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.


I help build confident voices so they’re heard.

Janice Tomich is the founder of Calculated Presentations, a company dedicated to bringing out speaker’s stories to influence change. Janice coaches professionals, entrepreneurs, TED and TEDx speakers. She is a champion for equal representation by a diverse pool of presenters for all speaking events. Follow Janice on Twitter @janicetomich, on Facebook, on LinkedIn and subscribe for newsletter updates.

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