alert people of the upcoming event. This is great for you because you’ll be benefitting from the host’s coverage. Ask your host how you can promote the event from your end as well.
    If you’re going to be featured as a speaker on their website or in printed promotional pieces, they’ll probably need a shortened version of your bio and a professional headshot. They may also ask for a brief or bulleted version of the talk you plan to share. Having some swipe copy prepared ahead of time (that is, pre-drafted, canned copy that you can send them to use) will make things much easier on everyone.

    Promote Yourself

    Most organizers allow (and expect) that you’ll bring along some swag for their attendees. Everyone loves to walk away with a freebie, but these gifts have a dual role. They also act as incentives to get you more business. Popular ideas include:

  • a limited time coupon code (up to 48 hours)
 for one of your digital offerings
  • a free gift or product samples
  • a signed copy of a book you wrote
  • a workbook or worksheets
  • a free 15-minute consultation at some time in the future

    Make some side money

    Your profit doesn’t necessarily need to end with your speaking fee. Some organizers will allow you to take things a step further and actually solicit business after the event. Be sure to ask your host if they’re ok with this arrangement. Here’s one way to go about it:
    At the conclusion of your speech, you can mention that you’re offering a discounted consulting session for those who book today. Invite them to come find you after the event at a table set off to the side. This is something you’ll have to work out beforehand.

    Bring a calendar and have people sign up right then and there. They should be expected to leave a non-refundable deposit to hold their spot. Use i-square or the Paypal app to collect payment. Don’t forget to get their name and email address so you can contact them prior to the call.
    Finally, see if you can get your hands on any pictures their photographers may have taken of you while you were speaking. These action shots look great on your website.

    Best Practices

Your moment has arrived. It’s your time to shine. Here’s how to make yourself a fan favorite whenever you’re speaking at an event:

  • Don’t panic. That audience you’re feeling intimated by? They’re people just like you and me. They’re there eagerly waiting to be imparted with your wisdom. This is your opportunity to gift them with something they didn’t have before walking into the event. Don’t view speaking at an event as something to be nervous about, view it as a positive opportunity for everyone involved, because that’s precisely what it is.

  • Be engaging. Don’t just talk at them, involve them. Ask questions. Request a show of hands. Randomly ask members to join you on stage for a moment to assist you with something. Most people secretly love to be chosen.

  • Make eye contact and really connect with individuals, not just the audience as a whole.

  • Speak with authority and project in a voice loud enough to be heard by all attendees. If during your talk you notice people are straining to hear, ask if everyone can hear you ok. It would be a shame to have people miss your talk due to poor acoustics.

  • Smile. It’s comforting; it puts people at ease, and it makes you instantly relatable.

  • Whether or not you’re paid to do it, it’s good practice to stick around and engage after the event. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn about other people and their businesses. You can get info on what people are looking for and how they view you.

  • Treat your host right. Bring them a thank you gift. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, just a token of your appreciation for having invited you. Once you’re back at home, send them a hand-written thank you card. Graciousness and sincerity go a long way. Your gestures will make you memorable and may even result in your being asked to return for another event.

  • Above all, when speaking at an event, remember you’re a guest of honor. You were hand-selected above others to offer your expertise. Bask in the glory of that and let it fuel your confidence. You earned this. Enjoy every minute of it.


    Melissa Bolton

    Brand Therapist™ + Copywriter at Melissa Bolton
    Melissa is a Brand Therapist®providing neurobranding and conversion copywriting services to solopreneurs and micro-business owners looking to truly connect with their right people. Leaning on proven psychology principles, she helps clients create a brand presence that's not only explicitly unique, but highly memorable. She offers 25 years of extensive sales and marketing experience through her proprietary brand therapy methodologies. You can learn more about her and how she can help you grown your own brand, right here:

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    1. Shanda Cadet

      Great advice! I’m a speaker. As an entrepreneur and mom to 6 kiddies, I speak to empower women who want to be entrepreneurs but think they can’t because of the kids. It’s always refreshing to hear advice on how to be a better speaker. You’re totally awesome Melissa! Thanks!

      • Melissa Bolton

        Thank you so much, Shanda! I love to see mompreneurs encouraging each other. You’re showing those six kiddos that it is possible to be an amazing mom and still have something of your own worth working on. Congrats!

    2. Coralie Sawruk

      Great advice Melissa! Will definitely put those tips into practice 🙂


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