The other day I received a call inviting me to speak at a prestigious college.

However, it wasn’t your normal “let’s hire Rob” call that I normally receive. It was something else. Something that irritated me and prompted me to share the conversation to my social friends.

Here’s how the phone conversation went…

Caller: Hey Rob do you want to speak at our next event?

Sure, I say.

Caller: Fantastic I’ll send you an invoice to get you started.

Whoa, hold the phone, you want me to pay to speak to your event?

Caller: Why yes, that’s how we do things!

Well, it’s not how I do things. I charge to speak to audiences.

Caller: That’s crazy.

What’s crazy is you trying to take advantage of people by telling them they need to pay to speak while also charging attendees to listen.

Caller: Well Rob, thats the new model.

Then count me out.

Caller: Your loss. (Then immediately hangs up)

I posted that conversation along with my take (my opinion) of the whole “Pay to Play” speaking model.

“Never, ever pay to speak. I don’t care if it’s the new model, stick to your guns and charge for your knowledge. If you have to give a free talk, that’s fine, but never pay to speak.”

The responses I received were overwhelming to say the least.

Some were for and some were against. Well to be fair, the majority were against it…but I did see the validity in the comments that were for the idea.

I’ll share some of the comments…

and you can decide if “pay to play” speaking will work for you.

“I’ve had that happen on several occasions. Anyone who does this is creating problems for the rest of us. There is even a website out there that claims to be a “disruptive” business model, telling event organizers that speakers will pay to present at their events. Not me!” – Greg Jameson

“I don’t think it’s a bad model necessarily but the way they went about it was wrong and rude it sounds.” – Katrina Sawa

“That is such BS!” – Scott Sylvia

“I had the same exact experience. They said I only had to pay $10,000 to get up on stage and speak to their audience of 1000 people. I said no. I said I’m more than happy to charge you $10,000 for my time to travel to your event, stay in a hotel and then share my knowledge with your audience. They said no thanks.The feeling was mutual.” – Gerry Oginski

“That is userous and ridonkulous. Absolutely. I’ve been invited to speak at events that would have cost me three thousand dollars. Just can’t do it. Would those who invite you, pay to speak at your event? The new model? Let’s get that thought right out of those ridiculously greedy heads.” – Tom Wright

“Depends on who is in the audience, my friend. That’s what you want to ask the caller next time. I paid an association to speak one time and sold a $1.9 Million dollar contract to a Fortune 500 President sitting in the back row in LA Convention center. Cleared $1.7. Was that worth the $1500 I paid to speak?” – Steve Siiebold

“I get my fee ($9,500 plus air and hotel) and the right to tell them what I offer in the way of books, etc. What they make above and beyond that is 100% their’s – no matter how much. Example: The gross ticket sales at a recent event were roughly $200,000, but my fee stayed flat at $9,500 plus sales. We both won!” – Ben Gay III

“I was in contact with an organization for almost a year. I sent them three proposals. They actually sent me a program with my bio and topics. But they never responded to my proposals. Finally they told me they couldn’t pay me anything, and they wouldn’t even cover my airfare. Up to the end, I thought they were trying to strong arm me. But nothing happened. Beyond puzzling.” – Harry Hall

“LOONEY TUNES” – Valerie Harris

“Rob I think there are times when it makes sense, I have paid to speak and made great money doing it.” – Stefan Aarnio

“That’s kind of like the time a “guru” office called me & kept me on phone THIRTY minutes wanting to partner doing deals, only to ask for $10K “partner fee” at the end. I said that was great, I charged that same amount for MY “partner fee” so did they want to trade checks or just get busy? You could HEAR his jaw drop LOLOL” – Rissa Collins

Now although I don’t recommend the whole “pay to play” speaking model…Brian Howie did educate me on benefits of using this type of platform if you so choose.

And as Michelle Finnegan Nixon and Diane Conklin will show you, there are always two sides…a favorable side and an unfavorable side. But to most folks they don’t always understand what happens in the background, how the speakers are selected or how to get “butts in seats” to the events. So charging speakers and attendees is one way the promoter doesn’t lose money.

“I attended a conference like that last year with which had the speaker’s pay thousands of dollars and then charge people hundreds of dollars to go, never again. Mind you I didn’t pay on either side I had a free ticket.” – Stacey Gillette Rogan

Hmm, I think we need to be like Stacey and get ourselves some free tickets.

“I would never date that model, Rob.” – Steve Gamlin

Hah, that’s a good one Steve…and even though I know he was being funny….if you think of it as dating…there’s an ROI to it. And this goes back to Brian Howie (as he’s the master of dating being the host of the “Great Love Debate”). You are essentially investing in yourself to attract someone new into your life. In this case, you are investing in the opportunity to speak before an audience in hopes of attracting a few clients.

So would you pay to speak?

Look, I believe everyone has a great story to share. However, not everyone can tell their story in front of a crowd of people. And to most entrepreneurs, shelling out money to speak before an audience is not always feasible. Sure, we want to be heard. I get that. But, before you get up on stage make sure you’re comfortable doing so. Because, whether you get paid or have to pay, being nervous, stuttering your words or forgetting your speech is something that can ruin your talk altogether.

What’s the alternative?

Well, the simplest and cheapest form of getting your story out there for everyone to see is…video. If you’re low on funds, are not comfortable speaking from the stage or just nervous around people…video is your best option. You can record your message and upload it to YouTube or elect to stream your message via Facebook Live,, Snapchat or even Instagram Stories. The more comfortable you become behind the camera the easier it will be to get up on stage and speak to an audience.

Will you mess up?

Oh, yeah. I did. Big time! And in Vegas too! I was nervous, and instead of “winging it” like I always do (which by the way works for me) I had to stand behind a podium (which I hate to do) and share a memorized script. I got half way through…at least I thought it was half way…and then froze. I couldn’t even remember my name. So, I apologized to the crowd, pulled out my notes and just read them. Funny thing happened…I landed 3 clients. It was that event that I realized I will never memorize another script, I will never stand behind a podium and I will just be real and share my experiences (my stories, my failures, my joys and my failures) and if they hire me, great…if they don’t, that’s okay too.

So, there you have it… the good, the bad and the “crash and burn”.

Is “pay to play” speaking in your future?

Would you try it?

Or will you stick to your guns and charge to speak?

Would love to know your answer.

Also I would love to hear your first speaking fail and how you recovered.


Anspach Media | Website | + posts

Rob is affectionately known as “Mr. Sarcasm” to his friends - to everyone else he’s a Certified Digital Marketing Strategist, a Foremost Expert On Specialized SEO, a Best Selling Author, Podcaster, Speaker and Authority Broadcaster who can help amplify YOU to your audience.

Rob has authored, coauthored or produced over 40 books covering social media, search engine optimization, podcasting, copywriting, personal injury law, weight loss, military law, life lessons, scams, sarcasm, customer service and more. His book clients include lawyers, speakers, doctors, real estate professionals and more.

Rob is also host of The E-Heroes Interview Series available on Apple, Amazon, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify & many other podcast channels. Rob works inside corporations across the globe, helping companies generate new revenue and capture online business.

Rob is also available to share talks and give interviews. To learn more and to get started visit or call Anspach Media at (412)267-7224 today.