We’ve all done it.
You don’t get to headline conferences without doing the lunch and learn, ’15-minutes-to-do-a-30-minute-talk’ overrun squeeze and ‘favours for a mate’ circuit.
They may not pay but when you’re starting out as a speaker, they’re the proving grounds.
It’s where you cut your chops.
It’s not easy, it’s often not fun but it weeds out those who want to make a living from speaking and those that don’t.
It sharpens your material.
Makes you better.
Builds your value.
So, when you go to the market, it’s right that you capture that value meaningfully.
That’s why great speakers don’t speak for free.
That often translates into a binary decision - “if you don’t pay then I won’t speak”.
That’s ego talking.
I’ve broken down a way that all great speakers can get the value they deserve by focussing on what I call the ’True Win-Win’ - and I got to it by using my Operating System of Unblock, Unlock, Unleash™.
As with any puzzle, we first need to UNBLOCK both what success looks like and what is stopping us from getting there.
What does success look like?
The organiser wants you to speak because you’re a draw - your presence, content and expertise is unique, inspiring and impactful. They know it will reflect well on them and their event if their audience hear you speak.
You get to share your message with an audience who, if curated correctly, will be primed and ready to do business with you. You also continue to do something you love.
What blockers prevent it from happening?
No win win: you get asked to speak for no fee even though you’ll create loads of value (and it’s a paying event so the organiser will be making money).
Your ego: because you know your worth, your ego gets offended and takes a defensive stance. It whispers in your ear that this is now a binary decision - ‘if they won’t pay, you won’t speak’. It can lead you to make bold pronouncements about what you will and won’t do but the reality is it’s only ever based around one variable…money.
Let’s think about how we might UNLOCK new thinking or inspiration to solve this puzzle.
Reframe the offer: Let’s stop looking at this as a monetary transaction and reframe it as an investment. Doing so means that you’re both of the understanding that there’ll be some form of ‘currency’ put on the table by both sides and there’ll be a return should it be fruitful.
This moves you away from the ego’s ‘binary’ nature and shifts you into a more objective and rationale ‘look for the deal’ mentality.
Break down the deal: Don’t see it as only financial. Look at how you can quantify the value and benefits for both parties in a way that creates easy to measure wins. For example:
“Our speakers often get new business from speaking at our events”
Great - invest in my keynote and when I win my first piece of new business from your audience, I’ll repay your investment plus x%.
“We invest in loads of social media and you’ll have enormous reach”
Great - I’ll repay x% of your investment once I receive a further 1,000 followers from your event
“Our audience are exactly the profile you need for your business”
Great - let’s discuss my business needs and profiles and I’ll repay x% of the fee for every 1-1 personal introduction you make for me at the event.
These aren’t exhaustive - you can see that there are more variables than simply being ‘paid’ to speak and more value you can extract from a deal.
What it does ensure is that an investment is made in you to do your keynote and if nothing else comes from the event, you’ll have delivered value to the organiser and their audience - together, you can recoup even more value and a bigger return on their investment if they help you deliver on the things that they promised to you if you spoke for free.
UNLEASH the deal.
Build your ‘True Win Win’ deal.
Make sure you go into the deal with clarity on what you need and what you’re willing to give back should the promises be delivered on.
Secondly, be clear on what added value you can provide as part of the deal (i.e. stay for 15 minutes Q&A etc) and work hard with your client to ensure your content will deliver maximum impact.
Finally, make sure what is being promised is real - of course, this approach encourages transparency and stops people from making promises about events just to get you to be on the hook for a free keynote. It’s not in an organiser’s interests to promise new business or high reach when it won’t happen as they won’t get a return.
My message holds true - Great speakers. Don’t speak for free.
Get to 'True Win Win' and realise your true value.