First Ask Questions; Then Speak.


Professional magician Jacques Lord was invited to speak, all expenses paid plus honorarium, at a recent conference.

I spoke at a trade group, got rubber chicken, and paid for my own parking.

Clearly not all speaking gigs are equal.

Over 30 years I’ve presented before hundreds of groups, many at no charge. Sometimes I’m doing it to help the community; other times I’m looking to create business opportunities.

Yet I declined the invitation when asked to speak in Brawley . The 276-mile roundtrip didn’t seem worth the one anticipated potential sales opportunity.

Sounds mercenary, right? But when added to the reality that I’m not a member of the Brawley community, I couldn’t justify the investment of time and gasoline.

So, while I’m happy to help when and where I can, that seemed a bit extreme to me.

It’s something to consider as you schedule your own speaking engagements.

A group requesting you as a speaker is unquestionably flattering. However, whether you’re being driven by desire to build business or to be altruistic, the audience and economics must make sense for you.

Over the years I’ve seen 5-8% of a given room typically wants to learn more about a given speaker. Meaning a small audience limits your opportunities.

Asking initial questions can go a long way to helping you achieve your objectives. Information you need to make an educated decision include:

  • Audience demographics, size and location
  • Objectives of the presentation
  • Who’s paying your expenses

Doing your research now will prevent you driving hours to present to two business owners and their curious poker buddies. Yes, I once did that because I wasn’t smart enough to ask a few questions.

So remember Harvey’s Law: It costs you to learn. And learn from my mistake…nowhere is it written that you must accept every invitation.

Sure, you’ll still want to speak to groups just for the exposure, although now you’re going in with eyes open.

Finally, if your group wants a speaker, you might consider:

  • Offering travel expenses
  • Promoting the speaker
  • Paying an honorarium

After all, professionals of every stripe need incentive to invest the time, creativity, and research needed to make their presentation interesting and informative for your audience.

You can’t expect an hour’s entertainment merely because you’re nice guys.

With that said, I wish you a week of profitable marketing.


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