I just received my third email from a speaker agency, asking how to submit speakers for FailCon. I have one response:
Don’t make me pay for them.
I can’t speak for other industries, but the thought of paying my social media and entrepreneurial speakers is flabergasting. It is a waste of my money. Is your name REALLY going to bring in $5-10k in ticket sales? No. More importantly, it’s at odds to my interests.
When I pay you, what is your incentive to speak well? Generally, speaking isn’t your only job – you get a paycheck or have earned money from something else, so you don’t need to keep getting gigs (and if you have a good agent, you will continue to get gigs, so long as you are generally mediocre or better). You get your check for a topic you’ve spoken on dozens of times before, you deliver with the same note cards, you make demands on the organizer, you shake a few hands, and then you leave. As an organizer, I can’t control the topic or presentation at all, I can’t give you an incentive to stay at the event, and honestly I feel I can’t form a strong business relationship with you (why would I want to send clients to you, or suggest you to others, when you did nothing for me but charge.) My only reason for paying a speaker would be to insure that they don’t drop out. (Paying does NOT insure they won’t pitch. Trust me.) But listen, if a speaker drops out, I can replace them in a heartbeat. Maybe not with as reputable a name, but with a nearly-as-awesome (or more awesome) presentation. (I actually have to do this for almost every conference I do – replace one last minute drop out. Its a pain, but not a challenge.)
If you aren’t getting paid, our interests are now aligned. I have the ability to tweak your presentation to be of more interest to my audience, and you should want me to comment on it, so you get a better audience response. Your incentive for speaking, rather than profit, is now to effectively raise brand or self awareness in the field. And you (hopefully) know not to do this by pitching, as that just pisses off the audience and organizer, and guarantees you won’t be invited back. You do this by exciting the audience, sharing your knowledge and passion, and networking following the talk. In this situation, your incentive is to give a great and relevant presentation, to have an effect on the audience. Surprise surprise, that’s my incentive, too.
I have never paid a speaker at one of my events, and I have loved most of the speakers I’ve had. I hear too many stories about how paid speakers were kinda dull and over rehearsed, while free speakers were passionate and engaging.
Now, as I said, this is purely in this industry. I understand if you are a successful CEO and amazing speaker, who is being asked by offices all over the country to give presentations to their employees (people who would never be clients for you), you may ask to be paid. You have no other reason for going, really. But at conferences directly related to your industry…sorry, I just don’t understand.
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