Speaking – From FREE to FEE

Many people often ask me what it takes to get people to “pay” you to speak. Before an organization is willing to pay a speaker they need to feel there is value in what the speaker has to say. Keep in mind speaking for free does NOT mean that you do not offer something of value.

The goal of speaking before a group should not always be motivated by money. I can remember situations during my career where I would have been willing to pay for the opportunity to speak to a group. One thing that always occurs when you are speaking before a group, whether being paid or not, is that you are making impressions to everyone in that group. The more people that hear you speak, the more people there are who can refer you to others who CAN pay you.

Organizations such as Rotary, Elks, Lions, Moose, Chamber Of Commerce need speakers all the time. Several non profit organizations and associations have meetings every month and often have trouble looking for speakers. Contact all your local associations and introduce yourself. Many of the members of these associations have businesses of their own and often have the ability and authority to “hire” speakers to speak within their own organizations.

The speaking business, and I emphasize the word “business” is a heavily referral based business. Most people prefer to have a friend or colleague refer a speaker to them that they have actually heard speak. The more people that hear you speak and are familiar with your abilities and message the more people there are who can refer you to paying clients. Whether you get paid to speak or speak for free you should focus on delivering your message to each audience.

Most audiences have people who do have the ability to hire you or know someone else who can. I can honestly trace paid speaking business to many of the free speaking engagements I have performed. Over the years I have learned various methods and techniques that help me to maximize these free speaking engagements.

Often these same organizations that do not have budgets for the speaker can offer other “in kind” services that are worth more than your actual speaking fee. For example, I have spoken for an organization who did not have a budget to pay speakers but did have the resources (people & equipment) to professionally videotape my presentation. In the end they provided me with an original recording along with several copies of the video of my presentation. Had I hired someone to professionally videotape my presentation, it would have cost me much more than my regular speaking fee.

Many speaking bureaus will not hire you until they have seen and heard you speak. They may hire you if someone they know refers you but typically will still ask for a demo tape (audio or video). Whenever I am speaking at an association meeting in a new city, I try to contact the local speakers bureaus and let them know I will be speaking in the area. After getting permission from the client who hired me, I offer the speakers bureau the opportunity to come and hear me speak.

When you do speak to any organization, bring plenty of business cards. Have your name, address and telephone number on all your handout materials. I also include my web address and e-mail address as well. It still amazes me the people who have attended keynotes I have delivered 3 or 4 years ago contact me because they saved my handout. I have had people who have attended one of my sessions give copies of my handouts to other people they know because they felt the materials I provided were worth sharing. These people, just based on the handout, called me and hired me to speak to their group.

Speaking to associations is a key part of my marketing efforts. Let me explain. The bulk of my speaking services (about 60%) is providing “in house” workshops and seminars to the corporate market. Another 25% is “keynote” speaking to associations and organizations. Providing “one-on-one” coaching to executives and individuals accounts for 10% and the remaining 5% is providing local continuing education seminars. These four types of speaking provide a constant source of referral based leads for my business. The percentages do vary from year to year. Some years I may spend 40% of my time delivering keynotes, 20% coaching individuals and the balance of 40% is providing “in-house” corporate programs. A lot will depend on associations. Most associations will not hire the same speakers as they hired last year. If they do hire you again it may not be until 3 years later because they like to have different speakers each year. On the other hand there are associations that I have spoken to each year for the last 4 years, but I will usually provide a different program.

Not all speakers can provide “in house” seminars and also provide keynote speeches. The speaking skills involved for delivering a keynote and not the same as those skills required to provide a “hands-on” workshop. The keynote speaker is usually hired to entertain a group at some special function. That is not to say, that the keynote speaker does not offer substance and education value, but the speaking delivery and approach of a keynoter requires some different skill sets. This is important to understand from a marketing perspective since the people you may be marketing to are different.

From his success on the sales floor of an automotive dealership  to becoming a veteran trainer and then the adoption of technology for Internet-based marketing, his career has evolved to deliver the skills and tools needed to help consumers. Richie Bello combined his automotive expertise with his robust desire to “take care of the customer first” to become an automotive influencer, published author, and renowned trainer.  Bello absorbed the wants and needs of consumers as he worked up the ladder of the automotive industry.

Over the thirty-five years of his career, he developed strong Internet marketing skills, leading him to developing software solutions that create ease for consumers, and helps dealers improve relationships with customers. Innovation drives success. And, for Bello, it’s in his DNA. took years to come to consumers and arrived in a timely manner, during the 2020 Pandemic. With over 6 million vehicles on the site, features that help consumers deliver, finance and warranty, Bello has met the retail digital age head on.

Bello also is founder of Richie Bello Institute of Leadership and Management, a 501C3 not for profit, dedicated to the recruitment, education and employment of veterans into the automotive industry. Visit


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