You Get What You Pay For… Free Speakers

Like everything else in life, “You get what you pay for!” If your speaker is free, then they are probably worth every penny.

Speakers who speak for free don’t benefit bureaus, event planners, other speakers, content experts, associations, and especially the audience.  There are several problems with getting a presentation from someone with a company name (draw), for free.  

The Fortune 500 Free Speaker

First and foremost, they aren’t working for free.  They have full time jobs working for their respective companies.  Their company will pay their way, their registration fee, their hotel, their meals, their cab fare, their airfare, and their payroll.  Are they taking personal time or vacation time off to speak?  No, they aren’t presenting for free, they are getting paid, only from their employer.

Like all employers, they expect an R.O.I.; a Return On their Investment for all of those expenses and time away from their office.  That’s common sense.  Their company gets this ROI through exposure.  Exposure to the company name, their employee name, a logo’d shirt, logo’d slide-deck, and through their employee’s one hour presentation in front of the audience.  All the while, that employee / presenter has to “selling from the podium”, either conscientiously or sub-conscientiously.   This makes for good R.O.I. for the company, but bad content for the audience.

Selling from the podium is a BIG “no” for any professional speaker.  It’s kind of like television.  Commercial TV is free, but every 7 minutes you get hit with 2 1/2 minutes of annoying commercial advertising. Premium cable shows have no commercial interruptions, because you pay for them in advanced.  One way or another we all have to pay for quality content.  As you know, free content is worth just that.  There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

The other problem is that people from you or your clients industry, aren’t people subject matter experts.  If you got sick, you wouldn’t turn to another printer or portable sanitation association member and ask what you should do.  You would go to a subject matter expert, a professional, a doctor.  

I see it ALL the time.  Someone from Xerox, or Pepsi is talking about social media marketing.  They don’t do social media marketing (or professional speaking, topic of your choice) 40, 50, 60 hours a week and they didn’t write a bestselling book on the subject either.

They might have stumbled across something that might have worked, but by far, they are not subject matter experts.  They just don’t know that topic well enough to present and answer questions on that subject.  They may have found a trick, but that’s not who you really want “teaching” your members.  You need a professional who, that’s all they do.  Whether it’s marketing, sales, leadership, customer service, or other profession speaking topic.

Using a Fortune 500 Company speaker as a draw, does only that, draws attendance to that conference.  If they can’t deliver quality content in a professional and entertaining manner, you won’t have a conference to draw to the following year.

The Free Consultant Speaker

With an economy and corporate budgets still struggling, a lot of people, mostly consultants are willing to present questionable content for free, just to get in front of a large number of people they can hawk their services to. There will be a sales pitch.  You have to offset all of those expenses somehow.  Common sense says you can’t work for free or worse, pay to work, even if you try to make it up in volume.

While Fortune 500 company names draw and the sound of “free” speaker sounds appealing, be sure to hire a professional for your next event.  The take-aways will add value to your existing membership while showing future members the value of becoming a member. 

Working with a professional will more than pay for itself in the long run.

For more information on Lon Safko, go to:

Lon Safko is a respected international keynote speaker and the author of “The Social Media Bible” and “The Fusion Marketing Bible“.

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