6waySpeakerIf you hang around at public speaking seminars, in forums and LinkedIn groups, there’s one question you hear over and over:

“How can I get paid for speaking?”

Starry-eyed speakers dream about becoming a millionaire-speaker, gracing stages across the country.

Traveling via limo from one awe struck audience to another (fresh from a bouncy blow out or hot shave backstage, natch.) Like 80s supermodel Linda Evangelista, they won’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day.

The reality? Slightly less glamorous.

Corporations and event organizers have felt the recession squeeze and cut speaker’s budgets to keep their events in the black. Professionals are staying home, rather than enjoying company-funded junkets like the good old days.

Here’s a more likely picture of today’s professional speaker: schlepping a pull cart full of materials from one Radisson ball room to the next, earning fees that work out to slightly less than minimum wage when you include travel and prep time.

But don’t despair! These challenges mean that you might have to get a little creative in order to make bank as a public speaker.

Here are six ways to get paid for speaking:

1. Charge a fee.

Pretty straightforward, right? Set a fee for your time and get it.

For a lucky few, this is reality. Event organizers and corporate contacts already know your reputation and are willing to pay to have you share your message with their audience.

The reason this is challenging for many speakers is that conference organizers reserve the five figure fees for the keynoter – a well-known name (New York Times bestselling author, former athlete, political figure, CEO.) These headliners are expected to draw attendees, based on their name and reputation alone.

The breakout session speakers get paid in “exposure.”

To get a fee for speaking, you have to build a reputation as someone who delivers strong value during your sessions (testimonials and referrals required, people!)

Then, find the organizations that pay speakers. (Psst, here’s a list of ways to find speaking opportunities.)

2. Get a company to sponsor you. 

Sponsorship is a way for companies to get their name and message in front of a very targeted audience.

You provide the content, the sponsoring organization pays your fee – everybody wins!

3. Speak for free and “enroll” audience members into your marketing funnel, where you’ll eventually sell your services.

This is the approach that consulting firms and bigger ticket service providers tend to take. If you’ve signed up for a webinar sponsored by, say a webinar service like Citrix, you know that sooner or later a sales representative will call you to ask about your webinar service needs.

You can do this, too. But to make it work, you have to have a solid system for follow up. It’s most effective when you have a bigger ticket offering, because it may take weeks or months to get a new client from the event.

Savvy organizations use speaking as part of their long term strategy. Having company representatives speaking at meetings and conferences promotes the company’s name and image and keeps it top of mind for potential buyers.

4. Sell services from the stage.

If you sell a service, whether it’s consulting, coaching, website design, accounting or legal advice, you can make an offer to the audience.

A colleague who’s a fantastic speaker does something super simple: at the end of her speaking sessions, she makes a very low key offer (it’s delivered in 60 seconds or less) for a discounted coaching session.

The offer expires at the end of the event, creating urgency. She typically gets 5 to 15 takers, depending on the size of the event, which makes speaking profitable and it brings people more deeply into her message and her business.

5. Sell a book.

A book is that magical tool that does double duty: being a published author helps you snag the speaking engagement in the first place and provides you an income boost after you speak.

When audience members get value from hearing you speak, they want to extend that experience by taking a little piece of you home with them.

6. Sell a product.

No doubt you’ve heard a speaker give a talk and then offer a training program on six CDs. This happens most frequently in the motivational and personal development worlds, but don’t rule it out for your topic. Whatever you do, you can create a product that will help audience members who want to learn more.

Maybe it’s a guide, a set of checklists, an interview series or a training that goes deeper into your area of expertise. There’s no better time for a person to buy than when they’ve just heard you speak.

What’s the best choice for you?

Here’s the answer we all hate: it depends.

On you.
What your business or movement offers.
What you have created or can create.
What’s comfortable for you.

My advice is to give yourself options and be flexible. You may not be able to sell your products at an event, but you can find a way to collect information and follow up (immediately!) afterward. You do you.

Your Fame Boosting Assignment:

Go through this list and pick one way that you’ll make money as a speaker.

Think through the steps, and make a list of what you’ll need in order to put that option into action.

Then step onto the stage, superstar. Your fans are waiting.

Want to jump start your public speaking? Start here.


  1. Anna on September 22, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Loved your ideas for making public speaking more profitable. I already do 2 or 3 of these but need to expand…

  2. Cindy on September 23, 2014 at 5:44 am

    Lori – these are 6 good tips. Your comments on reality are dead on speaking, training and sharing a message for any purpose is real work. I guess glamorous is in the eye of the beholder.

  3. Bonnie Copeland on September 23, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    A list of great ideas. I love how you refer to selling your book or products as extending the experience. That’s a great way to think of it.

  4. laura on September 25, 2014 at 11:40 am

    Yup, have to say I don’t like your answer “It depends” But I truly understand it 😉
    And, it is true about finding what IS comfortable for you because if you are not comfortable with using the option you do choose…..the audience will feel it and success will not be as awe-mazing as it can be!

  5. Lilia Lee on September 25, 2014 at 11:42 am

    I am not looking to be a professional speaker. Having said that, these are 6 tips that make sense for someone who is looking forward to doing so as a pro. I laughed at your view of reality, the constant schlepping. Did that for a while and was tired to the bone of it.

  6. Sarah on September 25, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Thanks Lori. These are all good ideas. I also use several of them, but sometimes am limited simply by the size of the room. Time to find some bigger stages!!

  7. Kathleen Watson on September 29, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    Lori, I love the way you provided enough suggestions to make just about anybody stretch their comfort zone; nicely done.

    I think my favorite part of this whole post was the link to your earlier post on “17 ways to find speaking opportunities.” Sneaky little link!

    And I totally agree with others’ references to the need to maintain your authenticity while stretching yourself. It’s unfortunately – and usually painfully – obvious when someone is trying some sort of “technique” which really prevents them from speaking in their own voice.

  8. Tricia Pine on September 30, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    Great list! I am in the midst of writing some speeches. Wonderful timing. Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Catherine on October 5, 2014 at 10:36 am

    I need to be out speaking more. I joined a speakers’ group and have been developing my product etc. I love all of your pointers for how to get paid and your re-frames as so many people early on are not “paid” to speak.

    Authenticity is key. I joined the speaking club because I get all professorial when I speak and I need to warm up my style.

    I have to agree with Kathleen – I love your link to an earlier post. How did you do that???

  10. […] speaking can also be a gateway to other moneymaking avenues that stem from speaking, like private consulting, training, coaching or product […]

  11. Claire Phillips on June 13, 2017 at 7:47 am

    Really good tips. Thanks for sharing such a informative post. I will definitely remember all of these points. Can you please suggest some tips to become a good corporate or keynote speaker?
    best corporate speaker

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