Introduction to the 2018 Public Speaking Report

At the end of 2018, Speakersbase launched a survey to get data from the public speaking community. Because it really is a field that is fairly uncharted and could do with more research! The reports are scarce and far in between, and often look at the MICE-industry (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Events. Ed.) as a whole, rather than just the public speakers. We wanted to narrow the focus, and find out what public speakers think.

From within our closest community it became apparent that even the most active and professional public speakers sometimes feel like they are wandering through a fog. The lack of transparency and data are proof of a secretive and fragmented market, and that is something Speakersbase wants to change!

In this report we compiled the data of our survey, collected from over 200 volunteers from all over the world. This representative group assisted us in creating this report, and we are very grateful for their help. We will post each chapter individually on the blog in the coming weeks. Afterwards, the entire Report will become available for free download. The people who requested to be sent the entire report will still receive it in their mailbox!

Ready to read the survey? Here we go!

Chapter 1 Who are the respondents?

When Speakersbase launched the survey, we originally targeted our own database. However, we quickly expanded beyond our own community and shared the link on our social media. As a result, the respondents are from all over the world, and do not necessarily have a Speakersbase portfolio.

In total, we had 125 public speakers who completed the entire survey, though over 300 people started it and left it incomplete. We included all available data in this report, to ensure the most complete and accurate results.

Of the public speakers that answered our survey, many were from Belgium, something we expected, since around half of all speakers on our platform are Belgian. It pleased us that the reach of our little survey had extended far beyond Belgium, and even beyond Europe. In order to achieve the most comprehensive results, we had hoped to reach public speakers from all across the globe, and it seemed like we were able to do just that!

Figure 1. Where are you from? Figure 2. Where do you speak most often?

Figure 1. Where are you from?
Figure 2. Where do you speak most often?

It was very interesting to see the nationalities from the respondents and where they speak most. At first glance, it might seem like all public speakers speak most frequently in their own country, but the numbers do not completely overlap. For example, 2% of our respondents are from Swedish nationality, but 3% speaks most frequently in Sweden. Small differences, but they reveal the international nature of the public speaking industry.

Public speaking, a dying industry?

When looking at the gender of the respondents, we noticed that the public speakers that filled in our survey proved to be overwhelmingly male. This is no real surprise, considering the trend of the past few years for event organizers to specifically look for female public speakers. The event line-ups are becoming more and more balanced. Speakersbase has noticed this trend first hand through the requests that come in with the Call for Speakers.

Figure 3. What gender are you?

Figure 3. What gender are you?

However, in 2018 the industry was still dominated by middle-aged men, as became apparent through our research. Speakersbase appreciates the knowledge and expertise from these public speakers of course. It would merely be for the better of the world to hear a variety of voices and experiences. Perhaps more worrying is that the total amount of speakers under the age of 40 years (figure 4) only makes up 25.6% of all respondents. There is no reason to despair when looking at these numbers, though. The public speaking industry is not doomed to go extinct within 40 years. It is common for people to only start speaking when they have worked in the field for several years. Public speaking becomes a way to spread their knowledge.

Figure 4. How old are you?

Figure 4. How old are you?

Public speaking is an career that relies heavily on your experience, knowledge and insights. So it is not surprising that many people do not feel like they have anything “worth saying” on a large stage early in life. While interesting insights are not something non-existent in younger generations and are not synonymous with getting older, it does have a kind of cachet to it when you can say “25 years of experience”. So too many people wait with sharing their valuable thoughts. Or they even give them away for free! But more on that in chapter 3.

Getting paid for experience?

Figure 5. How many years of experience do you have as a public speaker?

Figure 5. How many years of experience do you have as a public speaker?

The years of experience the respondents have varies immensely. Everything between a single year and over 40 years was noted down as an option. However, it does seem that once public speakers start speaking, they do not easily stop. The fact that there are so many speakers who have multiple decades of experience proves this. There is also the consideration that public speakers do not retire at 65 like in most professions. Or not all public speakers. Figure 4 shows that 2.4% of our respondents were over 65 years old. These speakers truly commit to spreading their knowledge!

Figure 6. Are you a full-time speaker?

Figure 6. Are you a full-time speaker?

Yet, with all that experience, over 80% of our respondents did not speak full time. This enforces the conclusions from Figure 4 and 5, namely that a lot of public speakers stay in their respective fields fairly long. Additionally, this implies that public speaking either does not pay enough to live off, or that it is not a steady enough type of income. Both are surprising, considering that the MICE-industry (Meetings Incentives, Conferences, Events. Ed.) was estimated to be worth $752 billion in 2016, and is expected to reach $1,245 billion by 2023 (Allied Market Research). Of course these numbers are not equal to profit made by event organizers, but considering the pivotal role of public speakers to the industry, it is unexpected.

Perhaps the public speakers are simply over-charging? We’ll discuss the average speaking fees in chapter 2.

Look forward to the rest of our report being published in the coming weeks!

After all chapters have been published, we will be publishing the report in its entirety on the blog for download.