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Creative Tactics for Compensation

DJ Watson

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Following are the responses I received to my question: I'm writing an article for meeting planners on how to hire speakers on a reduced budget. What creative tactics have you used to get the gig when the client doesn't have your full fee? What have you done in lieu of fee or a trade out for part of your fee?

-- Della Menechella

I was asked to speak at the state-wide conference for my target industry. The association did not have the budget to pay my full fee so we came to an agreement that I would receive the contact information for all the attendees in an Excel file so I can then add them to my database. I also consider it as a marketing opportunity since the people who will attend are key decision makers who can hire me for their own organizations.

Dr. Paul Radde

You can negotiate:

  • Fee if registration hits a certain number.
  • Future fee if maintain certain evaluation criteria.
  • Good faith consideration of business by participants
  • Position on the program, e.g. for TSAE one day, 10-12 pm
  • Adequate time for setting up presentation - presenter co-op
  • Avoid the 1:30-3:30 slot
  • Request a meeting room that is centrally located
  • Get an introduction from a revered member of organization
  • Write it and have delivered as written
  • Back of the room sales privileges - manned by their person
  • A booth in the exhibit area
  • Advance interview article on you in publication
  • Article written by you.
  • Inclusion in the bookstore
  • Full registration and inclusion in the event
  • Contact with potential buyers in special events
  • Free magazine advertising, flyer in mailing, e-mail notices
  • Local purchase of your products
  • Inclusion in organization on-going product sales with ads.
  • Have introducer read product pitch at close of presentation
  • Find out with whom you are competing for participants
  • Get coverage by a writer from their magazine/newsletter
  • Testimonial letter written on organization letterhead - and
  • State association recommendation to National.
  • Extra hotel nights with concierge privileges. Sat. stay over.
  • Market in city of meeting
  • Be assured a non-smoking room, solid sleep conditions.
  • Assistance in getting on radio, television interviews
  • Newspaper coverage
  • Free registration to future organizational events, meetings
  • Full page of advertising meted out in 3-4 editions.
  • Full rights, unlimited use of photos by local photographer
  • Guarantees to have several articles in publications/year
  • A link to your website
  • Get an allowance for your handouts, or have them produce
  • Add on or handout a take-home marketing sheet
  • Charge a fee for handout complement to session
  • Include your own evaluation + referral recommendation

Maria Marsala

  1. Received 1/2 fee + 1/2 fee in Mary Kay products. I gave them a list of what I needed. It was great. Like Christmas in April!
  2. I've spoken in return for newsletter ads -- but only for groups where more than 90% of members are my ideal clients.
  3. I'm in discussions with two organizations and most likely web site link; newsletter ads and membership will be part of the deal.

Kathy Fediw

I will often negotiate a free trade show booth in lieu of part of my speaking fee. The last time this netted me consulting work that was worth 5 times my speaking fee within just the first month. I also negotiated free advertising as a "conference sponsor" that was published in several issues of trade journals pertaining to my target market.

I will sometimes offer a lower speaking fee and charge them for a handout workbook for each attendee and can sometimes wind up making even more money by charging this way (has to do with their budgeting).

Locally I charge by the half-hour with a minimum. The half-hour fee "sounds" better and they like the feeling of flexibility and control they get by determining how many half-hours I'll speak. It's all in how customers perceive things, isn't it?

Rebecca Morgan

This just happened yesterday with a planner who said they had no budget. It was a local meeting in front of meeting planners, so I wanted to do it. She said they were having exhibitors, so I asked for examples. I asked her to go to specific ones and ask if they'd be willing to sponsor the speaker by giving me their product. So far, she's working on getting me a new Palm Pilot, a weekend in Napa at a great inn, and other goodies. We'll see what she ends up with, but no matter what it is, it will be more than I got without asking!

I've also received as part or my entire fee: a 5-unit digital phone system, wireless headset, lots of weekend stays (one hotel gave me half fee and half gift certificates, so we stayed there every quarter as a retreat!), a HI vacation, and countless other items I can't remember off the top of my head!

Here's a list I pull up when the conversation starts to go to fee:

"I want to be fair to the clients who have paid my full fee. What could you give me in return that goes beyond what the clients who pay my full fee would do?

  • They get a sponsor to pay for the rest of your fee. Ask them to arrange sponsorship from one of their suppliers (much more valuable to their audience than sponsoring a coffee break or cocktail hour.
  • Book this year's and next year's conferences at the same time (different topics).
  • Holding fee and doing additional breakout sessions so they don't have to hire additional presenters or pay their expenses.
  • Pay in full up front for discount
  • Multiple dates on other projects they control.
  • They buy your product(s) for everyone (the cost comes out of another budget)
  • You get some of their product in exchange
  • You are allowed to sell your products
  • They help staff your product table
  • They give a product pitch for you
  • They write you a letter of recommendation, on their letterhead, within 10 days
  • They send a letter recommending you to 5 top execs that they know personally, within 10 days.
  • You get booth space at the conference
  • They include your info in the conference packages
  • They send your order info to their membership in their newsletter
  • Will they allow you to write a paid article or series for their publication?
  • Will they provide an air ticket to the site for spouse?
  • A copy of the attendee list, if not normally available, w/address, email and phone
  • On-site coverage and/or a story. The newspaper name(s), address(es) and contact(s) so I can contact them personally.
  • Offer to pick up your own travel expenses (use your frequent flyer mileage instead), sometimes a saving of $500-700)

Brad Plumb, CMP

The all-inclusive airfare: The airline savvy speakers that I work with know how to work the system IF there is an incentive for them to do so. However, I always make sure that the meeting planner is responsible for the hotel with the bill placed on the master. I want to make sure that the speaker is staying at the headquarters hotel, not the cheaper one next to the airport.

Expenses not to exceed: Used more for negotiating more than 6 months out, when the economy (including the airlines) may change dramatically.

Multiple engagements for the same meeting: There may be money available for other speaking slots, including breakouts. In some cases, if the speaker can speak twice in a half-day period, (note: I said some cases) an agreement can be reached where everybody is happy.

Bartering, or payment in kind: Sometimes the meeting planner can offer things of value that cost them little, instead of dealing in cash. Recently I worked with an aircraft electronics manufacturer who gladly traded a top of the line piece of equipment to the speaker who happened to be a pilot. In the past I have negotiated for airline tickets, farm tractors, boating equipment, and resort packages to name just a few.

In all cases, it is extremely important to justify the reason for the negotiation. I write this up under a separate paragraph that starts out, "Special consideration was given in the negotiation of the speakers fee for the following reasons..." I also make sure that the meeting planner understands that this negotiation is proprietary information and that divulging any of the details could, not only nullify the contract, but negatively effect future business with this client.

There are many reasons that the speaker might want to negotiate their fee. A few reasons might be: if the engagement is less than 60 days out, if they have relatives in that town, if it is a resort location or maybe the speaker just wants to get on the inside track with the organization. However, for the speaker to maintain "fee integrity" they need to explain in detail why a "special case" was justified.

Mitch Carnell

In speaking to a convention of small inn operators that was meeting locally requiring no out of pocket expense on my part, I traded half of my fee for nights in various inns in the Southeast. I then gave these nights as gifts. Everyone was very happy with the arrangement.

Marsha Petrie Sue

  1. Ask for a complete list of contact information including e-mail to send each participant a thank you note for attending. Members will receive a trial, free edition of my newsletter to extend my message and the value from the presentation (I have never had anyone say no)
  2. Annual membership to the association paid by the group
  3. Ask for two personal referrals to two of their colleagues that could possibly pay my full fee. This includes an e-mail introducing me to the person.
  4. A testimonial on their letterhead
  5. Ability for members to purchase my programs at the back of the room. I will often give the association a percentage of the proceeds back to donate to their favorite charity (they love this one and I sell a bunch)
  6. Following up with the membership 30 - 60 days after the program to see if the information was transferred to their professional or personal life (keeps me branding my name to them).

Ed Peters

I speak for free and below fee all the time. My educational materials sales average about $5,000 for audiences of 60-70, so it's a no-brainer for me to make that work. In fact, I beat out other speakers all the time because I can afford to negotiate fee more often. I am working on an association right now where I have offered to donate my fee to their educational foundation AND donate an additional amount equal to my fee from my materials sales. Why would I do that? Because they will have 2,000 people in the audience and I expect to sell $50,000 in materials! I am being evaluated with 12 other speakers who are charging fees...think I might have a chance to get the engagement?

I have another strategy where if I have to cut a fee on a bureau booking, I pay the bureau a commission on my full fee. Why? Because they will promote me over other speakers knowing the client gets a top speaker and they get their full fee...plus their share on my materials sales sometimes doubles their commission.

This is why it is SO important for speakers to have materials to sell...because fees are going to be harder and harder to get. And I don't mean $15 books. My average sale is now $277/person...I print manuals for $4 and sell them for $100 and more.

Roger Herman

We look at exchange of value, though we always seek cash first. Other exchange media include bulk book purchases, participant lists, promotion of product or services on the client website, multiple engagements, personalized letters of referral, face-to-face referrals (you take me and the prospect to lunch and introduce--works for local clients), and advertising space in association/trade magazines. Also video or audio taping--and maybe editing--of presentations.

Resli Costabell

I'll always give the client reasons for accepting other than my fee, e.g., enjoying working with them, grateful for previous engagements, profile raising for me. I do this in an attempt to make sure that I'm still valuable in their eyes.

Recently, I was asked to do a speaking engagement at a summit in Vienna. They couldn't afford me at all. I offered to do two 45-minute talks that I've done many times before, so little preparation needed. In exchange, they paid for my sweetheart and me to travel from my home in London to Vienna on Friday night, and stay in a five star hotel through the end of the summit, on Tuesday. We got 70 euros a day for food. I was invited to attend all of the summit sessions that I wanted, and my sweetheart and I both were invited to the gala dinner. So my only expenses were any entertainment, travel and personal items within Vienna. A free holiday, in exchange for two talks I could do with my eyes closed. The talks also resulted in my being asked to speak at a conference in Switzerland in October.

Robert Oxley

Here are the points that I negotiate with a pro-bono contract:

"In return for waiving the fee, the following conditions must be met:

  • Item #1. 60 minutes for Robert's talk (plus or minus 5 minutes)

    Note: I do not do seminars or breakouts for free. The keynote is okay as it is a chance to advertise my skills and abilities to what is usually a very large audience.

  • Item #2. Audience must think Robert is getting his fee

    Note: I once had a person introduce me by saying something to the effect of: Oxley is here and we got him for free. It was a great lesson as I was doing a sales seminar and everyone in the room knew that I could not get my price, etc. Never again!

  • Item #3. All expenses

    Note: if you can't get expenses and a great room or something you really aren't worth being there. Having to pay to attend your own presentation is demoralizing and sick!

  • Item #4. Full registration to the show, social meetings, etc.

    Note: this is the opening to networking. I want to be at the board of directors meetings and/or the trade show exhibitor's social. This is where the future business is - shakin' hands and kissin' babies.

  • Item #5. Right to tastefully mention our educational products

    Note: the right audience will more than make up my fee by buying my product. If they will not let you sell you stuff you really don't belong there. The bottom line is that you have to make money.

  • Item #6. There must be 50 people or more in attendance.

    Note: I have done freebies and had almost no one show up. They thought so little of me -- because I was free = no value -- that they didn't even advertise that I was in the room. (Good speakers get paid)

  • Item #7. Referral letter from your top official (within one week after the event).

    Note: If this a place or position you really want to be seen at, you need to get these endorsements. They are worth the cost of advertising and then some. Several times I have leveraged these into mega contracts.

  • Item #8. Promote us to you national or regional events and give us the list of national officers (within one week after the event).

    Note: The meeting planner helps me make contacts and get business opportunities then we are partners. If they will not recommend me -- and help me -- get business from helping them do their business, I don't want any part of them or their cheap association.

  • Item #9. Mailing list of chapter members (if applicable) and all in attendance (within one week after the event)

    Note: I use this mailing list to do a pre-mailing -- and invitation to come to my event -- at least I can draw a crowd and sometimes these mailing result in the recipient contacting me for their event. It makes my being at the event up close and personal.

  • Item #10. Robert has the right to cancel up to seven days before the event if one of our clients asks for our services.

    Note: This does not work, but it makes for good negotiating. I can kick it if I have to give something up or I will change it to 30 or 45 days out. Once I commit to being there, how do I say I will not? This gives me the opportunity to show them that I am booked all the time -- thus a VIP.

LeAnn Thieman

If I need to negotiate fee:

  • "I don't normally reduce my fees, but I'm going to this time because...." Especially try to make it so it serves them if you do.
  • "LeAnn is being marketed all around the country by her agent and bureaus at this fee, so you can understand I can not undercut them; that would be unethical."
  • "LeAnn would love to work with you. Let's discuss what you can offer her in-kind service or products that will equalize this so that she can maintain her fee integrity."
  • "What can you offer to make up the difference?" This turns the conversation into brainstorming session, rather than our coming up with a list of demands. If they say "exposure", say "We get that from our full-fee clients. Can you think of something else?"
  • LeAnn will throw in a break out session at no additional cost.
  • 500 GREAT letters of recommendation on company stationery to send to clients.
  • Speak for free and take what they offer (no less than $2500?) in advanced book sales, or audiotape sales, so attendees can take the message home with them... a gift!
  • Often there's a separate budget for educational materials. See if they can purchase a book for each participant as a gift to them; often put in their room the night before.
  • Take what they offer (no less than $2500) with a guarantee that book sales will make up difference to equal $3500. If not, they pay the difference.
  • I'll pay my own expenses.
  • Print an article by me, or interview with me, in their journal, with my contact info. at the end. (Sometimes articles are for pay)
  • THREE articles about me in their newsletter or publication PRIOR to and after the event.
  • I get advertising space in their journal
  • I get a list of all attendees
  • Letter of referral from them for Amy to send to all state chapters
  • Three referral letters of recommendation to allied professional organizations
  • Make three phone calls recommending me to other organizations or association.
  • Ask for multiple dates on other projects they book
  • Book this year and next year's conference now (different topic)
  • Ask them to arrange sponsorship from one of their suppliers, which is much more valuable to their audience than a coffee break or cocktail hour...well, maybe not cocktail hour!
  • If attendees or meeting planners have access to hotels or vacation spots, we can barter for those.
  • If they have money for travel, book a second ticket for spouse (or marketing agent!) (Sometimes they use frequent flier miles for this.)
  • Guarantee coverage by local press or media, i.e. newspaper story about me and the event, radio interview, TV news
  • Video tape the presentation and give me a beta tape
  • Audio tape the presentation for me
  • Take less but still write a check for $200 to IMH (that comes from a charity fund and is usually easier)
  • (Eventually) Speak for free and donate what they have to spend to Friends of Children of Vietnam

Sandra Shrift

  • A vendor to the client would be willing to sponsor all or part of the fee. A second sponsor might pay the travel expenses. The speaker offers to help the sponsor present him or herself at the event. Vendor uses it as a marketing tool.
  • Get the money from the training department's budget or education department, if it's separate the convention budget. Where else can you get the money from the budget?
  • Allow client to pay part of the fee from this year's budget and then balance from next year's budget. Take deposit now and then delay the additional payment until after the convention.
  • Let the client pay installments, but it should on the excess fee above budgeted amount. Fee is $5,000, but they only have $4,000, so the client could pay installments on the extra $1,000 over a practical time period.
  • If speaker really wants booking, perhaps speaker will pay own travel in return for special consideration, like putting books in back of room, referral, testimonials, or phoning on your behalf.
  • Look at expanding your bookings. Book multiple engagements with client and offer a quantity discount, so it brings the cost per program down.
  • Go to do a program, there are at least three other speakers or so who are hired, speaker can do keynote and breakout and coaching session with top performers and board of directors, cost would be less than having several people come in. Educating client about different needs you can meet as a speaker.
  • How would you expand the scope of your speech? Would you be willing to let the client videotape you for a small extra fee for new hires and absentees? Could they take the videotape and sell it to the folks who didn't get to attend and recoup some of their money?
  • If they have the capability, can the video broadcast the program so they can spread it out, use distance learning?
  • If speaker has product, would the speaker be allowed to sell a book or CD for each attendee? Allow part of the product profits be used to reduce fee, client would purchase up front and apply it toward the fee. Gift for attendees; walk home with it in their hands. Stay after program and autograph book.
  • Come in and do something before or after the program and do some extra consulting or coaching for not much more money, travel is already paid.
  • Schedule a special conference either by telephone on bridge line or Internet conference before or after the convention included in fee, for attendees who can't attend the conference. If have questions, can get them directly answered. If they call, offer to sent them a tape or special report, drive them to site to purchase more materials. That is if they have the money, ask for extra things. Trying to get more bang for their buck. Make meeting planner look larger.
  • If you have a charitable foundation, they can give the smaller amount to their preferred charity.

Ann Elliott

I recently agreed to accept part of my speaking/training fee in a year's membership in the organization.

Troy Evans

In addition to the standards of allowing product sales, videotaping the presentation and supplying me with the master and setting up some kind of media exposure, one of my two favorites is allowing me to have guests attend the presentation for preview purposes. In fact, this is about the only "marketing" my office does. Between my database, associations and companies with the area, and other groups who are holding events around the same timeframe, there are always 6-12 CEO's, Executive Directors, etc. who would love to see me live. As you know, nothing sells like a live presentation and it allows them to see exactly what they would be getting. It's a win-win for everyone! Secondly, if the location is appealing, I will also negotiate to have my wife accompany me and with a couple of extra hotel nights, spa time, green fees or whatever, it can become a working vacation. I have found that many clients have members or acquaintances that can provide these perks at no cost to the client -- again, everyone is happy.

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