How much do we value speakers?

There is a little secret in the speaker world that no one really wants to talk about:  just how well are speakers paid?

WASHINGTON, August 19, 2012 -  There is a little secret in the speaker world that no one really wants to talk about:  just how well are speakers paid?

Did you know that speakers who have a calling, a real legitimate message they feel compelled to share, are sometimes not paid a dime?

Since I started to speak out about being trafficked as a minor, I have heard story after story of speakers traveling long distances at their own expense, speaking at an event, getting a great response and heartfelt endorsements, then receiving little to nothing from the event planners in way of payment.

One well known author was asked to speak, so she spent time and resources preparing her talk and power point presentation, drove her own car to the event and spent time giving her presentation. Afterward, the event planners told her in front of everyone, “Well done, please take one of our flower arrangements!” At least the designer who decorated the venue with the flower arrangements got paid.

This is not an isolated story.  Time and time again I have heard horror stories about little to no compensation or honorarium for speakers.

Why is this? Does this show just how little society values  speakers? Do people actually believe that because a person has a calling to speak that for some strange reason they do not require payment?  When you call a plumber to your home to provide a service, do you pay him? When you visit a doctor do you pay them?

Speakers spend considerable time preparing to talk at an event.  From the first point of contact to confirm a date to the actual speaking engagement, a speakers put in a large amount of time, planning and resources. In addition to time, the speaker allocates resources like ink and paper and photocopy charges.Then the speaker has to make arrangements and travel, either by train, plane or automobile, all which take time again and more money. The speaker then spends time giving the presentation and may have to spend the night near the venue, depending on location, before traveling back home.  

Add all of this up and you will have what the speaker was truly paid, if anything at all.

Sometimes, after calculating time, expenses and other costs, the venue declines saying the cost is too high.  Competition is fierce in the speaker world, just as in any other occupation, and speaking is a real occupation. Invitees sometimes pray on this fact, believing that if you will not accept the compensation they are offering, someone else will.

One suggestion is to divide what you are proposing to pay your speaker by the number of audience members. Say there are 200 people in the audience and you plan on paying your prospective speaker a fee of 150 or 200 dollars. That is less than a hamburger or a cup of coffee per person.  Can your organizations afford this?

There is a mistaken belief that a speaker with a of “spiritual” presentation does not need to be paid.  Some seem to believe that if a speaker has a “calling” to share their message, they do not need compensation.  This is, however, inaccurate.

What does this say about how speakers are valued? The only conclusion is that speakers are sometimes not valued at all.

That said, most of the speakers I know will work with invitees, sometimes even speaking for no fee if the need is indeed genuine.

Ultimately, like everything else in life, the responsibility must be with the speaker to make sure they are compensated accordingly they can then decide whether they are willing to speak or not. Holly Smith, survivor and author, has written a great resource for all speakers found here. It sets guidelines out clearly for both sides and keeps things clear between speaker and invitee. Using this resource or some kind of other contract is the best thing for all parties.

The bottom line is this, just how much do we value speakers? 


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Barbara Amaya

As a survivor of human trafficking Barbara Amaya speaks and writes from her experiences as a trafficked child. She has been published in varied media like Yahoo Voices! More magazine and her story of overcoming adversity has been featured on Fox News, Channel 4, Examiner, Animal New York, Washington Times and more.

She has a book in progress, A Girl’s Guide to Survival: Life Lessons from the Street, and has written a graphic novel about human trafficking targeted for middle and high school age students, you can get updates about Barbara her books and her activities in the anti-trafficking community at her website www.barbaraamaya.com follow her on twitter barbaraamaya4 and on facebook, linkedin and google + and pinterest

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