Speak for VALUE – not “For Free”

Part 2 of SERIES: “Speaking for Free” is a Dirty Word!

girl slaps guy

Image Credit: Slap Day 2015

Speak for VALUE – not “For Free”

This article is the second installment in a series, to educate & forewarn all event/meeting planners to never again make the mistake of using a specific phrase when asking professional public speakers to work.



  1. To Help Event Planners build Win-Win Relationships with Speakers
  2. Mr. TAKER, Mr. GIVER, and the Issue of VALUE
  3. Lesson applies to Event Planners & Speakers
  4. The “Promise” of the Illusion of “Exposure”
  5. VALUE for VALUE
  6. Because “Free” Equals Zero VALUE


1. To Help Event Planners build Win-Win Relationships with Speakers


In the business of public speaking, a term that used to be used with positive intent has become hijacked in the modern era of social media and the resulting mentality of “expecting something for nothing.” Due to this term’s overuse by some who only seek to exploit the Talent Industries, “Speaking for Free” is a dirty word to professional speakers now.

In the first installment of this series, I explained how the issue had “come to a head” whereby speakers were finally fed up, in the article titled, “Speakers Now Draw the Line in the Sand”. (Any readers who have not yet read that first installment might want to stop here and go read that first.)

With this second installment, it is my hope to provide and to explain the proper perspective that event planners must have when they seek professional public speakers. No doubt, not all event planners have hostile intentions. Most are sincerely positive who only seek genuinely productive relationships with speakers. Toward that end, I have written this article to be a tool to educate everyone so that even the genuinely positive event planners not make such mistakes – even innocently – too.

Any event planners reading this article will not need to feel defensive at all. There is no proverbial “slap” of event planners herein. Indeed, if you are an event planner who was given the link to this article from a speaker, it will help you both for you to perceive it as their act of kindness to educate you with the way to know how to more successfully work with them, so that you may build a positive working relationship.

Most assuredly, this article is written to provide a positive path to comfortably resolving all the issues so that a healthy and mutually-beneficial working relationship may ensue between event planners and speakers. All readers are encouraged, therefore, to read all the way through to the end of this article.


2. Mr. TAKER, Mr. GIVER, and the Issue of VALUE


The relationship between an event planner and a professional speaker may be most easily understood by considering the relationships of men and women.

When a man first meets a woman, it would be highly inappropriate for him to immediately ask her to go straight to a hotel and sleep with him (and all that that implies). Most people would agree that doing so would be presumptuous, rude, and even offensive. That is, of course, very different from a happily married man making the same offer to his wife on their 20th Year Wedding Anniversary. Most people would agree that the married man’s doing so is thoughtful, other-centered, and certainly loving. Why is the same offer from these two separate men very different?

As these two examples reveal the necessity of context and timing, it ultimately comes down to the issue of VALUE.

The man in the first example does not VALUE the woman. For the purposes of this analysis, he is Mr. TAKER. The married man in the second example completely VALUES his wife. Also for this analysis, he is Mr. GIVER.

Mr. TAKER is only making the offer to serve his own selfish motivations. He just wants to use her. She has NO VALUE to him beyond what he hopes to get out of her. Contrary to that, Mr. GIVER is making the offer to selflessly serve his wife’s motivations. He just wants to give her joy. She is of priceless VALUE to him.


3. Lesson applies to Event Planners & Speakers


This overall lesson of context and timing – and ultimately VALUE – also equally applies to event planners making “offers” to professional speakers. This especially applies when that which is being called an “offer” is actually a request of the speaker to “speak for free.”

When that “offer” to “speak for free” is made, how long and how committed is the relationship between the event planner and the speaker? If they have only just met, then there is no past history of the event planner proving that they are not a TAKER to the speaker. If they have positively worked together for years with consistent and mutual giving, then there should be a good past history of the event planner proving that they are a GIVER to the speaker.

That is the lens through which the speaker will view any would-be “offer” to “speak for free.” May every event planner ever keep that lens in mind.

If they have only just met, the event planner should approach the speaker in the same way of a man asking a woman he just met on a first date. If the man is the one asking for the date, he should never ask her to pay for it; likewise, the event planner should never ask the speaker to pay out of pocket to help the event planner.

To simplify matters, at least until they have built a positive relationship history together, the event planner must treat the situation as a bona fide business transaction. If the event planner does not do that, then any “offer” to “speak for free” is effectively insulting the speaker – yes, insulting, even if unwittingly.

An actual business transaction is an exchange of VALUE for VALUE. When an event planner does not provide and negotiate an equal exchange of VALUE for VALUE, then they are being no different than Mr. TAKER, thereby saying to the speaker that they do not VALUE the speaker at all.


4. The “Promise” of the Illusion of “Exposure”


Sometimes, an event planner will purport to “balance” that exchange by suggesting that “speaking for free” will bring the speaker the elusive illusion of so-called good “exposure.” This “promise” has been so over-exploited that it has become cliché, even becoming used by some who might genuinely and only have a positive intent. Unfortunately, the irrelevance of that illusion is that it mostly and practically never actually solidifies into a tangible VALUE that genuinely demonstrates a balanced exchange of VALUE for VALUE.

It is as substantially meaningless as Mr. TAKER “promising” to the woman he just met that she will “have a good time” if she goes to the hotel with him. As the woman is thereby not being VALUED, neither is the speaker being VALUED. Indeed, in the same way that a self-interested man might “promise” a woman he just met anything he thinks she wants to hear in order to lure her to willingly go straight to a hotel with him, the illusion of “exposure” is the likewise all-too-common “promise” made by event planners in trying to lure speakers to “speak for free.”

When confronted by an event planner’s “promise” of this illusion as the would-be incentive for the speaker to “speak for free,” the speaker must determine – that is, quantify – the actual VALUE in actual numeric terms. What is the outright VALUE of that illusion?

Oftentimes, the actual answer is a surprisingly low number or even just zero, 0. If anything, whatever that number actually is, it essentially is the same number that the event planner is inwardly thinking that they VALUE the speaker’s product.

No matter what that number is, the speaker then must next ask his or her own self, “Would I pay that number to actually purchase that service from the event planner?”

More importantly, that number must be compared to the VALUE that the speaker sets for the price of their product. For example, when the speaker VALUES their product at $5,000, how does that compare to the VALUE of that number for the so-called “exposure?” If the speaker would only pay $3,000 to purchase that so-called “exposure” from the event planner, then the event planner is effectively asking the speaker to pay the full VALUE of $5,000 for what is only the VALUE of $3,000 of so-called “exposure.”

By deliberately quantifying the numbers every time a “promise” of “exposure” is made (or even just hinted at), a speaker is able to see through the illusion – or to identify when the offer is indeed a true VALUE, after all.

Using this quantification process exposes how the “promise” of “exposure” is just an illusion in more cases than not. Very, very few opportunities actually provide the kind of true quantifiable exposure that equals the actual VALUE the speaker provides. If any such opportunity does in deed and in truth provide it, then the event planner can – and I would say, must – be able to self-confidently put a VALUE number on it and contractually obligate their own self that it will be of that VALUE to the speaker. If an event planner does not have that self-confidence to do so, then their timidity demonstrates to the speaker that even the event planner knows that the promise of “exposure” is indeed just an illusion.

When it comes to that “promise,” the speaker must see it for what it is, an illusion. Nothing more than a useless hope, it is neither real nor substantive. It does not really exist. It is just an illusion.

Accordingly, event planners who do not have sufficient cash budgets must find different ways to still exchange real VALUE for VALUE with a speaker. Forget the illusion and get real – that is always the best way to build any relationship.




Ultimately, the event planner should approach the speaker in the same way as a man asking a woman on a first date whom he just met. Even with a limited cash budget, there are creative ways to treat the exchange as a GIVING transaction of VALUE for VALUE. But the event planner should never be as a “Mr. TAKER” by self-interestedly asking the speaker to be “speaking for free.”

How may an event planner do this?

The previous segment briefly alluded to the answer already with one of many possibilities. Indeed, there are two easily-usable alternatives to “speaking for free” that a speaker might consider as workable – barter and donation.

Some professional speakers might be willing to do a barter of VALUE for VALUE instead of requiring a direct cash payment. In any application of such barter, the exchange must be a bona fide business transaction as an exchange of actually equal VALUE for VALUE. Using the $5,000 example, the event planner is effectively paying the $5,000 to the speaker for the speaker’s product and the speaker is effectively paying $5,000 for whatever services the event planner is overtly bound to provide to the speaker.

As well, using such barter-math, a speaker might alternatively choose to donate their VALUE. Examples of this might involve speaking at non-profits and charities. Event planners must be truly sure that the concept of donation is really applicable to their particular event or organization; if not, then suggesting the donation-alternative could back-fire as an insult to the speaker too.

In either of these ways, whether barter or donation, the speaker is definitely not “speaking for free;” they are speaking for VALUE and then using that VALUE to either buy something from the event planner (et al) or to donate something to the event planner (et al).

With these alternatives understood, for any event planner with a limited cash budget seeking the VALUE from a speaker, the event planner must first transform from being a non-paying “buyer” into becoming a seller of services to the speaker. Using the barter-math, the event planner must be creative and offer reciprocal services of sufficient, quantifiable VALUE. The event planner has to both pitch and sell their offered reciprocal services; and, the speaker has to determine if they would be willing to buy that VALUE as the compensation for the VALUE of the speaker’s work.

What this means is that, whenever an event planner begins a negotiation by wanting to ask the speaker to be “speaking for free,” what they now are really doing is putting the speaker into the driver’s seat of the transaction.

The over-arching point is about realizing, remembering, and recognizing that a speaker’s work has VALUE. Event planners who learn and apply this over-arching point will be well on their way to building positive, win-win relationships with speakers who will be happy to find ways to work together.


6. Because “Free” Equals Zero VALUE


Hence, as the title of this article series educates, ‘Speaking for Free’ is a Dirty Word.” It offensively declares that the speaker’s work supposedly has NO VALUE – God forbid. That term can be as insulting to a professional speaker as that of a man asking a woman he just met to go to a hotel with him right away. By compassionately understanding why a woman would be offended by a man making that kind of request for a first date, then it should be just as easy to compassionately understand why a speaker would be likewise offended by being asked the now-dirty word, to “speak for free.”

Although most people commonly understand the iconic and familiar image of a woman slapping a man for being that fresh and offensive, the point here must not be confused to falsely suggest that event planners should ever be slapped by speakers. (Indeed, even this article here is absolutely not written as any form of proverbial “slap” to event planners either.) Not at all. Rather, by herewith educating event planners to now understand the level of this offensiveness in comparison, event planners may more easily remember this image for their compassionate understanding and will now be able to correctly avoid ever making this unnecessary mistake again.

The lessons here for event planners are simple to understand and to apply.

  • Make offers to speakers that VALUE the speaker and their product.
  • Treat the beginning of the relationship as a man asking a woman on their first few dates.
  • Strive to develop a relationship as Mr. GIVER (from the above example).
  • Never be as Mr. TAKER.
  • Do not default to “promising” the illusion of “exposure” unless you can unquestionably prove that that quantifiable VALUE will occur and can self-confidently obligate yourself to it.
  • If creative alternatives are needed in order to compensate the speaker (such as barter), quantify an actual VALUE and live up to it.
  • Never again use the now-offensively dirty word.
  • Remember, from now on, “Speaking for Free” is a Dirty Word.

To never forget why this is all so important to remember, think of it in simple mathematical terms:

“Free equals zero, and zero means NO VALUE.”

Like a good man asking a woman on their first date, the correct approach for event planners is to always seek to give VALUE for VALUE. By being so VALUED, speakers will more flexibly find ways to give their VALUE back. As the win-win approach to build better relationships, may all now remember: speakers speak for VALUE – not “for free.”



This is the second (2nd) installment in this series.

    SERIES: “Speaking for Free” is a Dirty Word!

  1. Speakers Now Draw the Line in the Sand
  2. Speak for VALUE – not “For Free”

Future installment(s) of this article-series will continue to educate and demonstrate why “Speaking for Free” is now a dirty word for Professional Public Speakers, will explore creative methods to obtain compensation though means other than direct financial payment, will address how to protect legacy issues for those who used to use the phrase in eras gone by, and will provide ways to use specific adjectives to describe situations which could legitimately not involve compensation (e.g., “Donation Speaking”). Be sure to check back for such installment(s).

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