If you’re planning an event and looking to book a speaker, one of the biggest questions is “How much will this cost?” After all, speaker fees can be a major line item in an event budget. But the answer to whether speakers get paid isn’t always straightforward. It depends on a variety of factors.

For Celebrity and Big-Name Speakers, Payment is Expected
When it comes to high-profile speakers like famous authors, business leaders, politicians, or other celebrities, payment is pretty much a given. These speakers draw big crowds and command premium fees accordingly. Speaking fees can range from $10,000 to $100,000 or more for the biggest names. Their agents negotiate fees based on their seller power in the speaking circuit.

For Subject Matter Experts, Fees Vary Widely
For most other speakers who are subject matter experts, fees are all over the map. Experienced corporate speakers and thought leaders may ask for $5,000 to $20,000 for a one to two-hour keynote. But fees can be lower for speakers just starting to build their professional speaking businesses. Some may only require travel costs to be covered.

Factors like audience size, location, the speaker’s schedule, and whether product sales are involved can all impact fees. Speakers may offer nonprofits and community organizations discounted rates as well.

Many Speakers Offer Free Talks Too
It’s not uncommon for speakers to give free talks, especially locally for exposure and to build their credentials. Academics and industry professionals may speak for free as a way to share knowledge and gain visibility. Authors and coaches often offer complimentary talks with the goal of selling books or services afterwards.

When speakers aren’t paid by the event host, they are typically allowed to sell their products and services to the audience as their form of compensation. Free corporate speaking gigs are essentially an advertising investment for them.

Have a Candid Fee Discussion Upfront
As an event organizer looking to book a speaker, it’s best to have an upfront, candid discussion about fees and payment terms. Inquire about their standard rates and negotiate as needed based on your event budget. Many speakers offer fee flexibility. Just be prepared to clearly communicate your expectations and constraints regarding payment or lack thereof.