Good Speakers aren’t Free. Free Speakers aren’t Good.

Bored-audienceWhat?! We had a fantastic speaker last year and he didn’t charge us anything! Perhaps the CEO of Impressive Corporation didn’t ask the event for a cash outlay, but you can bet he was compensated. Part of most CEOs jobs is being the face of the company – and the company compensates him to do that. Public appearances are just a part of the job, for which he is HIGHLY compensated.
All speakers, other than those who are really bad, or for a specific reason are donating their time, are compensated in some way that provides them with value. It just might not be your cash. When on a tight budget, look for other ways to give a speaker value for coming to your event. Having good speaking enhancing the experience of your event for your attendance, so make sure you are giving value to your speakers.
A “free” speaker will cost you a fortune if they aren’t good. A poor speaker will not only damage your current event by starting a bad buzz, but that buzz will quickly turn into a roar. Your repeat business will tank and if your speaker(s) were bad enough, the negative vibes will prevent new business too.
Consultants – If your audience is a consultant’s target market, addressing your event will give them value. To increase the value of your event even more, offer the speaker a contact list of attendees to follow up with. Allow the consultant to distribute a questionnaire. Offer a meet and greet so the speaker can seek out prospective clients.
Authors – Authors, especially with new releases, want opportunities to promote their books. Purchase books for VIPs. Offer a book signing where the author can sell his own books.
Newer Speakers – A-list speakers didn’t start out as A-list speakers. They started somewhere as unknowns. Do your homework and find up and coming talent. Their compensation is exposure and experience. If you plan to video tape or take photos at your event, offer that up too. Good, professional quality imagery can be valuable to many speakers.
Sell from the Stage – Many events absolutely, positively do not want speakers selling their own wares from the stage. But you are getting value from them speaking, why not let them get value from you. You can impose a time limit and still add value for the speaker. Try allowing just two minutes at the end or a contact slide on their PowerPoint.
Advertising – Post the speaker’s image on your website, tweet it, snapchat it, facebook it. You get the idea. Splashing a speaker’s name around is good for your event and good for them. Press releases, articles and posted interviews can also be of value to both of you.
Free attendance – Some speakers simply want to be at your event. Provide them with a free pass – and perhaps free meals or entrance to VIP events.
Free booth – Business owners can share their business knowledge to help others. If you have the space, it doesn’t cost you anything extra to offer some real estate.
Prestige – TED doesn’t pay speakers…but it’s TED. Speaking for TED means you’ve made it. It opens doors. Don’t let your ego tell you that speaking in front of your 100 local attendees for Small Time Business Summit is prestigious. Offer prestige will only provide value if your event is well known, well run and attracts the right audience. Unless you are in the big time, this category of compensation doesn’t apply to your event.
Have eager speakers knocking on your door, who will speak just for the joy of it? Have you seen them on video? Gotten references? There is no such thing as a free lunch – so check between the slices before you commit to taking a bite.

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