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Should you speak for free?

Us speakers often have to decide whether to accept free or near-free gigs.

We love to present and know we can help people, but the proposed arrangement is sometimes lopsided. Examples:

  • Too small of an audience

  • Less than ideal situation

  • Long travel distance

  • Short lead time for planning and promotion

  • Not the best audience for your brand

  • The requested topic is not in your wheel house

Saying "yes," may feel good in the moment, but you'll eventually have to deal with everything that's wrong about the agreement.

No matter how appreciative the audience that day, you'll know you usually speak to a lot more people. The honorarium or stipend will never be proper (or even respectable) compensation for your time and skill set. The favor will start to feel more like a burden.

Plus, everyone knows that doing free speaking gigs usually generates invitations to speak free. #ugh

My advice

Get on the phone to ask questions and identify the hidden value of such invitations. This value can include:

  • An excuse execute multiple gigs or appointments

  • Soft money possibilities, such as a video shoot or promo

  • Meeting a key person who is expected to attend

  • An opportunity to practice new material and stay sharp

Hardly any speaking invitations are ideal

You can't micro-manage the quality of the who calls you when, but you are always in control of what happens with those invitations. You can either say, "yes" or "no."

If you accept, make sure you've done all you can to optimize the arrangement for both parties.

If you decline, make the best of the situation, don't complain and never regret it.

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