How Much Does a Professional Keynote Speaker Cost?

Although the cost of hiring a professional speaker varies widely, you can narrow that price tag down to a reasonable range. Let’s clear up what that speaking fee range is and how you can get the most for your dollar. We’ll start at the top.

Who are the highest-paid public speakers?

The highest-priced speakers tend to be highly visible, particularly in the realm of global politics or fame as a business mogul. For instance, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton have reportedly earned up to about half a million dollars for speaking engagements, while Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump have each commanded a price of $1 million or more. Similarly, Al Gore has been estimated to earn between $100,000 and $1 million per speaking engagement.

But don’t let those price tags worry you. These are the highest fees of some of the most publicly visible people in the U.S. Suffice to say, the combination of high public recognition and political or economic influence equate to higher fees. For your convention or other corporate event, you likely want a speaker who is more niche.

What can I expect to pay for a professional event speaker?

In some ways, the formula of “influence plus recognition equals higher speaking fees” that makes Richard Branson or Oprah Winfrey so costly plays out across the board. A celebrity speaker may run between $25,000 and $100,000.

A relative newcomer, on the other hand, may charge only $1,500 to $5,000 while top professionals may charge $5,000 to $10,000 or more. Other factors can come into play, such as location, venue and immediate availability. Still, the largest determinant of a speaker’s fee really boils down to popularity. A renowned speaker will be in higher demand, and therefore will likely charge a higher speaking fee.

What should I look for in a motivational speaker to get the best value?

If you have a large corporate budget, you will likely prefer to hire a top-tier professional capable of grabbing headlines at your event. But it’s not simply a case of “you get what you pay for.” Remember, every celebrity speaker started out as a newcomer at one time.

If you have a smaller budget, it just means that you have to research a little more. Look carefully at the speaker’s public media such as TEDx talks, YouTube videos and professional websites. Ensure that their subject matter, style and mission align with your needs. You might find just the motivational speaker you need to inspire your team or public guests.

Also, don’t narrow your list too tightly before contacting your preferred speakers or their booking agents. Once you are down to between three and five, begin reaching out. You may find that some of them are simply unavailable for the time or location that you have in mind. Also, as with any entrepreneurial pursuit or commodity, public speakers have fluctuations in demand, creating fluctuations in fees. An underbooked speaker whose fees press your top budget limit may charge less than an overbooked speaker whose fee is often lower.

It’s about more than money.

Finally, effectively communicate your exact needs at this booking stage. For instance, a professional speaker who seems overbooked may happen to be in your city or region at the time of your event. Or perhaps your event involves a cause they are intimately interested in that would lead them to consider scheduling you in. Professional speakers are dynamic people with deep passions about their work. While money is involved, try not to think of the arrangement simply in terms of a transaction. Be ready to sell the speaker or booking agent on how your event aligns with their mission, who your attendees will be and why your event will enhance the speaker’s portfolio or cause.

Photo by TheVisualsYouNeed/Shutterstock

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