Stop Marketing.

Start Engaging.

Paying to Speak? No Thanks C.A.P.S.

I received an email a few minutes ago from a great friend, that I’ll leave out of this because I’m about to rant… he forwarded me a “Request for Speakers” email he received from the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers about their upcoming annual conference. He thought the theme suited my style (one of the reasons I think he’s great) so I clicked on the link.

I’m not a members of C.A.P.S. but thought I could bring some value to an event with an audience of speakers since I talk both about “Viral Marketing for Speakers” and that social media thingie… besides, with a book coming out in the fall I’m always interested in spreading the UnGospel and potentially waiving my fee. I’ve gotten high paying keynote gigs using multiple online methods and thought I could share those tools with my fellow Canadian audience.

I went in assuming what most conferences do: the keynotes got paid and the workshop/concurrent ones most likely didn’t. Maybe travel was covered, but wasn’t holding my breath. Then I saw this clause:

“If my presentation is accepted, I understand and agree that as a CAPS presenter, I must:

2. Register and pay to attend the convention (note: if you are coming to the convention only for your presentation, you can register and pay for that day only.  There are no half-day or individual session registrations).”

So, the main association in charge of helping speakers create a business out of the craft not only doesn’t pay or reimburse the people who speak at the event, they also make you pay to speak! Imagine if they allowed you to pay just to attend your own session!! That would be uber-awesome… I’m picturing you walking in, sitting down and saying “this better be good” and then standing up to present.

But wait! There’s more! If you’re lucky enough to be chosen to pay to bring value to their event, they also allow you to let them sell your seminar recording!

I authorize CAPS to market, sell and promote the presentation, in any form, to CAPS or International Federation members and non-members.

So, let us run this down: you the speaker brings the content, pay to get there, to stay there, pay to attend and they can use/profit/give away the recordings of your session?

Normally I would let this go under “it’s their conference, let em do whatever the hell they want” but this is supposed to be the place where you can go to educate and guide you in your speaking career. Where you can go to learn how to value what you do as a business.

Sadly, I’m learning as I write this, from tweets that other speaking org’s do this as well.

Come on.

I understand that some associations are non-profit, but your business is not.
Thoughts on paying to speak? Ever run into this? Comment below!


Alan Stevens, who is President-Elect Global Speakers Federation, in response to my question of why pay to speak replied in a tweet:

“All pro speakers pay to attend the national convention. Being selected to speak is an honour. We all give back”

I’m all for being “grateful” in being selected to speak, and I repay that with bringing the value of my content. the “we all give back” line made my stomach feel a little “yacky”. It makes it sound like we’re saving orphans.

I can see the telethon now “For only $1 a day, for 500 days, you can give back to the association that you’ve already paid to be a member of.”

Never forget this fellow speakers: it’s never your “honour” to go into debt to speak. And paying to register for the event you speak at is the highest form of arrogance any organization can take. Shame on them.


I’d like to thank the people who have commented from all sides of this issue. From the people who are involved in running CAPS, to people who have spoke at it, to those who were amazed by this issue and everyone who took the time to not only add to my original post, but make it 10x better with their thoughtful comments.Special thanks go to Randy Gage as well, whose comments not only were in great value, but gave a look at all sides of the issue.

I want to clarify a few things that have gotten lost within the comments, either because of some great responses by Alan Stevens, who is President-Elect Global Speakers Federation, or by some of my initial assumptions. Although these don’t change the fact that I have a fundemental issue with a speaker paying a registration fee for an event they provide value at and the fact that CAPS says they retain the right to sell your session recording outside of the membership, this needs to be said:

1. The event itself is run by volunteers and speakers themselves. The event is only open to members of CAPS, those of which can only be members if they meet certain qualifications (paid gigs etc…)

2. If an outside speaker is brought in, they are not made to pay the registration fee and usually have expenses covered as well.

3. CAPS and other speaking associations are mostly run by people who really give a damn about the profession, as witnessed by the comments below.

And although I’m sure I won’t be invited to speak at any speaker association event anytime soon, we’re on the same side. I really really give a damn about other speakers. And just like many of you, am tired of the same old, same old that happens out there. If something smells off to me, I want people to know and be a voice to those who may want to speak out.

A few unsolicited suggestions from me though:

1. Clearly state in the request for speakers exactly what Alan stated below, that the majority of of people going to the event are also running the event and every needs to pay the registration, or the cost to attend would be in the thousands.

2. Getting a sponsor to cover the registration amount for the speakers who are actually doing stand-alone presentations. Being the association that helps speakers respect their fee’s, you need to set an example for other associations.

3. Don’t ask for rights to sell the session content outside of the membership.

Thank-you all again, you’re the reason I write this blog.