2018 Public Speaking Report – Chapter 3

Feb 15, 2019 | Public Speaking


In this chapter, we collected information on trends we had heard about from our community or have first-hand experience with. We will discuss a wide range of topics, like what industries public speakers are most active in, the types of speeches they like to give, and why they speak for free.

Want to know more? Read on!


There are a lot of industries in this day and age, and public speakers can contribute in all fields. So when Speakersbase asked what industries speakers were most active in, the list was very long. The results came in and over 20 industries were noted as the primary speaking field. Fitting all of them in a single graph proved to be challenging, though almost 25% of speakers most often speak in the service industry.

Whenever less than 2% of the respondents clicked an industry as their primary field, we collected them in the “other” option in the following graph. “Other” includes the manufacturing, pharmaceutical and aerospace industry, among others. Besides the service industry, education and finances are industries that appreciate the external insights speakers bring.

Figure 12. In what industry do you speak the most?

Figure 12. In what industry do you speak the most?

After thinking about where public speakers do their presentations, we started asking about the what. What types of speeches are most popular? Traditional keynotes, or rather the currently popular workshop? Or even other types of public speaking?

Figure 12 shows that keynotes and workshops dominate the speech types. With their 46% and 30%, they are a long while ahead of the second runner up, seminars, with 10%. The “other” option represents all other possible types of speeches like lectures and in-house meetings.

These rather traditional types of speeches are still the most popular, though they are often considered to be “in house” and more difficult to track without a survey like ours. Workshops especially are often kept secret by the companies that hire the public speakers, so their competition does not know what insights they are acquiring. This secrecy makes it not only difficult for competitors to know what they are learning. The in-house types of presentations are also rather often difficult to find by more inexperienced speakers.


Figure 13. What types of speeches do you give most often?

Figure 13. What types of speeches do you give most often?

Perhaps the most surprising is that convention speeches make up only 4% of the speeches given among the respondents. These big stages are perhaps the most visible of all speeches, but it seems that they make up only a very small portion of those given. Previous Speakersbase research revealed that a high number of high profile events with large stages and audience do not pay their speakers. The “exposure” and any made connections are often what the speaker takes away from such an event.

Speaking for Free

So, after figuring out where public speakers speak most often and what kind of speeches they give, we were wondering about the payment for these speeches. As we saw in Chapter 1, most public speakers are not full-time speakers. Are public speakers getting paid? Or are they paying to be on stage? This might sound absurd to many public speakers, but Speakersbase has heard of an upcoming trend.

Some really big and famous events have apparently started asking a fee to be on stage. The fee is sometimes masked as the entrance fee to the event itself in combination with no budget for speakers. So the speakers on stage paid for their ticket, and are, essentially, paying to work. This practice has already raised questions about the quality of the speeches being given. Because if speakers need to make back the money they spend, will they not start doing more sales pitches rather than spreading their knowledge and value? We will delve more into this question with Figure 16.

But first, do speakers speak for free? It seems that quite frequently they do! Or rather, that almost all public speakers have ever given away their knowledge, insights, and expertise for free. And they are willing to speak for free again! Though there are some stipulations. When asked about the “why” behind speaking for free, several patterns could be noted.

Figure 14. Have you ever spoken for free? Would you do that again?

Figure 14. Have you ever spoken for free? Would you do that again?

When asked when they would speak for free, all answers could be traced back to the five reasons listed in Figure 15. A large amount of speakers would speak for free if the cause was a charity, a school, or a cause they felt close to. These speakers indicated that they feel that a cause that is not in it for the profit should not be profited from. An ethical aspect is very prominent here.

The second largest group said that their personal brand was still in the making. These are mostly new public speakers, and they want to work on their reputation before they start charging a fee. One quote from the survey responses reads as follows “Though I have a lot of knowledge, I am still learning how to present with confidence and humour. It would not feel right to ask money just yet.” Here the personal development aspect was most prominent.

In the third group we could see a lot of speakers who are not full-time speakers using public speaking to promote their company. One respondent said “public speaking is the best possible marketing for my consultancy business”. This group also includes the public speakers that are sent by their company to speak. All their costs and efforts are covered, and they do not speak for themselves, but always as the voice of their company. The most prominent aspect is marketing and business thought leadership.

The fourth group is very interesting in the sense that they never want to be paid for their expertise. They believe that “nothing of value can be expressed in money”, or that “public speaking is just fun!” So while the motivation between these two overall sentiments are different, the outcome is the same. The most prominent aspect is conviction.

The final group consists of just one person, who stated that they only speak for free if they have a personal, long term relationship with the event organizer. This personal relationship is the most prominent aspect in this group of one.

Figure 15. Why do you speak for free?

Figure 15. Why do you speak for free?


Paying to Speak

As stated above, there is a growing trend of events that ask a fee of the speakers for them to get on stage. The reasoning behind this trend is that certain large conferences attract large crowds, so if they pay public speakers, they will get their fee and gain from the exposure of large crowds. When written down like that, it is not the most far-fetched logic. However, is it fair to ask people to pay to work in the hope that someone else will hire them and actually pay them? Will the public speakers who need to make sales from that stage actually deliver value, or will they sell themselves in order to attract other clients?

Our survey showed that a large percentage of speakers would not or not again pay to be on stage. But what about those who would pay? What drives them?

Figure 16. Have you ever paid to be on stage? Would you do that again?

Figure 16. Have you ever paid to be on stage? Would you do that again?

With just 11% that had already paid to be on stage, and 16% that would do it when asked, it is still an overwhelming majority that will not. We also asked all respondents their thoughts on this new “trend”. Sifting through all those written comments took a long time, but we distilled interesting patterns from their free-writing.

The responses to the questions regarding to paying to be on stage answered our questions and initial speculations above. The public speakers who pay to speak want to get something out of it. Of our respondents, 16% said they would pay to be on stage, but a third of these speakers nuanced they would only do it if they can sell from the stage. Two third of that 16% said they would only pay to speak if they got enough exposure that would lead to future sales. This is not surprising, nor are we judging these speakers. Public speakers have to pay bills too, after all.

Perhaps more interesting than the reasons why they would pay to speak are the comments of those who do not want to pay to speak. Some quotes include “You want quality, a custom speech, actual and tangible value…? You pay your speakers” , and “Pay to work??”, and “It’s a job. A lot of work, preparation and you bring a ton of value. Industry events especially! The organizer is hosting an event for business purposes. If they’re going to make money based on my work, it’s only fair I get a piece of that.”

So besides the fact that 84% of speakers do not want to pay to speak, they also appear to be vehemently against it.

In chapter 4: the online marketing strategies from public speakers!

Want to read the previous chapters? Chapter 1Chapter 2

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2018 Public Speaking Report (125 downloads)

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