You have a message that is right in the crosshairs of what you are most passionate about and meets the felt needs of your audience. And, joy of joys, you have an event planner that wants YOU for their next speaking engagement. Woot-woot, let the celebrations begin! But then as you work with the event planner over all the details, what once felt so crystal clear now suddenly gets a little muddled. You know this is the right audience and the right message. But what about all the other details? Are the time and effort you’ve put into your message worth a speaking fee? And the event planner wants you to travel three hours away — and you realize what it will cost in gas and food out, but also a babysitter for your kids. And you have a resource you’d like to sell the audience — but can you? Should you?

Welcome to being a beginning speaker.

I know exactly what it feels like to be passionate about your message but confused a little on the ins and outs of the business of speaking because I’ve been in your shoes! That’s why I created this list of my top 5 rules every beginning speaker needs to know.

  1. Never pay to speak.

Now you may be thinking, Why would I pay to work for someone else? While it may seem obvious that you should not pay to speak, traveling and other expenses can quickly add up. Before you agree to a gig, be clear about the cost to you: gas, food, lodging, etc. Even if you decide not to charge a speaking fee for this event, a girl still needs to eat. Before signing that speaking contract, be upfront about the out-of-pocket expenses you anticipate and negotiate those into the terms of the contract. You might feel awkward bringing this up, but event planners, especially for smaller venues, might forget these necessary expenses. Far better for you to bring it up now, then to count the cost later and feel resentful. (And — let’s be real here too. You may need to eat, but you don’t need a steak dinner with a glass of red wine and dessert to boot. So be reasonable in your requests.)

  1. Set realistic expectations.

I know, I know. If you’re starting to speak, chances are you’ve already spent a lot of time and money honing your message and your craft. Perhaps you’ve invested in speaking conferences. (I happen to know of an excellent one, if you’re still looking .) Maybe you’ve got a blog, and you’ve spent a considerable sum on hosting, blog training, promotional materials, etc. and speaking finally feels like one place where you could see a financial payback for all you’ve put in. Ka-ching! While it is true that speaking can be an excellent income stream, you’ve got to pull in the reigns a bit on your expectations. Before you can charge like an experienced speaker, you need to actually be an experienced speaker.

To gain experience, you need a few “hug and mug events.” You know, the . . . “You were great!” Hug. “Here’s a mug with a $5 Starbucks card as a thank you.” This is a fantastic way for you to get the experience you need so later down the road, you can charge accordingly. So think of these first few speaking engagements as a way to sell your book. Some ways to do this is to ask the event planner if they could include the price of the book in the ticket (get a bulk order from your publisher so you can offer a small discount.) Or ask your event planner to let you set up a book table in the back. (And it doesn’t have to just be books — t-shirts, bags . . . any merchandise that you have created for your brand.)

  1. Be consistent.

Once you are setting a speaker fee, keep that fee the same whether you are speaking at the church just around the block, or you’re taking a red-eye flight across the country to the event. While your speaking fee will not change, your expenses will. Be sure that the event coordinator has covered all the necessary expense. (See rule #1).

  1. Whatever you do, don’t forget to capture THIS from your audience.

Your email list is the most important means of staying connected to your audience. Email allows you to promote your most recent work, sell them your book or merchandise, and then listen to what they are looking for from you without going through a third-party. A very simple way to do this is to have a text-in system like Mobiniti ( or Leaddigits ( where you have created a free resource for your audience and all they need to do is text the number on the screen and the resource will be directly emailed to them. And voila! You know have their email!

But your audience is not the only person you need to further communicate with. Have a follow-up email for your event planner where you can get feedback and request an endorsement, which you can put on your speaker sheet and website. Then be sure to ask the event coordinator to refer you to other planners if they were happy with your event.

  1. Offer a giveaway.

Ask your publisher if they would supply other authors’ books in your genre as giveaways for those who sign up for your newsletter (put their names in a drawing.) Most publishers love that you are out there speaking and want to support you. You can also give away one of your own books. If you haven’t published your book yet, use some of the merchandise you would set up at the back table — or get creative! Whatever you do, make it an easy yes for your audience to stay connected through email.

Now that you have these 5 rules every beginning speaker must know, it’s time to get out there and start booking with confidence.


Author, Speaker, Communicator Academy Creator and CEO Communicator Academy founder, Leverage: The Speaker Conference creator and master instructor Kathi Lipp, is a national speaker and author of 17 books including Overwhelmed, Clutter Free, The Husband Project and the soon to be released The Mom Project.She is a frequent guest on radio and TV, and has been named Focus on the Family radio’s “Best of Broadcast.”She is the host of the popular podcast “Clutter Free Academy with Kathi Lipp.”

Over the past 10 years, Kathi has helped hundreds of people increase their platform through teaching and coaching. She is a frequent teacher at writer’ s conferences and has helped countless authors and speakers find their audiences.

Kathi’s desire to help fellow speakers and authors avoid the mistakes she made, increase their confidence and be the person God made them to be, inspired her creation of Communicator Academy. The podcast as an extension of Communicator Academy is just another way Kathi wants to serve her audience.

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