If you’re a speaker who will be making your living primarily by selling in the back of the room, then it is critical that you understand how the money will be handled at an event. Our company, Speaker Fulfillment Services, got its start managing the back sales table at various internet and information marketing conferences.
These were multi-speaker events over the course of three or four days, and we’d provide the crew and the merchant account that could handle multiple speakers and a large amount of money in a short period of time. Back in the early 2,000s it was nearly impossible to obtain a merchant account that would allow you to process multiple speakers, so our services were in high demand. Especially if you were going to need to process several hundred thousand dollars or more at an event.
We’d take care of all the money management for sales at an event. We’d pay the speakers and the promoter and take a cut of the promoter’s portion for providing the service. If a speaker was offering a payment plan, we’d set up and process all the deferred sales and pay the speaker and promoter their shares once they were processed.
But bringing in a 3rd party to handle all the sales is just one of three possible money management models I’ve seen used at an event. The others are:
- The promoter runs all the sales through their own merchant account and then pays the speaker their portion. Typically, at a selling event, it is a 50/50 split between the speaker and the event promoter.
- The speakers process their own sales and are responsible for then submitting the promoter’s portion to them directly.
If an event promoter will allow you to process your own sales, I’d highly encourage you to do so and to be the one who is in control of your own money. But they may insist on being the one who handles all the processing so they can know exactly how much each of their speakers has sold.
When you are processing your own sales be sure that you have your own merchant account set up properly. When you set up a merchant account, you’ll specify what types of goods and services you’ll be selling, what your average ticket price will be, and how much you usually expect to process in a month.
If you are going to be speaking at an event and will be doing your own processing and you expect to sell significantly more than what you’ve set as your usual guidelines with your merchant account provider, it is critical that you communicate with them in advance. A sudden surge in the amount of processing sends up all sorts of red flags for a processor and could lead to your merchant account being shut down.
I’ve found that if they know what is going on they don’t have any problem with the larger than normal volume.
Several years ago, I had a client who was doing a new product launch. They opened their shopping cart, and the sales began to come in. Then midway through the first afternoon, they had their merchant account shut off. Why, because they hadn’t informed their provider that they were going to be doing a new product launch. I estimate conservatively that this failure to communicate cost them between $300,000 and $400,000 in sales. Ouch!
If the promoter or a 3rd party will be processing all the sales be sure you understand the exact terms and conditions related to the payout of monies. In fact, this should be spelled out in the contract you have with the event promoter.
Usually, an initial payout of money will transpire around 30- 35 days after an event has ended. Whoever is processing needs to account for any possible returns and doesn’t want to pay out money and then have to try and collect it back because a purchaser decided they wanted a refund.
Keep in mind that, if you are offering a payment plan that some of your monies will be deferred. Credit cards can expire and sometimes it can be challenging to collect all the money from a sale. I recommend never offering more than three or four payments on a product purchase. Any longer than that and it becomes a nightmare to have to keep track of over a longer period of time.
If a promoter is going to allow you to process your own sales, you are on your honor to pay them in a timely manner. I’ve
seen promoters shafted by speakers and speakers shafted by promoters, so watch yourself. One of the quickest ways to get yourself uninvited from appearing on anybody’s stage is to gain a reputation as someone who doesn’t honor their commitments.
This includes the scenario where somebody who attended an event contacts you soon after the event (this may or may not be spelled out in a contract) and wants to purchase whatever product or service you offered. If that sale comes in, you are honor bound to give the promoter their portion even if the sale occurred post event.
Who’s handling the money is an important question for any event you’ll be speaking at. It is imperative you know how it will be handled in advance of every speaking engagement.