I used to speak anywhere and everywhere.
I once did an SEO speech at a Golden Corral Buffet.
My van broke down on the highway on the way to a speech. Both to and from the speech, actually.
I've driven in more white out blizzards than I can count rushing to get to a speech.
You might say, "Well they paid you to do the speech so stop your whining and get your ass to your speech."
That's the thing. Those are all stories about speeches I did for free.
I have pretty insane stories about paid speaking events. But I'm not mentioning those because, you know, they paid me!
The story they always tell speakers is that it's a "great opportunity."
Having done this for years and years I can tell you that the conversion rate for these events is really poor. I'm guessing I get about one call for every 5 events I do.
Certainly there is branding that is difficult to measure.
And there is also the idea of giving back to the business community.
I am a huge fan of volunteering. Honestly, I'd probably rather be a full time volunteer than a business person.
But these events are not altruistic. Every event I speak at for free is to benefit and grow some organization. They all have a growth agenda.
I get it, though. That's their model. And they are shocked that anyone would not think this is the greatest opportunity ever.
The fact of the matter is: I love speaking. It's a fun rush.
So this is what I've started doing. I've told people I'll speak to their group if they make a donation to Project Rise: the only group in Akron solely dedicated to homeless kids.
I've given this offer to 5 groups that have asked me to speak.
Guess how many took me up on my offer: ZERO!
One group was a church that wanted me to speak on Internet safety for kids.
They probably either don't have the budget for speakers. Or, more likely, they believe speakers should feel honored and privileged to speak at their group.
We don't live in that world any more.
Anyone can start a meetup and get a group of people together.
In fact, running your own group will very likely convert at a much higher rate than spending your time at someone else's group.
This is my call to all experts: STOP THE ABUSE. Don't speak for free. Make them give you something (anything) in return.
In today's world they need you more than you need them.
All that said, I still speak at a couple places for free.
One is the Hudson Library. Their events are free to the public and they do an amazing job.
Another is Web Association in Cleveland. I've been involved with them since they started. I have a sentimental place in my heart for them.
And it's possible there will be others down the road.
But I'm more focused on my own groups.
The Tools Show is a half hour show Greg and I do every Thursday at 3:15pm Eastern time.
And I also run the Akron Small Business Marketing Meetup on Thursday mornings at 9:00am. Those are at my office at 15 Broad St. in Akron.
Just do your own thing. Stop speaking for free.