On this blog, I’m always telling you that you should give before you get. But should you speak for free when invited to speak at a networking event or conference? It depends… I’ve asked myself this question many times and finally decided to share what I’ve come up with in a blog post…
Speaking about your expertise equals marketing. And we all know you have to market yourself. So in most cases it makes sense to speak, even if you’re not getting paid. But just like you don’t necessarily want to work with just any client, you also shouldn’t accept just any free speaking gig! Below I go first into the reasons to speak for free and then explain which opportunities you should say ‘no thanks’ to.
Reasons to speak for free
You give before you get
I have learned a few things in networking and one of them is that you have to give before you get. You can give your time, access to your network or you can give your knowledge. So applying this theory, it makes sense to speak for free!
You are perceived as an expert in your field
Being the speaker automatically positions you as the expert. You are in the spotlight, you have been selected to share your knowledge, so you must know what you’re talking about. And the audience by the way doesn’t know that you’re not getting paid.
You are investing time efficiently
If you speak in front of 50 people, all these 50 will know your name & what you stand for. Try achieving that same result at your regular networking event. If I’m lucky I usually get 3 or 4 business card out of an entire evening. So 1 free speaking gig equals about 12 regular networking events. You have heard of the saying ‘time is money’, right?
Your exposure goes beyond the direct audience
When being invited to speak, always ask first how big the audience will be, and then find out how many people they will be inviting. ‘How big is your mailing list?’ That’s your real exposure! Free marketing to a crowd you could have never reached otherwise.
When to say ‘no thanks’
Now, all the above reasons apply, at the condition that the event targets the right audience for you. Ask yourself the following questions:
Is the audience big enough for me to be worth my time?
If there are only 10 people attending, is it still worth it for you, considering the time it takes you to prepare the speech, travel etc.
Is the audience too big for my comfort?
If you’re like me and not comfortable in front of big crowds, you might have a number in your head and beyond that number you start to get uncomfortable. For me it’s 100 (this number is expandable, mine was 20 before 😉
Is the organizer valuing your time and effort?
Many organizations will make you feel as if YOU had won the big prize, the honor to speak at their event. For some of them it’s true, but for others it clearly isn’t. It’s you who’s doing THEM a favor. So make sure they are valuing you as a person who’s willing to give your time for free, time that you would usually charge for. And if they start asking you for extra commitments such as paying for the drinks & snacks, yearly membership to their club etc, that’s when you should say ‘no thanks’ and run !
Is the audience made of the right people?
Probably the most important question you have to ask yourself is the question about the target audience. If you are a business coach, will it really be worth it for you to talk to a group of mampreneurs? Or if you are a health coach will it really be worth it for you to speak at a local chamber of commerce meeting ? You know your ideal client base better than I do (or you should). Compare the audience to your ideal client and if they are similar, then I would recommend you accept the invitation to speak.