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how to afford a speaker




In the south we have an expression that states, “There is more than one way to skin a cat.” Not trying to offend our animal lovers, of which I’m a card carrying member, the meaning behind the expression is that there are many ways to do one thing. In our case it happens to be hiring a speaker. Some of the options will make you spit up your coffee and scream, “well duh!” However, you might find other options surprisingly creative. Most speakers like to be paid in cold hard cash, up front. Realizing that not every group can handle this kind of expenditure, heck, paying for pizza can be a stretch, let’s look at some of the options.

·       Paying outright – We mentioned this before but is worth repeating. Most speakers like to have half up-front and the remainder paid at the venue. Back in the day it was heard Chuck Berry would refuse to go on stage until he had the balance in-hand.

·       Sponsor(s) – Many companies and organizations would be honored to have their name associated with an excellent event. I once had the honor of having Bob Hoover explain to me this concept after discovering my organizations need for regular speakers. All I can say is that if Mr. Hoover uses this approach you can too!

·       Fund Raising – A great idea for raising money for your group or charity. Charge a fee to attendees to support the efforts of your group or organization. Profits can be used to support the operating cost of a group or for outreach charity efforts. Besides, who wants to do another airplane (or car) wash!

·       Charge Attendees – One of the easiest ways to defray the cost of a speaker is to spread that cost among a group of people. Event organizers can charge a small ticket fee for attending. Pre-sales can be accomplished easily with online ticket services such as, Brown Paper Tickets ( A great feature of this company is the low fee structure and event management tools.

·       Gift to Attendees – If you want to make a great impression on your memberships offer FREE gifts as part of the speaking program. Most speakers have a book, CD/ DVD or digital download (yes, we have them all) that can be priced in such a manner that it is a “win-win” for all parties (even at a discounted rate). This will make members smile from ear to ear about the great deal they are getting being a part of the organization.

·       Dinner and a Show – With a little shopping around (or volunteer cooking) a group can offer a dinner and a show. Adding a few dollars to the price for a plate of food can give an event a huge value that can easily pay for a dinner speaker.

·       Combination – There are a few scenarios that combine the previous tips into a possible workable deal.  Trust me, most speaker want to get speaking gigs and can think outside of the box when asked.


How about offering less than regular fee with the guarantee of a certain amount of product sales? This motivates the speaker to sell out the back table.


What about group can make a charitable donation to an organization they care about in exchange for a portion of the payment.


Perhaps someone in the group has a vacation home, airline miles and/or a car dealership (a Cessna dealership would be better) that could be used to off-set the cost of lodging and transportation. Saving a speaker time can be as important as direct income. For example, someone in your group can offer to charter an aircraft through their company. If they can transport the speaker in two days instead of three it saves time. As you know, time is money.


A word of caution: I’ve heard of horror stories where speakers where offered less than desirable options such as a spare couch to sleep on or transport in an aircraft that looked like it had just survived a WWII bombing mission over Germany.


·       Don’t Be Afraid to Ask – The worst thing an event organizer can do is to be afraid to ask. Simply being up-front and stating, “I don’t know if we can afford this” will simulate some out of the box thinking. Challenges are only opportunities waiting for a creative solution!


I heard of one group that called to inquire about booking high profile speaker but unsure if they could afford the fee. The stars must have aligned because the speaker had an extra day on the road that left him in the area. Combined with the fact of a new book launch allowed all parties to have a winning situation. 


Contact TC Freeman at ( or 919-619-6828) early to book a speaker for your next event.

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