How much should you expect to pay for a professional keynote speaker? The obvious answer is 'it depends'... Probably less than former Prime Minster Boris Johnson's £250k, and certainly more than free. But what is the right figure for your team's event? How can you tell if you're getting a good deal? And how can you avoid the embarrassment of the 'what's your budget' question?
Booking a great keynote speaker can feel like it has an element of 'chicken and egg' about it. I always have a meeting with a potential client before agreeing to take on a gig, and it makes me chuckle: for me to want to work with them, the meeting will have been something we both enjoyed, we'll have hatched a plan for a brilliant session, and we'll both be feeling excited...
... but then comes the question:
"What is your budget?"
Cue staring at shoes, shuffling awkwardly, and usually mumbling something non-committal, that certainly doesn't have concrete numbers in it.
And I get it. It can feel hard.
I've asked a few clients, after the event, what is going on with this and they came back with some fascinating responses.
I'm curious: what would you add to this list?
The problem is if you don't tell the potential speaker your budget, then it can waste a lot of time - for you and for them. And if money isn't discussed at all during the initial meeting, then you risk falling in love with an idea, only to later realise that it's not an option for you. Or, the other way round: if you don't use your spare budget, you might miss out on great post-event implementation support that could have made an even bigger difference for your teams.
Before they book an initial call with me, we ask potential clients about their budget, and whether it's signed off already, or just a maybe. But a surprisingly high number of people leave the budget box blank, so it becomes something we need to discuss in more detail in the briefing meeting.
The only real answer to 'how much does a keynote speaker cost' is 'it depends'. So here are five key factors to consider, when looking at a price:
Do you want 'bespoke' or 'one-size-fits-all'?
I'll never forget seeing a celebrity-level entrepreneur who I really looked up to do a conference keynote. He was brilliant, though the content was fairly basic. Then, a few months later, I saw him at another conference - the exact same speech. Then I heard him on a podcast - the same stories and structure. He had one talk and everyone got it. It was working for him, but not repeat audience members.
When booking a speaker, it's important to think about whether you are looking for a speaker who has, say, three standard keynotes that they trot out on demand, or one who will co-create something tailored to your specific audience and needs.
An off-the-peg talk will likely be cheaper than just-for-you, but the just-for-you is likely to have more impact and give you a better ROI - if the speaker knows how to figure out how to tailor it for you.
Who, how many And Where?
Is it opening a high-ticket conference for 2,000 business leaders? Is it an informal lunch-n-learn session for 20 junior staff? [Click here to find out about the differences between a keynote and a lunch-n-learn session]
Is it virtual or in-person? (Note: these are very different speaker skill-sets).
Some speakers have flat-rate fees for an event, others charge based on the intended number of attendees.
If it's the latter, please make sure you're being fair - if your number of attendees increases, you should agree an increased fee, after all, you wouldn't expect to get ten friends in on one ticket for a concert!
How will the session be used?
Will there be a replay? How will that be used? Will it be shared beyond the original audience in the quote? Is it just for your team members or will you also want to share it with client organisations?
Note: if you want to use the replay for in-house training, hosted on your company training portal, the speaker is likely to charge an annual licensing fee and that needs to be factored in.
What do you want the session to achieve?
In other words, what is it worth to you? How big and painful is the problem you want it to address?
Do you have any thoughts on how you might measure the ROI? An experienced speaker should be able to help you with that. [Here are some ideas to get you started.]
Is it just about building awareness on a topic, or is it a formal training session that is needed to create change? How important is the topic to your company? And what is the value to the attendees of watching the session?
What kind of post-keynote implementation support do you Want?
Is it a 'show up then leave' session, with no follow-up? Or do you want additional resources to help people make the shift from 'information' to 'implementation'?
And is it important to you to have consulting with the speaker after the event, or to be able to 'pick their brain', to support that implementation journey?
Don't worry if this feels like a lot to think about. An experienced keynote speaker can easily guide you through these decisions, perhaps even making recommendations if they're things you haven't considered yet.
But as you can imagine, what you decide you need can make a big difference to the price.
What's the biggest mistake I see event organisers making when thinking about speaker fees?
Thinking about it in terms of price-per-hour.
"It's just an hour of your time!"
I hear this one so often.
It's easy, particularly in a corporate environment, to think that the only time the speaker puts in to the event is for the hour that they're live. But there's so much more to it than that. Here's an article on what goes in to creating a brilliant bespoke keynote, to give you an idea.
But pricing for a keynote isn't just about price per hour of the speaker's time. You're paying for the value that their expertise adds to your teams and clients, the difference they can make.
So choosing a budget for a keynote speaker is not an exact science.
As some ballpark figures, here's what you can expect to budget for a keynote speaker:
Please just don't go there. Exposure doesn't pay the mortgage. Or the speaker's team. If the people in the room are being paid, or paying for tickets, please pay your speaker.
And the promise of future work isn't fair payment. Most professional speakers have trusted this one at least once, only to find that the person making the promise wasn't empowered to deliver on it. In general, companies who want freebies up-front don't tend to pay fairly down the line, either.
A really common request is for free keynotes from ED&I networks. They're often run by volunteers in a company, and they have often been given zero budget, so hope that the speaker will also work as an unpaid volunteer. Personally, I've lost count of how many times I've been asked to run a session for women on how to feel more confident and value yourself, unpaid... #irony #TheAnswerIsNo
If your employer is turning over millions - or billions - it's not fair to expect a speaker to subsidise the ED&I initiatives that the employer hasn't given adequate budget. And here's a reminder of the huge amount of work that can go into creating a great keynote - it's so much more than just the hour of presenting time.
Beware a speaker who agrees to this. Yes, they might have other revenue streams that mean they can donate their time and resources in the hope of future high-ticket work, but they might instead not be very experienced, or you could find yourself pitched-to-death as their keynote turns into a sales presentation.
Build a positive relationship with them and an experienced speaker may even be able to help you to find creative ways of getting the right budget!
Up to £500
This is what you can expect to pay for a speaker who is at the beginning of their journey, who isn't a professional speaker yet. Or it might be someone who has some speaking experience, but is just delivering their standard, one-size-fits-all talk, five days a week.
You might strike gold and get a future fabulous person for peanuts, but you probably won't. And, as anyone who has sat through yet another death-by-Powerpoint presentation knows far too well, public speaking is a skill. Creating a session that is inspirational, educational, engaging, relatable, and which actually has impact, takes years of honing your craft.
Up to £2,500
These speakers will have quite a few talks under their belts and may be really good.
But this is still towards the entry-level end of speaking fees, and it's less likely that you'll get something high-impact and bespoke, from a genuine subject matter expert.
For this kind of fee you should be able to work with speakers who are seen as thought leaders, though not celebrities, perhaps with a book under their belt, a researcher in their specialist field, or known in the media.
Make sure you ask to see examples of them running a full talk, not just their 'speaker reel' - it's easy to make an audience stop doom-scrolling and pay attention three times in an hour, but what about the other 57 minutes?
At this price point, you want to be booking the kind of person where your boss will congratulate you afterwards for making a great decision, rather than one who leaves you cringing under your desk!
Up to £25,000
This is the kind of fee you can expect to pay for someone who is a leader in their field, with a proven track record as a professional speaker, especially if you want them to keynote at your conference or attend an in-person event that involves some travel.
And beyond that, you're getting to the kinds of prices that celebrity speakers charge. Bear in mind that their speaker bureau will be adding a fee, too, which can be up to 100%.
These figures are rough guides, rather than set in stone. You'll sometimes find mediocre speakers at premium price points, and brilliant speakers who are under-charging. But I hope this helps to give you an idea.
The most important thing is to be open and honest with the speaker about the budget discussion. Sometimes it feels like the 'guns at dawn' scene from a cowboy film, waiting to see which party will mention a number first in the briefing meeting. That gets awkward. And embarrassing. Fast.
Your speaker budget either works, or it doesn't. No hard feelings.
It's much less embarrassing to be up-front about it than to ghost the speaker once you realise you can't afford them, and there's also that sense of relief when you realise that you can work with them!
With the right plan and ROI proposal, you might be surprised how easily the budget you need can be unlocked.
What Is My Speaker Fee?
All of the points above mean you won't be surprised to hear that I can't give you a 'standard' fee, I need to talk with you first (no obligation) to discover what you're looking for.
I have a range of solutions to fit a spread of budgets. And I'm transparent about about my fee ranges, before we get on that call.
what's the next step?
To find out more about booking me as a keynote speaker and my areas of expertise - and to get a copy of my speaker brochure (which contains price ranges for the various options) - please click the button:
Clare Josa - as interviewed by:
Clare In Numbers
helping over 100,000 people change their life
as an international keynote speaker
podcast listeners in over 100 countries
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