Whether you’re a program manager for a large venue or the committee chair for the neighborhood garden club, this question comes up consistently: What do presentations cost? What should you budget as a venue or club? While we can’t tell you exactly what to pay (that would be a big no-no price-fixing conversation), there are some guidelines and things to think about first. Let’s dive in.
Where to Start
Venues and clubs, particularly larger ones, typically have a budget for speaking/presentations. Sometimes a smaller garden club will not have a budget, but they will provide other benefits to the speaker. Where to start?
- Decide your budget early. Don’t wait until the last minute. Never ends well.
- Communicate it to your potential speaker(s). No guesswork here! When negotiating, let the speaker know in the first conversation what you are able or planning to offer.
- Honorarium vs. speaking fee. An honorarium is a token of appreciation and could be a gift, a gift card, or a small fee. A speaking fee is typically much higher, agreed upon between parties, and spelled out in a contract.
- Pay on time. Give the speaker a card with their payment immediately at the event, or if you’ve agreed to mail them their payment, do it that week. No late payments; no exceptions.
But what’s the bottom line here? How much should you budget? That depends. Is the speaker nationally known? Is this a keynote address or a monthly garden talk? Here’s the range that we see talked about in the industry, but please note that every one of these needs to be agreed upon and clearly communicated from the beginning.
- No fee: Sometimes small garden clubs or nonprofits will have no budget for speakers. Or sometimes a speaker agrees to forego payment for their own reasons (they love the cause, it’s a great PR move for them, they do X amount of free talks a year, etc.). Regardless, you should still have a thank-you note for the speaker, and a small gift (a plant, for example) is always appreciated.
- Honorarium: Garden clubs or flower/garden shows often have set honorariums from $100 to $250, sometimes a little more. Gifts can sometimes replace a monetary honorarium, but make sure it’s a thoughtful one if so. One speaker we know was given a bag of hand-ground cornmeal from a garden club as a gift, and while that’s a yummy ingredient for some people, for others, it’s not useful at all.
- Speaking fee: Most speakers have a set fee of X amount for local talks, and a higher amount for presentations where they need to take a couple of days and travel. Expect $250 on the low end, up to $1200 or more (depending upon the speaker). If there is airfare involved, you may need to cover that as well as lodging and per diems for food/expenses.
- Keynote: Most keynotes are delivered by high profile speakers, with fees starting at $5,000 and skyrocketing from there. Keep in mind that many event goers are drawn to the event because of this speaker, so although it’s a larger piece of your budget, think of it as marketing.
Note: Most industry events have an overall budget for speakers, with each speaker commanding different fees. You could budget $500 – $700 for a lesser-known speaker, $800 – $1,200+ for experienced/in-demand speakers, and more for the upper-tier/famous speakers. Remember, this is a range of commonly charged fees and not a fixed rate.
In-Person vs. Virtual Presentations
It’s tempting to want to pay less for a virtual presentation. After all, the speaker doesn’t need to leave their home and could be dressed in pajamas from the waist down, right? While that’s technically correct in terms of location and dress code, resist the urge to budget less for virtual presentations. Here are some things to consider:
- The speaker is still investing an hour to two hours of their time either way, and their expertise level is still the same.
- If a speaker chooses to charge less for a virtual presentation, that is their option, but please don’t budget with that hopeful expectation. Some speakers, however, have a “day rate” for speaking engagements that requires travel, and because of that, will charge less for a virtual presentation.
- Refrain from asking, “Do you lower your fee for a virtual presentation?” Rather, ask “What is your fee for a virtual presentation?” Big difference! And one that will be noted and appreciated by the speaker.
Can you negotiate?
In theory, anything’s negotiable. If you need to negotiate, do it respectfully, however. Here are some thoughts and tips:
- If the event is multi-day and the speaker is presenting more than once, it’s possible to negotiate a combined rate. If your normal pay is $800 for one presentation, it’s reasonable to ask if they would accept $1,300 for two talks, for example.
- Use phrases like, “Would you consider,” “Would X amount be acceptable?” or “I wonder if” — all of these are respectful ways to communicate and negotiate.
- Refrain from “That’s too expensive” or “So-and-so only charges X,” as anything along those lines is unprofessional. If the speaker’s fee is beyond your budget, thank them genuinely for considering your offer, and add that you hope to be able to work with them down the road.
Communication, clarity, preparation, and respect are the talking points here — cover those, and you’ll most likely find the speaker you need with the budget you have allotted. And if you continually come up against a brick wall and have a hard time finding speakers? Review your budget and expect to make some adjustments.