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Speaker Tip Q&A: Kevin, what would you do?

Just yesterday I received this message below from one of my rockstar coaching clients. If this were you, what would you do?

Question: Kevin, I have a bit of a dilemma. I completed a proposal to speak at a ________ event, which they are charging registration. They accepted my proposal and asked that I be a concurrent speaker. They sent over the contract but didn't include the budget. I found out they don't have a budget for concurrent speakers. What's your best advice? I'd have to cover my own air, lodging, etc.

My response: First, congrats on being selected! ________ is quite competitive so the fact you were selected is a testimony to your solid program description and how submitted your RFP proposal. Very rarely do conferences pay for breakout speakers, so I'm not surprised. They do pay for keynote speakers. Was your proposal for a breakout or a keynote? Usually, proposals are clear about not paying breakout speakers so I am curious where any confusion may have come from. If you are presenting two+ breakouts, and _________ is your target audience, then I'd lean toward YES, DO IT. However if you are presenting just one breakout and you have to invest in $1,000+ for travel, then I would lean toward NO, STAY LOCAL. The size of the conference should also be a factor. If this is a larger conference of 500+ where you might have 100 people in your breakout session, I might sway to be OK with presenting just one breakout. Do some homework on prior events and you can find this out pretty quickly. For future breakout submissions in this target association, I'd focus on _________ events that you can drive to so you don't have to shell out $1,000+ for travel. Lastly, to help you with this situation, first figure out where the confusion on payment comes from. Perhaps you applied for a keynote and submitted the correct form, but they selected someone else, or others, and they are asking you to consider being a breakout speaker. If that's the case, I would still let them know what your fee is and try to barter something for it. For example, tell them you will cut your fee in half ($2,500), provide two breakout sessions, provide some of your books, a free eBook download and create a welcome video to help boost registrations for the conference. You might find them "creatively" find budget because you are providing so much value. Keep me posted ;)) Good dilemma ... all that help?

Their response: Thanks so much. Makes sense. I'll take that approach. I just need to find more paid opportunities. I understand some will be pro bono of course. Thanks for responding so quickly.

My response: Remember, the best marketing for speakers is to speak! No one can refer you for speaking or hire you for speaking unless they have seen you speak or heard about you speaking through someone else. Even with pro bono gigs, you should be getting some spin-off. I'd focus on local chapters until you start getting referred - review Module 3 in my book PAID to $PEAK! That takes out the travel issue ... you have 14 chapters of _________ in your state alone and they all book speakers monthly! That could be 14 engagements for you this year.


Speaking is not a one-size-fits all approach. Usually when I am asked questions, the answer is, "It depends." This is where having someone to ask questions and bounce ideas off of is so extremely helpful and valuable.

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To your speaking success, ~ Kevin

* Visit my website,, for sample program descriptions, demo videos and client summary. If I have spoken for a group you want to get into, let me know!


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