Recently, on the Genealogical Speakers Guild list I posed some questions about speakers fees. I was curious about how flexible speakers were on their fees, knowing that a good one hour lecture represents and investment of 50 hours work -time that could be used serving paying clients. And thus a four lecture seminar means a 200 hour investment. At $25 per hour thats a $5000 investment. Speakers were asked if they would barter for part of the fee. I was surprised at the large number of respondants who reduced fees, and how few mentioned bartering for some of the fee. But its the desenters, the speakers who would not budge on fees that made most sense to me.
Donna Moughty , a friend, colleague, and a fine genealogy educator, based in connecticut wrote,
“I typically will not adjust my fee…I don’t think it’s fair to
charge different rates to various groups. Once that is done, the
word does spread and everything becomes negotiable. My experience
has been that most organizations can meet my fee. They may be
reluctant at first, but typically will get back to me and book a
date. When someone says they cannot pay what I charge, I thank them,
and ask that they keep me in mind for the future or for an annual
The cost of developing a lecture is high, as previously discussed
and I also have to maintain a digital projector and computer (I
recently spent $370 for a replacement bulb for the projector). With
travel time (I have a flat fee for a lecture but I do charge mileage/
expenses) it’s hard to justify a lower amount considering that I
could use that time for client research and make considerably more
than on a lecture. If I were to reduce my fee in order to get repeat
business, then I’ve set a precedent and am losing money each time.
Donna was not the only person who spoke up for not rediucing speakers fees. The famous fellow blogger DearMyrtle writes,
“I do not discount my fee though I do offer my services for free to the local
genealogy society. As a result of this policy one society in the region
promptly gifted Ol’ Myrt with a lifetime membership. However, they continued to provide a small honorarium, to defray the travel costs.
Generally, if one doesn’t discount fees, the societies then consider such a
speaker for a larger annual event, which is usually a fundraiser for them.
It’s a win-win. With a larger audience there is the potential for the
speaker to sell more of his/her books.”
In negotiating, like teaching, silence is an important tool. Educators learn to pose a problem then shut up while the learner works things out. It takes patience. Patrick Lee learned how to use this in negotiating. In a recent issue of SpeakerNet News, Patrick Lee, a professional seminar speaker commented,
Recently, a group wanted to hire me but said they had only 60% of my fee in their budget. There was a short lead time, the date was available, the event only 60 miles away, and the client a prestigious one. Once upon a time, all of those things would have induced me to accept what they offered. Instead, I asked what they had that might make up the difference. We discussed what advertising or promotional services they might offer that could equal the missing 40%. During our next conversation, they raised the amount offered to 80%, but we didn’t reach an agreement on what the extras might be. We agreed to settle it the next time we spoke. When that time came, the meeting planner said, “We’ll just pay your regular fee.” Lesson: They found the money even when they said it wasn’t available. For me, cash is still better than “free” advertising in a medium I wouldn’t choose on my own.
There are some other strategies. Here’s one. Rather than reduce fees, increase value of offering. Paula Stuart-Warren , one of my favorite genealogy lecturers, used to offer a half-hour after dinner speech as an add on to her four lecture seminar. I used to offer to lead a discussion with the executive on a society management issue.
Click here for ideas on bargaining with speakers.
Click here for more thoughts on adding value rather than reducing fees.