To speak, or not to speak: professionally

Published on
July 10, 2020
Time to read: 
Chantel Fraser speaking at workshop
Image of Chantal Fraser, speaking at the Canadian Forces Base Kingston International Women's Day event in March 2013.

​I’ve enjoyed speaking in front of groups for as long as I can remember. As a child in grade school, I used to tell my playmates the story of what we were playing that day, and then assign everyone a role.  I even occasionally assigned speaking parts (forgive me, little sister).

When I started my business, I knew I wanted to be a professional speaker. I also knew I wasn’t keen on traveling, as I had 3 relatively young offspring at the time and I wanted to be present in their lives.

In 2014, I realized that I could deliver talks and training sessions online, in a webinar format. I happily concentrated most of my efforts on delivering online sessions, occasionally traveling to speak live to audiences in Ontario and Quebec.

This week I saw a post from Deanna Burgart, Professional Speaker | Trainer | Indigeneer, wondering what her social media followers thought of the idea of offering one of her popular talks as a webinar to raise funds for the IndigeSTEAM project near and dear to her heart. Deanna’s question and the discussion it generated inspired this week’s blog.

My answer summed up in 3 words was “go for it!”  While many people are providing free online content during the pandemic, they also offer pay per view content.

Getting paid to speak comes down to knowing who your audiences are, being able to let your audiences know what you offer and making it easy for them to pay for your talks.

When I started out on the adventure of becoming a professional speaker, I did what I always do when I want to learn something. As a voracious reader, I purchased a number of books about professional speaking and followed successful speakers on social media.

Along the way, I’ve met speakers at events and asked them for advice. I’ve also met other aspiring professional speakers, and shared what I’d learned to date. Why? Because I believe in sharing what I’ve learned to help others thrive.

I asked Deanna if she was willing to share a professional speaking tip with for this blog, she said “Your value is much more than your hourly rate to prepare and deliver a talk. When you are setting your fees, remember they are hiring you for years of wisdom and experience in your subject matter.”

Many people don’t realize that their knowledge and skills are of value to others, and that they can charge people to attend their talks, even if the talks take place online. For perspective, one of my professional associations, the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) has offered the majority of our webinar content free to HRPA members since mid March 2020. HRPA charges non-members a fee to attend the webinars.

One way to find the right markets (audiences) and then get the word out (marketing) is to form strategic alliances with organizations that are willing to pay you to deliver your knowledge, to their audiences. They may also market your talks, so that all you have to do is show up and share your knowledge, then get paid. I’m honoured to work closely with two Canadian companies that help me share my knowledge with their audiences - Indigenous Link and MentorCity.

Early in 2021, I’ll be providing two sessions for the HRPA Annual Conference. One of my coaching clients, Matt Richardson is also providing two sessions at #HRPAAC. He’s been speaking to HRPA audiences, for pay, since September 2018. Every time he does a professional speaking gig, he picks up new clients for the other services he offers.

As a speaker and trainer, I get paid for the majority of the content I deliver, whether online or in person. I also choose to offer some content on a pro bono basis.

I know several other speakers, who have benefited from the opportunity to deliver webinars, for pay, as demand grew exponentially since mid March this year.  They are all working in strategic alliances.

That being said, every professional speaker I know also chooses to deliver some talks on a pro bono basis, to not for profits or other organizations in their communities.
I do pro bono talks because I consider it a small way to “pay it forward” for all those that have helped me. I can make this choice because I had the privilege of: growing up in a military family, gaining experience and marketable skills while serving in the military, and having a defined benefit military pension.

In answer to the implied question in the title “To speak, or not to speak: professionally?’ – go for it!  If you like sharing your knowledge with others, and are going to do it whether you’re paid or not, why not speak professionally and get paid at least some of the time?