Would you pay to speak at an event?


You shouldn’t pay to speak. All speakers should be paid although payment can take many forms.

When a colleague sent an email to tell me a Vancouver TEDx event is charging their speakers to stand on the red circle, it ruffled my feathers. Potential speakers pay to speak at the event for script development and speaker training. To be accepted a candidate needs to ‘pay to play’.

After I thought about it for awhile I wondered if my vision (and ego) of ‘Ideas Worth Sharing” was in the way and stopping me from being unbiased.

My bias does play a part and here’s why.

I am one of the co-founders (now in hiatus) of TEDxKidsBC. Five of us sat around my dining room table almost six years ago, including our fearless leader Kima, and hatched a plan for kids to take the TEDx stage. We idealistically wanted to hear those nuggets of inspiration … those cool projects that were being concocted from kids who usually wouldn’t be seen or heard. We pulled it off.

Our purpose was altruistic. No, I’m not asking for a pat on the back or accolades. We did it because we wanted to and were driven by community service but also bound by the TED mandate of no profit/salary to be made from TEDx events.

But my ego and vision for TEDx aside, let’s flip the scenario.

From the perspective of the audience what type of speaker takes the stage when she has paid to be there? A speaker who can ‘pay to play’ would likely fit into a certain profile within the bounds of the organizer’s criteria. Which results in ‘Stepford” clone-like speakers.

For those who are curious and may want to pay to play, the offering and mandatory attendance for speaker training comes in at $2895 CDN to deliver a presentation for the TEDx event that’s fueling my discussion.

pay to speak, public speaking Vancouver

And promised in return:

  • acquiring the rare honor to share the life-changing message in your heart with a worldwide audience
  • gaining the invaluable skill of writing and delivering an inspiring speech
  • receiving a standing ovation and the status of a content expert
  • enhancing your brand, your popularity, and your income
  • being perceived as a credible thought leader for the rest of your life.

There are a few pie in the sky promises in the above bullets that outline what you’ll receive by their pay to speak model that are not true.

I’m a freelancer. I have been for years. There’s nothing I love more than creative business ideas and I’m often tickled by “Why didn’t I think of that?”

But having been in the business of working with speakers my recommendation is always to be paid (in some way) to speak, not pay to speak. No one can promise, as the organizer did at a recent meetup (as shared by my colleague), “It’s like I’m handing them (the speakers) a $100,000-$1,000,000 check from the perks that come after speaking at my event”.

Is the fee worth it?

Does it break the bonds of ethics?

What do you think?

If you want to expand your speaking career and be paid for speaking get in touch. I’d love to show you how.

To your voice,


Update June 5th, 2017: TEDxStanleyPark is no longer offering a ‘pay to speak’ model.



Today I stumbled upon an article a woman named Carrie Gallant had posted on Linked In. It was a piece written by the curator of TED Chris Anderson on what makes for a “killer” presentation: One that connects, has the audience hanging on your every word, and maybe even garners a standing ovation . If you don’t know, the TED conference happens every year in Long Beach, California and presenters share “Ideas Worth Spreading” in roughly 18 minute presentations. It’s coming to Vancouver in 2014 and is a huge boon for the city.

Anderson gives the example of a 12-year-old Masai boy who’d come up with an invention that would keep the lions in his Kenyan grasslands home away from their livestock, and Anderson knew that despite a huge language barrier that Richard Turere’s story needed to be shared with a broader audience; one that the TED talk format assists nicely, not only on the stage but, as TED talks often are, shared socially by thousands, even  millions. Here is Richard’s story.


Chris Anderson shares that getting Richard to the point where he was able to get up there to speak took a lot of time, scripting, planning,  re-working, and practise, practise, practise over a 6-9 month period. By the end of Richards talk we are cheering for him, we are drawn in and want to hear more from this boy. And in the end, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Drawing people in. Changing minds (whether simply in your audience’s choice of product or on a global scale).

Here are a few points gleaned from Anderson’s article. To read the full story click here:

  • Invest the time… and even the most reluctant speaker can give a talk that engages. When you are confident in your story and clear on what you are going to cover, you will appear more relaxed and might even be able to laugh with the audience. A relaxed presenter is far easier to watch and your audience will be able to focus more on what you say rather than your distracting body language.
  • Drill down your key message. Many presenters try to pack too much information into their presentation. Get specific rather than presenting broad ideas. As Anderson says: “Go deeper. Give more detail. Don’t tell us about your entire field of study—tell us about your unique contribution.”
  • Find the right balance between facts and story. This will be different for a talk to the Financial Services industry than it will be for a product launch. For dry material, provide the facts but try to weave some narrative through to appeal to people’s emotions. For a product launch try to talk about how my life will be changed after using your product rather than just talking specs.
  • Don’t Read it. As soon as you read to your audience, their sense of connection with you is gone. As much as possible practise your key points and talk around them. The “ifs”, “ands” and “the’s” don’t matter if you know your material inside and out. Bullet pointed cards are okay, but strive for no notes.
  • A presentation is a  journey. Take me on one. Don’t try to force authoritativeness, or empathy. Just be yourself. That is good enough. There is no substitute fo authenticity.

I hope you connect with your next talk. If you’re struggling, drop us a line .

To Your Voice,





Are you looking for opportunities to share your companies vision and insight? Two fantastic speaking gigs have just crossed my desk and are both worthwhile ways to showcase your business and you.

The first is for Apple fans and followers:










The grand daddy of conferences, Macworld is taking place in San Francisco in late January of 2013 with the deadline for applications slated for September 9th, 2012. This high profile event comes with “buzz” and is considered a must attend for lovers of all things Mac.

The second is a brand new conference, which is tailored to experts in the video industry and specifically for enterprise and education.


enterprise video conference













While there are plenty of conferences that touch on the subject of video, the Enterprise Video Conference will focus exclusively on the topic of business video, with nearly 75 speakers across 2 days and 20 sessions. The deadline is approaching quickly with a close date of August 20th, 2012.


And don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like help with developing and creating  your proposal. Or if you get the thumbs up to present at one (or both) of these exciting events I’d love to work with you on creating a “knock your audiences’ socks off” presentation.

To Your Voice ~ Janice

Be bold. Get heard. Inspire action.