By Mimi Donaldson, Speaker & Author
Los Angeles, CA USA

I know that speaking is my best marketing tool for more speaking. I started my speaking career by speaking for free in the evenings and weekends since I still had my day job in Human Resources at Disney, Northrop, and lastly Rockwell. For all 26 years in my own business, I have done some free speeches for marketing purposes, but I have defined my limits. In this humbling economy, I still have requirements. Now, in light of the lessons of my newest book, “Necessary Roughness: New Rules for the Contact Sport of Life,” I notice speakers giving it away without limits or boundaries. Women speakers especially are guilty of this.

When I accept a “freebie” there are absolute requirements. I’m very clear that if a client pays my fee ($10,000-$20,000 depending on location and time away from home) they can have any topic they want. They can choose among my 14 keynotes and even more workshops. However, and here’s where the “necessary roughness” comes in, if it’s not full fee, I require:

1. The topic is chosen by me and must be related to products I sell.
2. I must be able to sell my products at the event and distribute order forms before I speak to all attendees.
3. I require a 6 to 8-foot table in a prominent place where participants will go, not off in another room somewhere.
4. I require at least 40 minutes of speaking time. I tell them it’s not a commercial; it’s content. Chambers and other organizations that allow only 20 to 30 minutes always make accommodations, or I don’t speak. I can speak during lunch if need be. The logic here is if you are “showing your stuff,” you need TIME to show it.
5. Location corresponds to number of attendees. If the venue is within an hour drive of my house, the audience must be at least 25 people. Over an hour drive – at least 50 people.
6. I never accept a freebie for a corporation with the “hope” or “promise” they will pay next time. They never will – why should they? You gave it away the first time. Associations? Yes. Each member can go back to their company raving about my greatness. Then I can quote my real fees to their companies.

Women speakers of the world: Don’t be afraid to have boundaries with people who request you speak for free. You are giving them value –priceless.

Since 1984, Mimi Donaldson has spoken for 50 Fortune 100 companies. She was a Human Resources Trainer at Northrop, Rockwell and Walt Disney. With a BA in Speech and Communications and a Masters from Columbia University, Mimi’s authored three books, most recently, Necessary Roughness: New Rules for the Contact Sport of Life.