Setting Speaker Fees for Virtual Events: A Comprehensive Guide

Table of Contents

In the wake of COVID, many industries realized that virtual events offer a great deal more value than previously realized. Many speakers, in turn, have pivoted to virtual speaking as all or some of their business. Amidst this shift toward virtual platforms, you’re probably wondering how to make money as a virtual speaker. Are there rules for setting your speaker fee for virtual events? How do you adapt your existing in-person speaking fees for a virtual gig? How do you charge if you’re starting your speaking business in the virtual realm? 

While every speaking business varies, there are fundamental guidelines that can help you set your speaker fee for virtual events. Today we’re diving into the process, drawing on the experiences of thousands of speakers from our team, our friends, and our students. This guide will show you the way to a pricing structure for virtual speaking engagements that maintains the value you offer while acknowledging the differences between the virtual and in-person stage. 

We’re not going to pretend virtual events pay just as well as regular old speaking gigs in an auditorium. In general you will make significantly less money per gig. However, the benefits of virtual speaking (sweatpants and bunny slippers, anyone?) often make this sacrifice worth it! Keep reading to learn why. 

Virtual speaking gigs are by no means “less than” or “less real” compared to in-person events. A good speaker will always put in in the same prep work as they would for a regular speaking engagement. Just because it’s virtual doesn’t mean you can’t make a huge impact! Your content, and delivery still require a great deal of development, tailoring, and practice. 

However, virtual events cut out a lot of the logistical hassle, which means that in general you have to charge significantly less than you would for the same presentation at an in-person event. But this also means that it’s easier to book virtual speaking engagements at the last minute, stack multiple gigs in a shorter period of time, and organize your schedule as you please from the comfort of your home. 

Setting speaker fees for virtual events isn’t rocket science, but it’s a complex process. Let’s break it down! Here are the factors that will influence how you price your virtual speaking engagements. 

Virtual-specific criteria. 

Most of the factors we’re discussing today are applicable to any speaking engagement, though we’re talking about the virtual context. However, there are a few criteria that are unique to setting speaker fees for virtual events. They might not occur to you if you have mainly delivered your talks on the stage, so let’s go over them first. 

Traveling, spending the night in hotels, navigating continental breakfast menus, and bringing extras of every possible cable all present a million possibilities for in-person speaking events. You might be tempted to think that virtual events (and their pricing) are simple, straightforward, and lack variety across-the-board. This couldn’t be further from the truth! In fact, if you’re building out your virtual speaking business, you will quickly realize the massive variety of options you can include on your speaker menu. 

For example, some clients will ask you to pre-record a talk on your own time. This talk might be included in a virtual conference, part of a pre-programmed self-paced set of talks, or available on a subscription basis depending on what your client is aiming for. You can record as many takes as you want, edit as necessary, and you don’t have to do any Q&A. In fact, this is probably a pretty easy speaking gig to fulfill. Accordingly, you should charge a lower fee. 

On the other hand, if you are delivering a real-time talk from your state-of-the-art home speaking studio with impeccable sound quality, you can set a significantly higher fee since your production quality sets you apart from the competition. (We have a great podcast episode with Craigery Dennis about setting up your virtual speaker studio). Professional lighting, video, and audio for virtual events makes a huge difference and your pricing structure should reflect that. Clients who are serious about creating excellent virtual event experiences will recognize this, so don’t fail to emphasize this in your marketing. 

Now we’ll move on to some of the general criteria that influence your speaker fees, with special attention to virtual scenarios.

How many times will you be speaking at the event?

The more you’re speaking at an event, the more you can charge. For virtual events, speaking more than once can take a few different formats. It might mean you pop in to present online several days in a row. You could lead several presentations in one day. Or you might deliver the same talk several times in a row to smaller breakout groups.  In any case, the amount of preparation, time, and energy required for multiple presentations necessitates setting a higher speaker fee. 

Don’t just multiply your base fee for one engagement by three or five or however many times you’re speaking. Speaking multiple times at the same event is a mutually beneficial arrangement for both you and the client. You save time hunting for new clients, they save time hunting for new speakers. Determine an incremental amount by which you increase your fee for each additional presentation. (We also recommend capping it at a fixed fee for speaking five or more times). Try to set these numbers ahead of time so you can more easily discuss and negotiate with potential clients. 

Find Out Exactly How Much You Could Make As a Paid Speaker

Use The Official Speaker Fee Calculator to tell you what you should charge for your first (or next) speaking gig — virtual or in-person! 

In what industry is the event?

No matter how many times you speak or how much you prepare, some industries pay more than others. You can’t get around it. It’s just the way the world works, some organizations just have more money than others. You should still charge for the value you add. Our coaches at The Speaker Lab have helped many speakers in all industries build financially successful careers. However, it helps to know going into your client calls that some budgets will be higher than others. 

For simplicity’s sake, we like to divide speaking audiences into seven industries. Our founder Grant Baldwin discusses these in greater detail in The Successful Speaker. We’ve organized this list in order from the industries who have the most money to those who have the least. As you set your speaker fee for virtual events, look at where your audience lands on this scale and adjust up or down accordingly. 

  • Corporate 
  • Government/Military
  • Association 
  • College/University
  • Nonprofit 
  • Education (K-12)
  • Church/Faith-Based 

Whether you’re doing virtual or in-person events or a mix of both, you can make a solid living speaking in any of these industries. This ranking is meant to help you set your speaker fee for individual virtual events you book. We want you to have realistic expectations. You will find that a corporate tech conference may pay you twice as much for your virtual presentation as a faith-based retreat. That’s just the reality of the speaking industry–and something to keep in mind as you build your business strategy. 

How many talks have you given? 

Hiring an inexperienced speaker is a big risk for your client. Experience, testimonials, and references from prior clients give event planners confidence that a speaker will serve the audience well. If a speaker bombs, the decision-maker will suffer the consequences from their superiors. All of this is to say that if you’re just starting out as a speaker, you have to set an accordingly “entry-level” speaker fee…or maybe speak for free.

Keep in mind that unpaid experience is still experience! If you have spoken for free several times, that valuable experience still shows clients you know what you’re doing. Once you have a few more gigs under your belt and client testimonials to show for them, you can raise your fees. 

There are a few specific considerations to keep in mind about experience when it comes to virtual speaking. Virtual speaking does have its own skill set and learning curve. A speaker with many accolades from in-person events could turn out terrible on the Zoom screen. Do you have limited experience that includes one or two few high-quality virtual talks with testimonials to prove it? Use this to your advantage. Remember, clients want to hire the person who is the best fit for their particular event. A little bit of the right experience–in this case, virtual speaking–can go a long way. If you have lots of the wrong experience, the event is a poor fit. (That’s why it’s so important to pick your niche and focus on it well!)

When you’re first figuring out your speaker fee for virtual events, you might wonder how you can make a good living as a speaker. It might even make you rethink your choice to build a speaking business that includes virtual events. Keep your spirits up–it gets better! Starting out with lower speaker fees doesn’t mean you’ll always be stuck there. Just about every professional speaker, with the exception of celebrities, started in the same place. Speaking is a long game business. It is full of risks, like any kind of entrepreneurship. But we think the rewards are worth it!

How much preparation and customization is required?

Time is money. As a speaker, you should be compensated for your time. Remember that as you set your speaker fee or negotiate with a client. Factor in any time spent composing, preparing, and customizing your talk. It’s true that virtual talks take less time traveling and sleeping in an uncomfortable bed. But they do require the same commitment to refining your content and delivery to give your audience the best possible experience. In fact, the virtual environment offers even more ways to customize your signature talk that your typical production on stage does not. 

That means a virtual event could even require more time from your end, especially if you need to integrate special software or technology. If you’re giving a talk you have delivered a thousand times that only requires the click of a zoom button, keep your speaker fee on the lower end of your range. But if you are creating a unique experience for a new audience? Maybe your presentation includes video clips, interactive opportunities, and a state-of-the-art speaker in which you invested? That number should go up. In short: your pricing should always reflect extra time investment for that particular client. 

Is this a new or repeat client? 

We say it all the time–speaking is a relationships business. You build relationships with other speakers, with your audience, and with your clients. Usually, those relationships lead to speaking engagements, saving you valuable time prospecting and marketing. 

When you get booked by a client with whom you have worked before, you are saved all the outreach and time it would have taken to acquire a new client. You also save your client the time it would take to vet and take a chance on a new speaker. These mutually beneficial relationships necessitate lowering your speaker fee or offering a “repeat client” discount. The hours you save will more than make up for setting a lower speaker fee!

Virtual speaking especially lends itself well to repeat opportunities to create online training or coaching programs with clients. These kinds of long-term relationships require setting smaller per-event fees but have incredible long-term rewards as the clients continue coming back to you for more speaking services!

Are there opportunities for additional business with this client? 

You might find yourself facing a situation where a new client just can’t meet your preferred speaker fee. Maybe they have a lower budget for virtual events. Or maybe they don’t have a lot of money at all. When you decide whether to lower your speaker fee, consider whether this is the beginning of the kind of long-term relationship we just talked about.  

If you sense this client is one of the “good ones,” it’s probably worth it to lower your fee a little bit. Remember–these are mutually beneficial relationships. By lowering your speaker fee, you are investing in a relationship that will open doors and save you extra grunt work further down the road. There is always risk involved–maybe it won’t end up a great fit, and you won’t work with the client again. But speaking is a risky business…and that’s part of what makes it so exciting to succeed.

There are even situations early in your career where you can speak for free if you sense further opportunities with a client. A common scenario where this makes sense: you offer a workshop for free to get your foot in the door at an event where you would like to give a keynote in the future. The workshop to keynote pipeline exists in the virtual sphere too–keep an eye out for these opportunities. 

Free Download: 6 Proven Steps to Book More Paid Speaking Gigs in 2024​

Download our 18-page guide and start booking more paid speaking gigs today!

Can you promote or sell other products at the event?

Speaking isn’t the only way you can make money at a speaking engagement, virtual or otherwise. You can also adjust your speaker fees for virtual events if you are allowed to promote products, services, or any of your other streams of income. While it’s not the case for every speaker, some professional speakers get into speaking purely because it’s a great way to generate customers for their other business verticals. 

This is an especially important consideration for virtual speaking. While most clients have understandably lower budgets for virtual events, your other products that you can sell are the same as the products you’d sell from an in-person stage. That means that taking a lower fee for a virtual speaking gig can turn into a massive return on investment if you are allowed to sell courses, books, merch, your consulting business, etc. 

Conclusion

Becoming a virtual speaker (or shifting part of your business to virtual speaking gigs) is a great way to avoid the less glamorous parts of the speaking industry. You don’t have to worry about jet lag, missed connections, or food poisoning from the hotel breakfast. At the same time, setting speaker fees for virtual events can seem like a minefield.

If you’re still struggling after taking all these factors into account, Terry Brock offered a helpful perspective when he came onto our podcast to chat about becoming a virtual speakerTerry recommends thinking of virtual speaker fees as value-based pricing. While you don’t need to factor in the inconveniences involved with traveling, you are able to provide the same (or greater) value and transformation for your clients that you could at an in-person event. With this in mind, you can push back when a client tries to negotiate a lower fee as though virtual events are less impactful than. Remind them that you are bringing the same value to the audience that you would to any other speaking gig, and charge accordingly!

In addition to the resources we’ve already shared, we have had a few more guests talk about various aspects of the virtual speaking industry. Jon Acuff and Brian Lord have spoken with us about pivoting from in person to virtual; Erick Rheam shared how to turn canceled live gigs to successful virtual events; and event planner Christy Burch projected the future of virtual speaking. And you can always use our free speaker fee calculator if you just want a simple number to start with. 

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
Email
Reddit

Explore Related Resources

The Journey to Inspiring Others: 5 Steps to Becoming a Motivational Speaker
Today we're walking you through our five-step framework to launch and sustain a successful career as a motivational speaker. 
Speaker Fees: The Ultimate Guide to Determining What You Should Charge
Find out what to charge to speak with our FREE Speaker Fee Calculator. It will tell you what you should charge to speak at an event!
The Ultimate Guide to Landing Your First (Or Next) Paid Speaking Gig: 4 Key Steps
Learn how to become a speaker and land your first (or next) paid speaking gig! Here's how to find your audience, create your talk, and more!

Learn How You Could Get Your First (Or Next) Paid Speaking Gig In 90 Days or Less

We receive thousands of applications every day, but we only work with the top 5% of speakers.

Book a call with our team to get started — you’ll learn why the vast majority of our students get a paid speaking gig within 90 days of finishing our program.

If you’re ready to control your schedule, grow your income, and make an impact in the world – it’s time to take the first step. Book a FREE consulting call and let’s get you Booked and Paid to Speak®.