The opportunities to speak – your professional contributions – should be compensated. But what if your compensation claim is denied? Do not get discouraged. Do not stop. Negotiate a tariff alternative: high value products other than money. The authors offer ten options for you to consider, including testimonials, expenses, memberships, and discounted dues.
It’s time to admit the honest truth: Professionals deserve to be paid for speaking engagements. You may be wondering, “When should I start the transition from free to paid speaking?” The answer is now. But we’re not telling you to refuse to talk if they refuse to pay. We want to help you redefine what it means to get compensation. Here we introduce the idea of negotiating a tariff alternative.
Typically, a single hour of speaking requires several hours of preparation. Time is spent creating slides and handouts, practicing the presentation, getting feedback. There are additional technology check and double check components. We were asked to set aside time to virtually meet with organizers, moderators and co-panelists prior to the events. That’s even more when you consider travel, as the pandemic restrictions are lifted. Despite the workload, professional interviews are often sold as career development, good for exposure, good for networking. Yet they are often a net waste: time spent and little deposited in the savings account. When an invitation to speak comes in, we can first be excited, grateful, and accept all offers. However, over time, with no financial reward attached, we feel conflicted and as a result we are more likely to decline.
We fundamentally encourage clear and direct communication about monetary compensation when we are invited to speak. The literature offers different ways of ask for a fee to speak. “Are there funds available to cover fees? is a simple and straightforward question; Tailor the script to your voice and comfort level. Always favor clarity and conciseness. You can develop this skill into a skill that is both comfortable and confident.
But what happens when the request is denied? Do not get discouraged. Do not stop. Negotiate a tariff alternative: high value products other than money. Here are ten options to consider:
1. A letter to your supervisor
Before accepting an offer to speak, ask for a brief letter of participation, placed on letterhead and signed by the group’s top leader. This letter should be sent directly to your supervisor and should include the date and time of the event, number of attendees, title and a brief summary of the conference and general audience reception (direct quotes from attendees are preferable). This will keep your supervisors informed of your work and can be used as support for promotion or contract renegotiation.
2. Reduced subscriptions and contributions
Many conferences are organized by conferences and regional or national organizations. Request a canceled or discounted membership from the associated organization for a predetermined period. This trial membership will expand your network and save you money.
3. A public speaking coach to develop your skills
Ask if the organization has any affiliations with professional storytellers or public speaking coaches. If so, have the coach meet with you for one to two hours at several times to provide feedback before your speech. Determine in advance what kind of feedback you’re looking for, deliver the entire talk, and receive real-time verbal or written feedback. Use each lecture as an opportunity to improve yourself personally and professionally as a speaker.
Ask that if the feedback is positive, you are invited to speak again. Or, if it’s a local conference, ask to be invited to a larger-scale affiliate conference in the future. Ask to be referred to speak with a related department, organization or conference. The objective is to use this first opportunity as a springboard towards upward mobility.
5. Promotional material on social networks
Amplify your personal brand and professional reputation. Promotional material allows the conference to survive outside of the isolated presentation time slot. Ask the organizers to record the conference and organize the shareable highlights for social media. This teaser video can be used to promote your content and your speaking style. Use the material as a demo tape to help solicit further speaking opportunities.
Collect opinions. Ask the organizers to collect quotes from the audience. If you have a personal or business website, ask that comments received from the general public or organizers be used later as a testimonial for your content. Testimonials with a name and affiliation are preferred over anonymous.
7. A high resolution photo of the event
While most speaking engagements are virtual, we come back to face-to-face meetings. Have a photographer, if available, take action shots of you speaking on stage or interacting with the audience. Also request a photo if there is a professional photographer on site. These high quality photos must be available so that you can use them for promotional purposes.
Operating costs are often more easily provided than fees. If you are traveling to speak on behalf of an organization or conference, the expenses must be funded by the host. For seasoned speakers, this is obvious. However, for first-time speakers, make sure you are clear about what is covered for these costs up front.
The value of loot is the role it plays as a conversation starter – not actually in the merchandise itself. For example, a water bottle on your desk can spark a conversation about the organization and your association with it. From there, you’ve just posted your speaking expertise on a big platform on a particular topic. The merchandise, while often inexpensive, provides the opportunity to talk about your skills.
ten. Networking opportunities
There is value in one: one conversations with leaders. Request an introduction and meeting with a leader or decision-maker within the organization or conference to create wider and deeper networks. It creates lasting bonds after your conversation.
Technically, these ten strategies can be requested in addition to or in lieu of a cash fee. The opportunities to speak – your professional contributions – should be compensated. As women, we more often find it difficult to ask for compensation. The more we do it for ourselves, the easier it will be for those who follow. While we recognize the obvious benefits of compensation, we recognize that the money is not always available. In fact, if we limit ourselves to talking about opportunities only accompanied by a monetary payment, we could eliminate other opportunities to develop our brand, our skills and our network. We also limit our ability to speak at mission-oriented events.
So don’t walk away from an opportunity just yet. Consider the alternative charges that you may receive for your time.