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New Professional Speaker? Or Thinking About Speaking? Speak for Free

By June 22, 2016June 9th, 2018No Comments
executive speaking or training in front a large crowd

The other day, a person in one of my LinkedIn groups posted this question about public speaking:

“How to deal with requests for webinars, podcasts, speaking, etc. Wondering how people handle these requests. I have a book being released in April. People are coming out of everywhere, asking me to speak (for free). Since they will be recording these, do I ask for anything in return? Do I want my material to be used/reviewed by others? Should I be keeping any proprietary? Should I be charging? I’d love to hear options and your experiences.”


Here what I posted in response to the person’s inquiry.

I am not sure if you have been speaking professionally before. My suggestions assume that you are new to being a speaker.

There are two schools of thought here represented quite well. I suggest you do both. I also suggest you create a Public Speaking Campaign Plan. Within the plan, identify specific activities you are going to use to generate leads (e.g., public speaking, public relations, direct mail, networking, referrals, publishing articles, radio interviews, television interviews, email campaigns, and hiring an agent).

Let’s focus on the first one, public speaking. I view speaking opportunities in four buckets:

  1. Free
  2. In-kind
  3. Expenses only
  4. Fee for service

When I am coaching speakers, I advise them to be deliberate, very deliberate when they engage a potential opportunity.

I do free events in my local area for exposure, a good cause, or both. I always ask about opportunities to write articles, receive testimonials, and introductions to other groups (makes this a hybrid free/in-kind).


Because of the free engagements early in my public speaking career, I received countless introductions to other groups and organizations that helped propel my success. Until you are proven for content and delivery, balance fee for service with exposure, even with a national book.

If an organization wants to record your presentation, then I emphatically say YES. Include in your contract you receive a high resolution version you may use in your business. By doing this,

  1. You just saved several thousand dollars in video production investment (notice I didn’t say cost)
  2. You now have a professionally mastered video
  3. You position yourself into a higher credibility public speaking category. Meeting Planners know a book does not automatically equate to great speaker. You can now prove you are a great speaker with your video
  4. You have great content to post on your website and YouTube channel

Some of the other comments hinted at the call-to-action at the end. It’s up to you as to how much you are going to plug your book, other products, and have back-of-the-room sales, etc. I definitely agree your book should be politely “pushed” and promoted.

Remember, you need the participants and event organizers to feel good about your speaking experience for you to get referrals.

The choices come down to a wide range of variables such as your calendar availability, revenue goals, who is in the audience, opportunities in your public speaking pipeline, and measured progress in your campaign.

Photography Source:  DepositPhotos

Ira Koretsky

Ira Koretsky has built The Chief Storyteller® into one of the most recognized names in communication, especially business storytelling. He has delivered over 500 keynote presentations and workshops in nearly a dozen countries, in more than one hundred cities, across 30 plus industries. His specialties are simplifying the complex and communicating when the stakes are high. He is also an adjunct professor in public speaking and storytelling at the University of Maryland's Business School. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after storytelling coach, global speaker, trainer, consultant, communication coach, and public speaking coach.