Chapter P-Promoters

An excerpt from ABCs of Speaking: Your Building Blocks to Speaking Success

Be Sure You Understand Where The Promoter is Coming From and Remember That it is Their Rules You Will Need to Play By if You Want to Play in Their Sandbox.

Bret Ridgway

Event promoters are an interesting breed. If you have been around the block more than once you have probably learned that they tend to be overly optimistic about the number of people who will be in attendance at their event.

This is especially true if they are a first-time promoter. They speak in terms of “wishes” rather than realities. I am not implying in any way that I think they are being intentionally misleading…it is more that they are simply overly optimistic about the size of the crowd they will actually be able to get into the room.

When the economy tanked back in 2008 even event promoters who had a fantastic track record for years in terms of attendance saw a dramatic decrease in the size of their audience.

As a speaker it is of paramount importance that you find out as far as possible in advance of an event how many people will be in the room. I’ve talked to you about Metrics in a previous article…those numbers that you need to track from event to event to monitor your own performance.

These same metrics i.e. number of attendees, number of actual buying units, and closing percentages are all numbers that a professional promoter should be able to provide you from their previous events. They should be able to show you a spreadsheet from their earlier events that break down the sales figures by speaker (anonymously of course).

These same metrics i.e. number of attendees, number of actual buying units, and closing percentages are all numbers that a professional promoter should be able to provide you from their previous events. They should be able to show you a spreadsheet from their earlier events that break down the sales figures by speaker (anonymously of course).

You know you are dealing with a professional promoter when they can provide this data for you easily. If they are unable to, then you are either dealing with a first time promoter who does not have any historical data, or you are dealing with a promoter who is being less then forthcoming with you and you need to enter into that relationship with your eyes wide open.

An event promoter should always be willing to share with you who else is going to be on their platform. Are all the speaking slots “selling” slots or are they interspersing content only sessions throughout the event?

They should be able to tell you what topic each of the other speakers is talking about, how long of a speaking slot you and each of the other speakers has, and at what price point the others speakers’ offers are going to be.

If they have held previous events, any information they can provide you about the demographics of their audience and what has worked well from the standpoint of price point and type of products/services offered to their crowd will be beneficial to you.

Remember, promoters put on events to make money. In an ideal world most hope to make enough money from advance ticket sales to cover their out-of-pocket costs for putting on the event. That means that their split of their back-of-the-room sales is where they really make their profits and anything they can do to help you succeed on their platform is only of benefit to them. They are in it for the money.


Speaking of money, you will want to find out from the promoter who handles the money at their event. Are they handling all the order processing and paying you after the fact? Are you collecting your own sales and then paying the promoter after the fact? Or, are they bringing in a third party service like “Speaker Fulfillment Services” to handle all the money and pay both the promoter and you?

1 U.S.A dollar banknotes

As a speaker, if they give you the option of processing your own sales at the event then you will want to take advantage of this. It is always better for you to control the money if you can. Obviously, you are on your honor to pay the promoter his or her portion in a prompt manner.

If the promoter or a third party is processing the back-of-the-room event sales you need to find out when you can expect to be paid. Some promoters are notorious for being slow (or no) payers and you will want to avoid their platforms if at all possible. You should be able to find out who has spoken at their events in the past and find out what the payment experience of previous speakers has been.

If the promoter or a third party is processing do not expect to be paid prior to thirty days after the event has ended. Why?

Because the promoter needs to be sure any refund windows have passed. They do not want to pay you for a sale that is later refunded and have to come back to you to reclaim money you have already been paid.

Carefully Read and Re-Read Any Speaker Contract Before Signing It.

Bret Ridgway

Remember, the typical split of your sales at an event will be 50/50 of your sales price. If the promoter is collecting the money they will typically cover any credit card fees out of their portion and you will absorb any of the hard costs of delivery of whatever it is you sold on their platform.

But some promoters offer different deals and it is incumbent on you to fully understand what you are getting into. Some promoters take 70% of the sales and you get only 30%. Other promoters will penalize you if you go over your time during your speaking slot. For example, every 5 minutes you go over your allotted time costs you an additional 5% of your back of the room sales.

Obviously, these are details that should be covered fully in your speaker contract which you will want to carefully read and re-read before you ever sign it. In some cases you may be able to amend the terms and in other cases it will be a take it or leave it agreement. Just know fully what you are getting into in advance of any speaking engagement you accept.

Another key detail to work out with a promoter is the speaking slot to which you will be assigned. There are certain speakers who come into an event who are fantastic closers and, if they appear on the platform just before you, they will suck all the money out of the room and your closing percentages will drop dramatically.

If you have any sway with the promoter at all you will want to make sure you are speaking before this person rather than after. As far as the best speaking slots at an event, most speakers we know prefer to be either the second speaker in the morning or the second in the afternoon.

“When you are first beginning your speaking career you will probably have very little input into the speaking slot you are assigned. Be fully prepared to ‘pay your dues’ and accept some early morning slots or other typically non-desired times. It is part of the game.”

Bret Ridgway

They want to be sure there is an adequate length break scheduled after the conclusion of their presentation so they have time to answer questions and help at the sales table before another speaker gets on stage and command their attention.

But there are other speakers who love to speak first thing in the morning and make it work very well. There are others who want to be the event closer and do a great job at it.

When you are first beginning your speaking career you will probably have very little input into the speaking slot you are assigned. Be fully prepared to “pay your dues” and accept some early morning slots or other typically non-desired times. It is part of the game.

Vendors are a variable that can also influence your sales at an event. If the promoter is having exhibitors then usually that will have an impact on the back-of-the-room sales, as those vendors may also be pulling money from the crowd.

Again, as a speaker this is something you are probably not going to have any control over, but do need to recognize the impact it can have on your sales numbers.

By and large promoters are there to help you. They want to see you succeed because your success puts money into their pocket. Just be sure you understand where they are coming from and that it is their rules you will need to play by if you want to play in their sandbox.

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Bret Ridgway

Find out more about Bret Ridgway and the services Speaker Fulfillment Services can provide you at SpeakerFulfillmentServices.com.

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