Damn, I should charge to speak…

Tom Foremski reports that speaking is increasingly lucrative for authors/bloggers.

He says Tim O’Reilly gets paid $40,000. Chris Anderson gets $34,000. John Battelle gets $24,000.

I’ll talk to you out in the lobby for free. :-)

For the record, I’ve never been offered more than $2,500 for any speech (and, in the end, didn’t accept that) and almost all of my speeches to date have been done either for free or for just expenses (and, unlike many of the “big names” I don’t ask for business class tickets, which can run about $8,000 to get to Europe from USA).

I’m not being paid to go to Northern Voice and PodTech is picking up my expenses (I’m doing interviews in Seattle and Vancouver). I never charge anyone to be on ScobleShow. To sponsor my show, though, costs big bucks. Thank you Seagate!

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Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, Scoble travels the world looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology for Rackspace's startup program. He's interviewed thousands of executives and technology innovators and reports what he learns in books ("The Age of Context," a book coauthored with Forbes author Shel Israel, has been released at http://amzn.to/AgeOfContext ), YouTube, and many social media sites where he's followed by millions of people. Best place to watch me is on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble

Comments

  1. When given the choice between a speaker I’ve never heard of and one I’ve seen give a talk before at a conference, I’ll almost always opt to go see the one I’ve not heard of. I know of others that always skip keynotes.

    Then I see the growing popularity of Unconferences and Barcamps and other conferences where it’s considered an honor to speak (and none of the speakers get paid) and you have to think this paid speech concept MIGHT be a leftover from a bygone era that will slowly fade away.

  2. When given the choice between a speaker I’ve never heard of and one I’ve seen give a talk before at a conference, I’ll almost always opt to go see the one I’ve not heard of. I know of others that always skip keynotes.

    Then I see the growing popularity of Unconferences and Barcamps and other conferences where it’s considered an honor to speak (and none of the speakers get paid) and you have to think this paid speech concept MIGHT be a leftover from a bygone era that will slowly fade away.

  3. Robert,

    The amount of money some speakers ask is pretty high indeed, but from some people I do understand it. Take a writer of a book for instance. It is their business to selll books and to give lectures, yes I believe they may charge money for a keynote in some situations (If the conference is a great platform for a writer, than both parties benefit and no fees should be paid).

    If it is not your business to earn your money with speaking sessions than you should consider speaking engagements as a chance to fuel your own PR (as you do. good vibe)

    Travel costs are covered by most of the conferences and indeed the costs are sometimes outrageous. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to have a budget for speakers that they can spend at their own wishes. If you want to fly economy class, stay in a cheap hotel, and give the rest of the budget to charity that’s ok. Or you can spend it on more luxury….

  4. Robert,

    The amount of money some speakers ask is pretty high indeed, but from some people I do understand it. Take a writer of a book for instance. It is their business to selll books and to give lectures, yes I believe they may charge money for a keynote in some situations (If the conference is a great platform for a writer, than both parties benefit and no fees should be paid).

    If it is not your business to earn your money with speaking sessions than you should consider speaking engagements as a chance to fuel your own PR (as you do. good vibe)

    Travel costs are covered by most of the conferences and indeed the costs are sometimes outrageous. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to have a budget for speakers that they can spend at their own wishes. If you want to fly economy class, stay in a cheap hotel, and give the rest of the budget to charity that’s ok. Or you can spend it on more luxury….

  5. Robert, pls don’t change your business model. I think that if you can carve a decent living out of your sponsored activities this is great. Your posts seem to indicate that this is the case. So, why ask for more if you don’t really need it? Conferences like LIFT couldn’t exist nor would they be accessible to many of us who attended this year, if the fees went up considerably. Think of how many people you are potentially reaching and educating about new technological developments. Isn’t that a recompense in itself ? I think it makes sense to give something back to society in the spirit of eradicating the extremes of poverty and wealth. Somehow that is the spirit I caught at LIFT. However, clearly you should ask for fees and/or expenses paid if you can’t make ends meet.

  6. Robert, pls don’t change your business model. I think that if you can carve a decent living out of your sponsored activities this is great. Your posts seem to indicate that this is the case. So, why ask for more if you don’t really need it? Conferences like LIFT couldn’t exist nor would they be accessible to many of us who attended this year, if the fees went up considerably. Think of how many people you are potentially reaching and educating about new technological developments. Isn’t that a recompense in itself ? I think it makes sense to give something back to society in the spirit of eradicating the extremes of poverty and wealth. Somehow that is the spirit I caught at LIFT. However, clearly you should ask for fees and/or expenses paid if you can’t make ends meet.

  7. Since I do speaking engagements, just not at the $40k level, I can tell you from many years of experience of sitting in the audience listening to a bad speaker and then years of being the person in charge of finding speakers for a conference, I can truthful tell you that you get what you pay for…

  8. Since I do speaking engagements, just not at the $40k level, I can tell you from many years of experience of sitting in the audience listening to a bad speaker and then years of being the person in charge of finding speakers for a conference, I can truthful tell you that you get what you pay for…

  9. Robert, I was wondering when you would come to your senses about this. There is nothing wrong with charging a fee for speaking. College is quite expensive and Patrick’s college days are just around the corner.

  10. Robert, I was wondering when you would come to your senses about this. There is nothing wrong with charging a fee for speaking. College is quite expensive and Patrick’s college days are just around the corner.

  11. it has nothing to do with charging or not charging for a service — that’s just more of the typical “proletariati” blogger nonsense.

    public speaking is very hard and is a very different skill than blogging or using twitter to tell me what bridge you’re currently stuck on.

    i’ve stated before that mr. Scoble and PodTech seem to have a surprisingly narrow set of media skills.

    this is yet another example of not only failing to think outside the box, but failing to understand the box they’re trapped inside.

  12. it has nothing to do with charging or not charging for a service — that’s just more of the typical “proletariati” blogger nonsense.

    public speaking is very hard and is a very different skill than blogging or using twitter to tell me what bridge you’re currently stuck on.

    i’ve stated before that mr. Scoble and PodTech seem to have a surprisingly narrow set of media skills.

    this is yet another example of not only failing to think outside the box, but failing to understand the box they’re trapped inside.

  13. It’s so cool you don’t charge those ridiculous sums to speak. Those guys are egotistical losers. It’s not your fault some people throw away good money to hear some opinionated windbag talk. Most of the stuff these guys say is self-promotional BS. You rule.

  14. It’s so cool you don’t charge those ridiculous sums to speak. Those guys are egotistical losers. It’s not your fault some people throw away good money to hear some opinionated windbag talk. Most of the stuff these guys say is self-promotional BS. You rule.

  15. Robert, through your blog and after speaking with you, it has become quite apparent that you are simply a kind person. You blog passionately and you don’t charge irrational rates for your speeches. I think these are admirable and unqiue traits to you, it makes you our friend. Which is awesome.

  16. Robert, through your blog and after speaking with you, it has become quite apparent that you are simply a kind person. You blog passionately and you don’t charge irrational rates for your speeches. I think these are admirable and unqiue traits to you, it makes you our friend. Which is awesome.

  17. Heh, this is a hot topic for sure… speaking is a huge industry, and it’s a good deal of work to get to the point where you are able to charge some decent money, after showing up at every conference on your own dime, doing endless panels, maybe getting airfaire, hotel and eventually gratis.

    Then of course, it’s asking for this in a particular industry where free stuff generally doesn’t pay– you can’t be afraid of asking that. It’s *your* choice if you want to do it for free or not. I tend not to charge for local stuff, since it helps the local economy and I tend to not need travel and hotel handled. Certain cases are good for pro-bono, but it’s tough to separate pro-bono from ‘we have no budget at all’.

    The other related space is conducting workshops and seminars, something that’s kind of terrifying for someone interested in this offering this type of service— we just know you’ll get bitched at by the unconference crowd. I still maintain while I do appreciate the roundtable everyone-is-equal model, there are cases where I want to sit down, shut up, listen, and learn.

    Glad you’re talking about it, because having to whisper about this with others over the years is kinda a drag.

  18. Heh, this is a hot topic for sure… speaking is a huge industry, and it’s a good deal of work to get to the point where you are able to charge some decent money, after showing up at every conference on your own dime, doing endless panels, maybe getting airfaire, hotel and eventually gratis.

    Then of course, it’s asking for this in a particular industry where free stuff generally doesn’t pay– you can’t be afraid of asking that. It’s *your* choice if you want to do it for free or not. I tend not to charge for local stuff, since it helps the local economy and I tend to not need travel and hotel handled. Certain cases are good for pro-bono, but it’s tough to separate pro-bono from ‘we have no budget at all’.

    The other related space is conducting workshops and seminars, something that’s kind of terrifying for someone interested in this offering this type of service— we just know you’ll get bitched at by the unconference crowd. I still maintain while I do appreciate the roundtable everyone-is-equal model, there are cases where I want to sit down, shut up, listen, and learn.

    Glad you’re talking about it, because having to whisper about this with others over the years is kinda a drag.

  19. meanguy: I’ve spoken at dozens of conferences and get great ratings at almost all. Most proudly I spoke at the first Google Zeitgeist conference and got rated #2 out of about 30 speakers, including many many people who had spoken a lot more than me (I beat the CEOs from AOL, Yahoo, among other big names).

    I got a $10,000-a-year raise because I spoke at a Visual Basic user group (a guy in the audience hired me based on that speech) back in the mid-1990s. So, I know well the value of doing a good speech.

    As to narrowness of PodTech’s media model, well, are you really paying attention to who is working with us lately? I don’t think so.

  20. meanguy: I’ve spoken at dozens of conferences and get great ratings at almost all. Most proudly I spoke at the first Google Zeitgeist conference and got rated #2 out of about 30 speakers, including many many people who had spoken a lot more than me (I beat the CEOs from AOL, Yahoo, among other big names).

    I got a $10,000-a-year raise because I spoke at a Visual Basic user group (a guy in the audience hired me based on that speech) back in the mid-1990s. So, I know well the value of doing a good speech.

    As to narrowness of PodTech’s media model, well, are you really paying attention to who is working with us lately? I don’t think so.

  21. Comic Strip: I guess you didn’t like the video of the Vatican’s Web “sister” huh?

    To everyone else: One reason people start charging is as a way of saying “no.” I’m finding I’m saying no to conference organizers a lot more lately. There just isn’t time in a Vice President’s life to speak at every event out there. Unfortunately. It does make me feel guilty. I know a few speakers who, instead of saying “no” just write back and say “my standard fee is $10,000 plus expenses, still interested?”

    And, I’ve been a conference planner too (remember how I got into this whole blogging thing? I was helping Dan Shafer plan the CNET Builder.com Live conference in 1999 and 2000). I know well that good speakers often need a little money. Generally I was able to put world-class people on stage without paying more than $10,000 for a keynote, though. Even during the bubble.

    That takes some negotiations, though, and means leaving some people off of the program.

  22. Comic Strip: I guess you didn’t like the video of the Vatican’s Web “sister” huh?

    To everyone else: One reason people start charging is as a way of saying “no.” I’m finding I’m saying no to conference organizers a lot more lately. There just isn’t time in a Vice President’s life to speak at every event out there. Unfortunately. It does make me feel guilty. I know a few speakers who, instead of saying “no” just write back and say “my standard fee is $10,000 plus expenses, still interested?”

    And, I’ve been a conference planner too (remember how I got into this whole blogging thing? I was helping Dan Shafer plan the CNET Builder.com Live conference in 1999 and 2000). I know well that good speakers often need a little money. Generally I was able to put world-class people on stage without paying more than $10,000 for a keynote, though. Even during the bubble.

    That takes some negotiations, though, and means leaving some people off of the program.

  23. scobie: ranked #2 out of #30 is great (you said this last time I pointed out you didn’t seem to have a strategy in place for these issues) but there’s the issue of audience and topic, too. you were timely and the audience was made for you.

    the people who regularly command these fees can pull off #2 out of #30 speaking at the Fellowship of Icebreakers for Better Igloos. seriously, have you seen Chris Anderson speak? dude’s a monster.

    if you want people to say “keep giving it away scobie! we love you scobie!” then by all means keep pandering to the blogosphere.

    it’s the “creative commons” thing run amok. every third post on boing is Cory Doctorow talking about the book he’s giving away. the fourth post is him preaching to the converted at some university where he waives the fee for sake of credibility. and the post after that is a picture of some wacky $100 gadget where he says he wishes he could afford it.

    no need to fall into the same trap, buddy.

  24. scobie: ranked #2 out of #30 is great (you said this last time I pointed out you didn’t seem to have a strategy in place for these issues) but there’s the issue of audience and topic, too. you were timely and the audience was made for you.

    the people who regularly command these fees can pull off #2 out of #30 speaking at the Fellowship of Icebreakers for Better Igloos. seriously, have you seen Chris Anderson speak? dude’s a monster.

    if you want people to say “keep giving it away scobie! we love you scobie!” then by all means keep pandering to the blogosphere.

    it’s the “creative commons” thing run amok. every third post on boing is Cory Doctorow talking about the book he’s giving away. the fourth post is him preaching to the converted at some university where he waives the fee for sake of credibility. and the post after that is a picture of some wacky $100 gadget where he says he wishes he could afford it.

    no need to fall into the same trap, buddy.

  25. sorry Robert but originating from society where Roman Catholic church based in Vatican has 99.9% membership (the rest are protestant Germans) I really try to stay away from Church things. Simply: too boring.

    Regarding your pricing: I would suggest taking the same what Doc Searls takes.

  26. sorry Robert but originating from society where Roman Catholic church based in Vatican has 99.9% membership (the rest are protestant Germans) I really try to stay away from Church things. Simply: too boring.

    Regarding your pricing: I would suggest taking the same what Doc Searls takes.

  27. Your choices are your own, Robert, and I’d be glad to pay or not pay to see you speak. *But*, could you collect a fee (let’s throw out a sum: $7,500), and then *also* talk to me in the lobby for free? Some of the best speakers I’ve ever seen have worked in this vein: they sang for their supper in a compelling way, but then they were also open to side conversations, follow-ups, and so on.

    Also, if you like feeling guilty for telling people you just don’t have time to speak at their event, go ahead. But there’s no need to. And there is a certain virtue in charging a fee to separate the people who’d *like* for you to speak to them (“Yeah, sure if we could get Scoble, that would be cool”) versus those who *yearn* for you to speak to them (“What, just $7,500? That’s a bargain!”). It’s a way of policing your time, which you could also be using to shoot videos, blog, enjoy your family, hike in the woods, or what have you. And if you want to mix in some speeches pro bono – or, on the other hand, bill organizers for business-class seats so you can get better *rest* en route to their conference – that’s fine, too.

  28. Your choices are your own, Robert, and I’d be glad to pay or not pay to see you speak. *But*, could you collect a fee (let’s throw out a sum: $7,500), and then *also* talk to me in the lobby for free? Some of the best speakers I’ve ever seen have worked in this vein: they sang for their supper in a compelling way, but then they were also open to side conversations, follow-ups, and so on.

    Also, if you like feeling guilty for telling people you just don’t have time to speak at their event, go ahead. But there’s no need to. And there is a certain virtue in charging a fee to separate the people who’d *like* for you to speak to them (“Yeah, sure if we could get Scoble, that would be cool”) versus those who *yearn* for you to speak to them (“What, just $7,500? That’s a bargain!”). It’s a way of policing your time, which you could also be using to shoot videos, blog, enjoy your family, hike in the woods, or what have you. And if you want to mix in some speeches pro bono – or, on the other hand, bill organizers for business-class seats so you can get better *rest* en route to their conference – that’s fine, too.

  29. I think Tim hit it on the head. The problem is not so much that popular people, who could be making money elsewhere, get compensated for their time (though some of the fees are seemingly a bit high), but those that behave like the infamous ‘seagull consultants’. If you are being paid to speak, then also invest some time with the people you are speaking to… Part of the bigger metaphoric problem addressed with unconferences like the one’s we have organized is about tearing down the ivory towers and helping people really connect with and learn from each other.

  30. I think Tim hit it on the head. The problem is not so much that popular people, who could be making money elsewhere, get compensated for their time (though some of the fees are seemingly a bit high), but those that behave like the infamous ‘seagull consultants’. If you are being paid to speak, then also invest some time with the people you are speaking to… Part of the bigger metaphoric problem addressed with unconferences like the one’s we have organized is about tearing down the ivory towers and helping people really connect with and learn from each other.

  31. I would suggest not to charge. Keep it real. Not everything is or even should be about money. The best speakers never charge for their time.

  32. I would suggest not to charge. Keep it real. Not everything is or even should be about money. The best speakers never charge for their time.

  33. Lamont: I disagree that the best speakers never charge for their time. The best speakers I’ve ever heard charge a LOT for their time. More than the folks in this post, even.

  34. Lamont: I disagree that the best speakers never charge for their time. The best speakers I’ve ever heard charge a LOT for their time. More than the folks in this post, even.

  35. Tim: I hope I always meet you in the lobby for free.

    Chris: I agree with you. I always hated speakers who flew in for their talk and then flew out. I’ve been forced into a few of those situations myself, but I try to always show up for the entire thing if I am honored with a speaking role.

  36. Tim: I hope I always meet you in the lobby for free.

    Chris: I agree with you. I always hated speakers who flew in for their talk and then flew out. I’ve been forced into a few of those situations myself, but I try to always show up for the entire thing if I am honored with a speaking role.

  37. I can understand perhaps a company paying to have a speaker come in and do a talk or a series of talks, but what about speaking at user groups for free? Some local computer clubs could never afford even a couple thousand.

    For example, some speakers will speak for nothing as long as they get their plane tickets, room and food paid for. Yes, it’s getting paid, but indirectly. You are simply enabling them.

  38. I can understand perhaps a company paying to have a speaker come in and do a talk or a series of talks, but what about speaking at user groups for free? Some local computer clubs could never afford even a couple thousand.

    For example, some speakers will speak for nothing as long as they get their plane tickets, room and food paid for. Yes, it’s getting paid, but indirectly. You are simply enabling them.

  39. ya know.. it’d mean alot for the average kid – to know how to not be incredibly stupid. i mean.. once you feel targeted just for knowing info – it really makes people more impassioned. putting out some kinda.. um.. not so incredibly blatant info, that would explain when just for knowing info… not incredibly blatant, but that’s clear enough for most knuckheads to understand — would make the world a good bit safer for both sides. no matter your loyalties – you do an awesome job :)

  40. ya know.. it’d mean alot for the average kid – to know how to not be incredibly stupid. i mean.. once you feel targeted just for knowing info – it really makes people more impassioned. putting out some kinda.. um.. not so incredibly blatant info, that would explain when just for knowing info… not incredibly blatant, but that’s clear enough for most knuckheads to understand — would make the world a good bit safer for both sides. no matter your loyalties – you do an awesome job :)

  41. Robert-

    This has been a very interesting thread. I think that it is your choice to charge or not to charge when you speak at conferences. It does not make you better or worse as a speaker or as a human being. I admire that you like to share you insights, and that you rank so well at the conferences where you appear, and I am NOT accusing you of trying to take a high moral ground on this issue. It is just they way you approach your appearances.

    What many here seem to miss is that speaking professionally is a skill and a profession. The person who said “don’t charge…keep it real”…would he say that to his doctor? his lawyer? an auto mechanic? If someone has an interesting message and the ability/skill to talk before an audience…it is there choice to charge, and the free market system will set the fee.

    To the guy who said that paid speakers are “from a bygone era that will slowly fade away”, the opposite is true. The speaking industry is expanding. Those who host conferences will always want and need experienced and talented speakers. To take a risk on just any speaker can put a meeting planners job in jeapordy.

    As long as capitalism stays in place, then many speakers will charge fees (the best will charge large fees), as will computer programmers, accountants, strippers, etc…

  42. Robert-

    This has been a very interesting thread. I think that it is your choice to charge or not to charge when you speak at conferences. It does not make you better or worse as a speaker or as a human being. I admire that you like to share you insights, and that you rank so well at the conferences where you appear, and I am NOT accusing you of trying to take a high moral ground on this issue. It is just they way you approach your appearances.

    What many here seem to miss is that speaking professionally is a skill and a profession. The person who said “don’t charge…keep it real”…would he say that to his doctor? his lawyer? an auto mechanic? If someone has an interesting message and the ability/skill to talk before an audience…it is there choice to charge, and the free market system will set the fee.

    To the guy who said that paid speakers are “from a bygone era that will slowly fade away”, the opposite is true. The speaking industry is expanding. Those who host conferences will always want and need experienced and talented speakers. To take a risk on just any speaker can put a meeting planners job in jeapordy.

    As long as capitalism stays in place, then many speakers will charge fees (the best will charge large fees), as will computer programmers, accountants, strippers, etc…

  43. Wow, and I thought the $1000 I’m currently charging for corporate speaking gigs was pretty good. Obviously not. I also vary the price depending on who I’m speaking for, and imagine this is common. I’m not going to speak to Microsoft or the Advertisers’ Union out of charity (although I find it very interesting to meet them) whereas I might well give a talk for free to parents at my local school and might charge minimally for a talk at a library or an artists’ meeting.

    One commercial conference I spoke for accepted my request for $1000, but commented that it was “rather high”. When I showed up I found that they had 60 participants and each had paid $800 to attend. It was in the fanciest hotel in town with an excellent lunch. There were five speakers. Seems to me that with that budget, $1000 for each of the speakers – who are after all providing the content the participants are paying for – is almost offensively cheap.

    There’s also a huge difference when you have to travel – travel is exhausting and takes a lot of time from other things. And heck, preparing the talk is WORK, no matter how much I enjoy actually standing there and telling people about the stuff I’m passionate about!

  44. Wow, and I thought the $1000 I’m currently charging for corporate speaking gigs was pretty good. Obviously not. I also vary the price depending on who I’m speaking for, and imagine this is common. I’m not going to speak to Microsoft or the Advertisers’ Union out of charity (although I find it very interesting to meet them) whereas I might well give a talk for free to parents at my local school and might charge minimally for a talk at a library or an artists’ meeting.

    One commercial conference I spoke for accepted my request for $1000, but commented that it was “rather high”. When I showed up I found that they had 60 participants and each had paid $800 to attend. It was in the fanciest hotel in town with an excellent lunch. There were five speakers. Seems to me that with that budget, $1000 for each of the speakers – who are after all providing the content the participants are paying for – is almost offensively cheap.

    There’s also a huge difference when you have to travel – travel is exhausting and takes a lot of time from other things. And heck, preparing the talk is WORK, no matter how much I enjoy actually standing there and telling people about the stuff I’m passionate about!