The Strange World of Professional Speaking

It amazes me that people get paid much more to talk about their job, skill, or area of expertise — as professional speakers — than they do to actually DO their job.

Example: As Fed Chairman, Alan Greenspan holds the fate of the U.S. economy in his hands, and in return is paid $180,000 to work the entire year managing it.

When he retires from the Fed, I heard on the radio today, he will join the pro speaking circuit — where he will get paid $150,000 to give a one-hour talk about the economy.

Am I the only one who sees a disconnect in these disparate payscales?


16 thoughts on “The Strange World of Professional Speaking

  • Hello Bob

    It’s all about value.

    I used to manage a bunch of speakers, our most expensive one being $6,000. For that you’d get an hour from a guy who had some very limited business success but managed to create a story about it that the “I want to be a millionaire in 5 minutes but I don’t want to actually have to work” crowd loved to hear.

    He once did a speech which attracted 400 people.

    The amount of merchandise the organiser sold (books, CD, tapes, etc) was in excess of $100,000. The profit on that was high.

    Companies will happily pay $150,000 for a speaker whose perceived value is so high. They can invite along key accounts and impress them, gain media coverage of the event, etc. With that sort of leverage the value is probably there.



  • When the Fed chairman steps down, he will no longer be an economist…he will become a celebrity. People will pay him because he will draw a crowd…not for what he says. As a celebrity, he is competing with other celebrities, not economists. Celebrities are in demand, workers are a dime-a-dozen. 🙂


  • It’s Alan status as a celebrity that is earning him the big bucks on the speaking circuit, not his insights into the economy. He’s a draw and, therefore, worth every penny to the event planners who hire him.

    Non-celebrity speakers, by contrast, have to rely on a compelling topic and a heck of a lot of marketing to make their average of $5,000 per speech. And the competition is fierce.

  • Steve (above) is absolutely correct – when it comes to determining what audiences will pay for, celebrity status trumps both knowledge and speaking skills.

  • Hey Bob;

    You know the old saying. You get paid $20 for your book, $30 for your audio of a section of the book, $300 an hour to talk on the phone about your book and thousands to present about it. It is simply about content repackaged.

    Odd huh!

    Mike Stelzner

  • Hi Bob,

    One hour of a true expert could have a lifetime of wisdom in it.

    I don’t know if this applies to the person being discussed though.

    I’d gladly shell out some dough for sharing a few enlightening moments with Neil French, Indra Sinha, or the wanderting spirit of an advertising legend.

    copywriter, journalist, etc

  • First man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong charges quite a fortune for public speaking, although he just flatly refuses to talk about the one subject everyone is paying to hear.. What it was like to walk on the Moon!. Go figure.

    Richard Kerr
    Web Design and Marketing

  • I guess people are just happy to see the first man who walked on the moon. He probably doesn/yt have to say anything and people will still show up.

    Richard Johnston

  • Does anyone know how / where/when I could bring my young son to see Neil Armstrong Speak anywhere in 2009? Please drop me an email. thanks, Lorne

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