Negotiate Speaking Fees Like an Expert

As we discussed last week the first step in using public speaking to build your author brand is to build trust based relationships with leaders so that you can book speaking engagements with them. Remember, leaders want to book an expert who happens to be an author and a speaker. But, what are you supposed to do once you have built these relationships, and the leaders are interested in hiring you to speak to their group? Lucky for you that is exactly what we are talking about today.
The first thing you want to do is to have a professional media/demo kit ready to go. Leaders will investigate a speaker before hiring them, which of course includes an internet search. If you have a professional media/demo kit on your website, any leader who is interested in hiring you will be able to see this, and their trust level will increase. You also want to have some physical copies ready to mail out at any time. Rob Eagar has some great ideas on what you should include in your kit:

  1. Describe The Results You Can Produce: Remember leaders want to hire someone who can help their group.
  2. Audio Speaking Sample: Leaders want to have a general idea of what your presentation is going to be like. You can offer this with a high quality, professional audio recording of you speaking in front of a live audience.
  3. Professional Headshot: It is very important that this is taken by a professional, and that you look professional in it. Wear something that you would speak in.
  4. Written Promotional Pages: You want to provide anyone who is interested in booking you to have access to the following information
    1. Personal Biography
    2. Testimonials
    3. Speech Descriptions
    4. Supplemental Resources

You can read more about these media/demo kit essentials in Rob Eagar’s [amazon text=book&asin=159963421X].

Alright, once you have a professional kit up on your website and hard copies ready to send out, you want to start preparing for the negotiation aspect of being hired to speak. This part can seem very scary to most people, but there is no reason to fear it. You are an expert. You deserve to be compensated for offering your expert knowledge to those who need it. Keep this in mind always. The hardest part in this process is determining the value of your expert knowledge.

Setting your speaking fee will be a bit of a learning process. Try researching what an average speaking fee for someone of your level of expertise is. Remember, the less speaking engagements you have had, the lower your speaking fee should be. You have to make an honest and impartial judgment of how much your expertise is worth. If you have only spoken a few times and have written just one book, then you are less knowledgeable and less experienced than someone who has spoken more and written more. This does not mean that you won’t be hired; just make sure your fee reflects your experience. A good way to judge whether you have set your fee at a reasonable price is to gauge the reaction of the leader who is hiring you. If no one resists your fee, it is probably too low. You should get a little resistance, after all leaders want a deal, but there should not be a flat out “no” in response to your fee. If there is, then it is probably too high.

You only want to share your speaking fee with the leader. As we mentioned last week leaders are the ones with the decision making power to hire you, so they are the ones who you should be negotiating your speaking fee with. If the administrative person who you initially speak to does not want to give you access to the leader, let them know that speaking with the leader will ensure that their needs are met for their group. As the administrator is not the leader, they will not have a clear vision for the needs of the group or the budget for any event.

Once you are in contact with the leader, make sure you communicate to them the value of your book and expertise. But, keep in mind that your value may not be right for that particular group at that particular moment. If you realize that this is the case, you should express that to the leader and walk away from the booking. If your message has no value to a group of people, then you shouldn’t continue with a speaking engagement. It will go poorly, and you will not be asked back. But, if you communicate that you feel as though you cannot be of service now, but perhaps at a later date, the leader will appreciate your honesty.

Avoid an initial conversation about fees. If you can gauge what the problem is and how you can offer to fix it, then you might be able to adjust your fee to fit the situation. You can even ask the leader what their budget for a speaker is. If it is far lower than your fee, graciously decline and offer the name of another speaker who could help the group and whose fee fits better into that budget. Never speak for less than you are worth. You will gain no respect that way.

Rob Eagar goes in to detail about many of these things, and more, in his book [amazon text=Sell Your Book Like Wildfire&asin=159963421X]. He also describes what steps to take after you and the leader have established a fair fee.

Negotiating fees and contracts are not always in the natural skill set of an author. This I know. However, if you want to be successful in getting your message out into the world, and helping solve the problem which you have set out to solve, then you are going to have to become a speaker. There are many resources to help you navigate the tricky process that booking speaking engagements can be. And it will get easier. Just keep reminding yourself why you became an author in the first place, and the process will seem well worth the trouble.