How to avoid sounding like an asshole as an event’s organizer

This post is about the difference between a professional event’s organizer and an amateur one.

I get requests for speaking engagements regularly. And I accept if they match my topics (I never speak about anything else that I know by heart), match with my values and can fit into my schedule. After all these years, it still baffles me how many event organizers are just totally clueless when it comes to asking entrepreneurs to give a speak. It’s only far and a few who can be casted as professional organizers. Most of the organizers have the audacity to expect entrepreneurs to gladly give their time and share their experiences for free for everyone. It really pisses us off.

I have done a lot of free speaking engagements over the years and I always will, but obviously with small growing businesses lacking resources, I don’t have a lot of spare time to give. So I have to be selective.

I have two rules:

  1. If it is a commercial event, it will cost you
  2. If it is a free event, my price depends on the cause

This event’s organizer sounded like an asshole

I was recently asked to give a speech at a commercial event. I had no idea who the organizer was or what they were about. I checked it out and saw they had booked a couple of interesting speakers. This indicated the event was probably going to be ok reputation wise. I asked if they had budgeted a speaker’s fee as this is work to me. I was told: “We rather not pay as we are looking for a speaker who can give us a bit more than just a short appearance…Bring audience to our event.. captivate the audience.

Their offer was: “We’ll give you a free stand at the event.”

Here’s what happens in my brain right now

Bringing a stand would require me to resource the stand. So the cost for my speech would not only be my time spent preparing for the speech, my time giving the speech but also the time of one or more of my employees at the stand. For this to be worth while, the time at the stand would need to be used in a highly proactive manner in order to collect leads.

Stands at seminars where the audience sits listening to speeches most of the day are not exactly an ideal working ground for that purpose. The stand is in a different place than the audience.

The target audience in this particular event did not really match with our key customer target audience. When you are a small team, you must think how to make the most of your resources. That’s called targeting. I don’t think bringing a stand and a couple of people would be a great return on investment.

So what’s wrong with giving free speeches, you might ask

Nothing when it is my decision to pay it forward.

However, this is my job. As an entrepreneur I only get paid for when I get paid for. There is no other party who pays my salary regardless of how I spend my days.

Besides, every single occasion where I stand in front of an audience, share my thoughts, my knowlegde, my experiences in any shape or format is me selling my skills, my experiences, my knowledge. Building the important trust that gives me the credibility I need in order to get customers and business.

Preparing for a speech captivating for the audience takes hours. Hours of digging out information about the audience in order to figure out what could be captivating for them about this topic, putting together the speech, then practicing it as I prefer not to speak from notes.

Then the time spent at the event itself: it’s traveling time back and forth in addition to the speech itself. Very often people like to stop you for chats, which is great and you do it if you can.

So for a clarification purposes, let’s say, a 30 minute speech consists of the following rough hours:

  • Learning about the audience 1-2 hours
  • Ideating the speech 1 hour
  • Putting together a quality, add value presentation (easily) 4-5 hours
  • Rehearsing the speech 2 hours
  • Travel to-from location (minimum 1 hour in the traffic)
  • Speech itself 0,5 hours
  • Networking afterwords 1 h
  • Modifying the presentation for the event organizer for sharing purposes 1 h

That makes a total of 11,5-12,5 hours of work for one 30 minute speech.

And might I add, without my 13 years of experience in my field, I probably would not be asked to give a speak.

Not doing all this will result in that “just a short appearance“.

Time is my most valuable asset

Listen folks, time is my most valuable asset. Time is the most valuable asset to all growth entrepreneurs. We work (at least I do) 7 days a week, easily 12-14 hours a day. If I had a spare 11-12 hours, I would rather spend it with my kid and my husband that with a stranger who obviously is a taker, not a giver.

I could also use the spare time for sleeping and taking better care of myself. Or seeing my friends who I see maybe once a year since I work all the time. I would love to spend more time with my team, coach them, be available for them without anything on my agenda! I should also spend more time with our customers, or hey sell!

I have to say, I have never felt so dissed for the work and expertise I have done and gained over the past 13 years.

Reputation is my second most valuable asset

I think it goes without saying, I’m super excited about my work and my topics and I work very hard every day to know more, to be better, to give value to others.

As an entrepreneur I have this thing called reputation. I’ve carefully built it and work hard to maintain it. If I won’t give my 200% as an entrepreneur, I won’t be asked a second time.

So it’s just plain rude to suggest otherwise.

If you want to maintain a good reputation about yourself and about your event, and eventually grow up to be considered a professional event’s organizer, show more respect to professionals and their hard earned skills and work. If my name and face were interesting enough to be asked to give a speech at your event, you must have thought I could bring additional value to your event – in other words, help you to sell more tickets and get you good feedback from your audience.

How would you feel, if your employer told you, you will now work for free and you oughta be happy to have that opportunity?

As said, I always have and always will pay it forward, but be respectful, not an asshole. It pisses us entrepreneurs off.

Love, S

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