Consultant Marketing Speaking Pay to Play

3 days ago I responded to a call for speakers passed along by a friend. It was for a Summit here in Portland and is a live event. I sent a one sheet on my Trust speech and a link to my speaking demo not expecting a response since I was mor interested in their events in major cities across the USA.

My e-mail lit up with a notation of interest and by the end of the day I was in communication with the event planner in charge of assuring speakers would not be doing commercials.

I’m used to that as these days so many organizations host events where they expect “Thought Leaders” to pay their own way to the event and pick up the cost of the hotel as well. Since most of these people are in corporate jobs that doesn’t present a problem to them.

But what if you are a “Thought Leader” but not affiliated with an organization that will allow you to write of the trip as a business expense? What about those unaffiliated “thought Leaders?”

What about the whole pay to play idea?

These events charge attendees. That is reasonable as the venue must be paid somehow. But it is not unknown for corporate speakers to be pressured to buy a booth and or a sponsorship or both. Failing that, often event planners will attempt to get professional speakers to engage in a commission deal for anything sold as a result of the speech. And it is not unknown for event planners to charge new speakers just for the privilege of taking their stage.

What about business development value?

One of the reasons I do an annual Consultant Marketing Survey is that years ago I wanted to prove the point that trade shows did not have reasonable ROI when compared to other promotional possibilities. Even though Covid has slowed things down the trade show continues. Yes, it has morphed in some ways but it still capture hearts and minds with the promise of being at the center of an industry and having all the players available. Why they might just stroll up to your booth and change your life!

The value is only there if you know how to take advantage of it. One of my clients spent the better part of two years going to shows to sell his software. Two years. No sales. All those out -of-pocket costs could not be recovered. In part it was because he never stopped tinkering with the product going through at least 5 programmers I was aware of. You have to pull the trigger if you are going to offer a product. It has to be real. Or all you get is a bill.

What about a service offering? Easier to make buck there. Anybody can make an offer in or out of a booth. You can set sales meetings with a lot of key players in a short time. You can network with media and other influencers. You can enjoy all the benefits of being there.

The money is in the follow up.

People don’t buy on the first meeting. You will have to build a relationship with them first. One client resisted the idea of sending thank you notes to people they had talked with at a convention. The president convinced the VP to do so. We sent 36 hand written thank you notes out. Three organizations responded immediately. Two asked for presentations. They bought. That put 2.5 Million on the bottom line for the company that quarter.

Speaking increases your visibility.

If you can get in front of part of the attendees at that event a group of them you can begin engaging with numbers well above what you might in any other way. All that stuff you’ve heard about lead magnets is really helpful here. Your personal offer from the stage is more valuable than all the social media you can imagine. Why? You have a relationship with the audience. When they ask you to send them something and give you their contact information you have an open door. More importantly if is with people  that are several steps further along the customer journey.

Is it worth it? Yes. One client who had a Software as a service offering got really tired of paying for a booth and coming home empty. Then he negotiated a speaking breakout with the booth. The speech he developed proved to be crowd pleaser. Soon he was being asked to appear at all the regional shows and he booth became a courtesy. Yes, he had a product that brought digital to an analog industry and his understanding of both made him a sought-after expert. A year in sales of the product were making the company solvent. Two years in the largest analog supplier in the industry saw the writing on the wall. He accepted their offer of north of $7Million.

The advice

Look hard at every trade show/event/convention offer. Can you accomplish what you want ot get out of that time and place without writing a check. Attend once if you believe it is “your kind of people.” Evaluate it and make it a point to meet the people running it if you are going to pursue a speaking position. Then make sure you make your speech all about them. Those that realize you care will reach out to you.

And so it goes.

Jerry Fletcher is a sought-after International Speaker, a beBee ambassador, founder and CEO of Z-axis Marketing, Inc. See Jerry’s speaker demo reel.

His consulting practice, founded in 1990, is known for on and off-line Trust-based Consultant Marketing advice that builds businesses, brands and lives of joy.


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About Jerry Fletcher

Jerry is the CEO of Z-axis Marketing, Inc. which he founded in 1990. He is an expert at business development and has changed the way the way new business is acquired and introduced on three continents. He is known to meet with clients in dining rooms and boardrooms. He stopped counting successful introductions of new products at 207.

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