If you’re coordinating a speaker for your event, you’re likely trying to ensure your audience leaves better off than they were before – and that means you’re looking for your speaker to provide a return on your investment. In addition to the hotel or conference center, you’re juggling catering, coffee service and even the color of linens on the table. There’s a lot of spinning plates to manage – selecting a speaker being just one of them!

Selecting a keynote speaker is a difficult process, mostly because so few speakers take the time to learn about the audience they’re presenting to, understand their challenges and work collaboratively with you to ensure your outcomes are met within your budget. Some speakers say they speak for free, and others charge tens of thousands of dollars. What’s the difference between them and how do we choose the best speaker for our group?

Every speaker calculates their fee differently, and they don’t all deliver the same quality of talk depending on their rate. To help you better select your speaker, we put together a simple system to guide you in understanding what’s available at different fee ranges.

What Can I Get For Free?

Very few speakers are willing to speak for free, even in a virtual setting. This is because many professional speakers are running businesses of their own, and those businesses have overhead costs that are due on a regular basis, just like your audience members’ businesses have.

Even if a speaker did no pre-event work to deliver a presentation customized to your audience’s needs, it still takes time to travel to/from an event site and even with a virtual presentation, time to set up the virtual studio and present.


Speakers in this fee range are just getting their start on the professional circuit and are likely not thought leaders or those who are innovating solutions in their field. It is possible to secure quality speakers in this fee range, but few have put in the time or repetitions to conduct customized, engaging events that leave your audience with new ideas and actionable take-aways.


This is the range many professional speakers are comfortable charging in, and for good reason – they understand the work it takes to learn about an audience customize their material to that audience’s needs, and ensure that enough value-added information is passed on to achieve their meeting planner or event organizer’s objectives. For entirely virtual conferences, this fee range allows speakers who charge much more to deliver the same value they would from a live stage – but without incurring the cost and time or traveling to an event site.


This is the fee range that thought leaders, innovators and even celebrities and sports figures tend to charge. These speakers have worked for decades to hone their craft, have presented hundreds of times to a wide variety of audiences, and understand how to tailor their content to be applicable and easily consumable to the particular audience they’re presenting to. Speakers in this fee range are also able to include many value-added items outside the keynote itself to help drive registration, increase attendance in sessions, allow attendees more interaction throughout the talk with the speaker and each other, and include digital take-aways such as ebooks and online courses to help ensure audiences use what they learn after the event ends.


Speakers in this fee range aren’t simply thought leaders in their industry – they are creating new industries altogether. This is the fee range that bestselling authors, nationally-syndicated columnists and those who have overcome extreme adversity tend to work within. Speakers in this fee range are also able to include a much expansive list of take-aways for their audiences, such as hard-copy books, customized courses, digital workshops and follow-on content that will allow audience members to become innovators and influencers in their own industries.


Speakers in this range tend to be celebrities, former and current politicians, and CEOs or large organizations. While they do retain name recognition, they rarely deliver actionable take-aways that help event organizers achieve ROI from their investment. Rubbing elbows with a former A-lister will not help your audience recapture lost revenue or prepare them for the changes they can’t see coming, after all. These celebrities rarely customize anything for the audiences they speak to and are usually more concerned with how fast they can get from the stage to the airport – instead of how much value they can deliver even after they leave the stage.


Speakers are great at selling themselves through their words, which is why they’re paid so much to speak. Having worked with hundreds of speakers across the globe, we found that speakers aren’t the people event organizers should be listening to when looking for the right speaker for their audience.

Who SHOULD they be listening to?

Other event organizers. We’ve compiled a list of event organizers and their thoughts on what makes a great speaker at one of their events. You can hear their thoughts by clicking the button below.