Do Associations Still Pay Speakers?
I hear this all the time when I present at NSA Chapter meetings. Generally the whine goes something like this, “Well, I’ve tried to get associations to pay, but they all say they don’t pay speakers.” So let me get this right, Bill Clinton speaks for free at association meetings? I don’t think so!
My somewhat polite response to this perspective of associations not paying is either…”Well, they pay me.” Or I might say something nicer like, “Perhaps you are simply going after the wrong associations.” Which translated means…they are only going after the low hanging fruit—the easy people to get hold of and not being strategic about the associations to whom they attempt to sell.
Let’s Dig Deeper
Here’s the deal: some associations pay speakers and some do not. Many of the very small associations simple do not have the money to pay a $5K keynote fee. Conversely, some of the very large ones, like the National Association of Realtors, have consultants throwing themselves at the meeting planner so they see no need to hire speakers. However, most of the larger state associations hire several speakers a year and pay their fees, and many of the mid-sized national associations do the same thing. The key is learning who pays and who does not.
Check out their “last year” meeting highlights and see who they listed as speakers; this will give you a better indication. The National Trade and Professional Associations directory lists budgets which can also be helpful. You can save a bundle by buying a used copy of the directory from Amazon.
Only the Annual Meeting?
If you focus only on selling speaking at an association’s annual meeting, either as a keynoter or concurrent session speaker, you are leaving lots of money on the table. According to Meetings & Conventions magazine, associations in North America have over 700 meetings a day—365 days a year. However, not all these are the annual meetings but rather include board of director meetings, special stakeholders meetings, trainings, and etcetera. I have been paid to speak at board meetings and to facilitate board meetings. I have been paid to speak as association executive council meetings (all the state executive directors in a particular national association). I have been paid to conduct special trainings. I have been paid to speak at “special” meetings…like for vendors. I have been paid (quite a lot) to facilitate qualitative research focus groups. There is so much more than just the association/society annual meeting.
It’s All About What Ya Got
If you have knowledge and skills, or even entertainment; that they want…they will pay you or find a sponsor to pay. If you are offering SOS (same old stuff) the chance of associations paying you is slim. That takes us back full-circle. When you entered the speaking business you were told to differentiate yourself—not to copy others. Well, have you done it? If you are selling your services to associations you must have. If you are not able to sell your services, it is either because you do not make calls or your expertise is too much like a million other speakers. Be honest and decide which it is.
I Love Associations
Think about it for a minute: speaking at association meetings is frequently like being paid to showcase in front of potential corporate clients—what’s not to love?
If you truly want the association business and have done a good job of positioning yourself, all you have to do is make the calls. Here is a million-dollar tip—call the editors and not the meeting planners, as the editors get far fewer calls. Give the editor your articles at no charge to publish in their publication. Then bridge the relationship to have the editor help you connect with the meeting planner. And when you do connect with the meeting planner…know what you are going to say…have an excellent selling script.