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Jeff Yalden at a recent High School Assembly

This is a touchy subject and one that I will probably be criticized over.  Speakers fees range from donations to six or maybe even seven figures per keynote address.  I work in education as youth motivational speaker, therefore, I will talk about only what I know.

In 19 years, I have addressed every teen audience a speaker can speak to.  I have addressed High School Assemblies, Middle School Assemblies, Teen Conferences, Leadership Conferences, Teacher In-Services, Staff Trainings, Prisons, At-Risk Teens, and every audience that I have failed to mention too.

Every one of these audiences have paid me to speak to their teens.  I have fought myself with how much to charge and how much value I bring and what is or what isn’t affordable.  This is my career and how I get paid.

When I coach other teen speakers on how much to charge I always say this, “You charge based on the value you think you bring to your audience.”  Probably not the best answer because every Youth Speaker in the world has an ego and thinks they are the absolute best speaker working with teens ever.  Well, let’s be real here and realize that as speakers all we do is teach, educate, inspire, influence, and encourage.

The reality is that we are nothing more than a teacher, but we can get away with a lot more than a teacher can.  For example:  There are a lot of teachers that have to be careful about how they relate to their teens and how they teach.  They have to follow an outline or a syllabus.  As a speaker, we have a message that through word of mouth or advertising, someone has thought enough of the message to want us to share this message with their teens.

Having said that, we are just an outside source coming in to aide in the purpose of education and teach young people.  Whether it is about Character Education, Bullying Prevention, Drugs and Alcohol, Choices, Respect and Responsibility, Red Ribbon Week, or Student Leadership Conferences, etc.  We are outside contractors contracted by a hiring organization to provide a service.  How much is that service worth?

I think it depends on a few things:

1.  Demand of the Speaker

2.  Experience of Speaker

3.  Years Speaker has been Speaking

4.  Travel of Speaker to Event – Round Trip

5.  How Many Speaking Engagements are you asking of Speaker

6.  Workshops

7.  How many hours at Location

8.  The overall response to the Speaker

9.  Comedy / Message / Story-Telling Abilities

10.  Educational Background

When I started speaking I was charging $99.  This is when I started thinking about being a Youth Speaker for a career.  When I was in the Marine Corps and my first speaking engagement at Apopka High School in Apopka, FL I didn’t get paid.  I volunteered because they were looking for a speaker to address their Marine Corps ROTC Program.  I drove 2.5 hours and spend four classes working with teens and drove 2.5 hours back home to Jacksonville, FL.  Little did I know that I would end up doing this a few times – But, it was well worth it.

Working at Hollis Brookline High School in Hollis, NH and coaching in 1994 – 1996 is when I knew that I wanted to make this a career.  I started at $99 which was enough to pay gas and a little bit of travel.  Heck, those days I was only making $42 a day anyways so I thought I was doing pretty good and I loved what I was doing.

That is when I started finding out what other speakers where getting paid.  They always got paid more than I did, but I wanted to be inexpensive and easy to work with.

I changed my fee to $500 and I will never forget the first speaking engagement I did at Edward Little High School in Maine.  After the first speaker spoke, I spoke, then I walked out of the gym behind these two girls.  This is back in 1995 or 1996.  The one girls said to the other girl, “What did you think about that speaker?”  The girl replied, “The first one was OK, but that second one SUCKED!”  I was the second speaker and I drove home the whole way and cried.  I was so embarrassed.

Well, no wonder I wasn’t that good.  I used note cards to get my point across.  I didn’t have humor and I wasn’t fluent in my message.  I probably wasn’t worth the $500 they paid me.  I kept at it and continued to try and be the best speaker and constantly worked on my message and delivery.

After a couple of years at $500 per talk, I went to about $750 per talk and two talks for $1250.  Then it was $1000 and two for $1500.  That was about a span of five years.  Suddenly, I started hearing about other speakers and how much they were charging.  They were at $2000, $2500, Three for $3000, plus expenses.  I was still at $2000 myself and no expenses – booked nearly 20 times per month.  That is when I knew I needed to raise my fees.

Slowly, I went from $2000 – $3500 and to $4500.  Not all speaking engagements will pay you $4500 or even $3500.

Youth Community Organizations tend to have more money than School Assembly programs.  Grants are a major reason why some people have money and some don’t.  Obviously, community group organizations have more funding opportunities and have grants more accessible because of what they do for local teens.

Having said all this, as a school or community organization you are going to pay for a good Youth Motivational Speaker about $3500 – $5000.  Do realize that there are speakers that don’t know how to speak to teens that are charging $5,000 – $10,000 and you want them because of their name and they are willing to lower their fees to $4,500.  In the end you are disappointed.

Also, there are some speakers with little to any experience at all that are worth $500, but think they are worth a lot more and they’re charging $3500 – $5000.

You will not always get what you pay for.  One school isn’t the same as another school.  High Schools in the mid-west are different than high school in the Pittsburgh, PA area or downtown Los Angeles.

The way I determine if I am a good speaker or not is simply because I can walk into a high school assembly in Los Angeles and get a standing ovation and have the kids mesmerized the same way I can to a white upper class community in a beautiful auditorium in Pennsylvania or Ohio.

Show me a speaker that can command any audience in any community and I will show you a speaker that brings value to your teens and one that is worth what they charge.

My final words are for you when hiring a speaker to do your homework.  The cheapest speaker might be a waste of your time.  The most expensive speaker might not have experience with teens.  Find a speaker with a solid reputation and a lot of experience with teens and realize you are paying for the value they bring to your audience.

Best to you!

Jeff Yalden is one of the Top Youth Motivational and Teen Speakers in America Today.  For more information about Jeff Yalden, please visit www.JeffYalden.com or call 800-948-9289.

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