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How to negotiate your speaking fee in 5 practical steps

Negotiating speaker fees, especially in the midst of a pandemic, can be tricky business. In this guest contributed article, veteran professional speaker and leadership expert Ricky Nowak shares some great pointers to ensure that you are paid your worth.

When my speaking buddies and I started speaking professionally around the year 2000, most of us didn’t have a business bone in our bodies. In fact, only a handful of us had done a real profit and loss statement or sales report.

We had come from other careers or industries like teaching, communication, sales or IT and had found each other through the National Speakers Association Australia (NSAA) as it was known then. It  was the sweet spot where performance and skill met and could thrive. What we had in common was a love for entertaining and engaging others, connecting, and the magic of the platform. What we didn’t know was that it took more than that to run a business. So we spent money and time learning new platform skills, going to conferences, connecting with others ‘just like us’ and came away empowered and on fire – ready to take on the world. Sadly, it was only a few of us who got to see much of it after a while because we didn’t know how to charge! This naivety alone proved to be the difference between those of us who were able to thrive and those that nose-dived! 

So experience became our teacher and we learnt how to negotiate through trials of fire. Some burned, some frizzled, and some just didn’t catch on at all.

So, if you’re serious about building your speaking business into a seven- figure sum you better get serious about how to negotiate your fee or you too may leave a lot of opportunity or options out on the table – especially in a world trying to emerge from Covid -19.  In fact, if you’re serious about even staying in business during these uncertain times, now is the time to really hone your negotiation skills with as much passion as you do your platform skills. No amount of brilliant tech skills or even great presentation skills will keep you in business if you can’t commercialise your conversations at a superior level.

It’s that simple, yet for obvious reasons, that hard. Talking money has never been an easy topic for most people. Asking for it, following up on it, or even saying it out loud has created more angst among people than anything else.  The truth is it’s not that we don’t like to talk about money or value it. It is just because we were largely never taught and when things are unpredictable like now, it is even tougher to work out what to say. 

However, now is a great time  to put on your training wheels and learn how to get the fee you deserve, and not the fee that may be offered the first time up. They are often two very different figures and it is up to you to show that the value of your work has little to do with the  cost of your presentation but with the intrinsic and extrinsic reward their people and business get as a result of your work. 

Here are five tips to help you negotiate your fee:


  1. Confidence is trusted – Arrogance or ego is not. Go back to basics and learn the top techniques of negotiation and sales with an expert. Don’t go for something light and fluffy. Study different negotiation styles to understand your style and how you adapt under pressure. Then study other styles to work out how to best interact and communicate with different people.
  2. Do loads of improv work with your fellow speakers or a coach to put you through your paces and practice how to stand in your value, especially when there are price objections or expectations that are not congruent with what your offer is. Know what is on the table and what is not before you start.
  3. Ensure that you always have a series of conceptual agreements that you work towards in any conversation so that you know your MSP (Maximum or Minimum Settlement Point) and have no regrets.
  4. Make your value exceptionally clear and specific to the other party so that price is not even on the table as an issue. Research your client extensively and determine where their pain points are so that you can create a compelling case for consensus.
  5. If there is no fee agreement, ensure that you outline exactly what you want in lieu:
  • Personal introductions to 3-5 key people, outlining your value to these contacts
  • Opportunity to sell/include product to organisation
  • Client to do a direct mail out to their delegates about you with all your details
  • 3 testimonials (including a video testimonial) directly on Linkedin within 2 days of the presentation 
  • Keynote speaker (MC/trainer) at their next event for full fee (confirmed in writing)

Negotiating your fee is the first step to building a 7-figure business. The second step is delivering on your promise and never negotiating with yourself or others for a second class presentation. In our brave new world you too need to be brave in calling your fee virtually and in real time. It is worth considering what is more important right now in regards to fees. Given the new virtual presentation opportunities, here is a chance to rewrite your negotiation playbook but always know that whatever you decide when it comes to fees,  it is never at the expense of the client’s reputation, values or integrity. As for yourself, make sure that you stand true to the value that you have earned.

Ricky Nowak is a Certified Speaking Professional with over 25 years in the Speaking industry. She works with leading global companies and individuals helping them present, communicate and lead with authenticity and integrity both on and off the platform – virtually and in real life! For more information, visit: www.rickynowak.com 

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