Tips for Professional Speakers: Turn a Small Opportunity Into a Big Opportunity

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Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson is an award-winning storyteller, author, and comedian who teaches you how to harness the power of your story to connect, engage, and get results. In this blog, Kelly focuses on the business of professional speaking. Kelly’s post day is Friday. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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Ever wonder if you should have said yes to that small gig?

Sometimes I accept offers for less than my fee. (Pause for you to gasp in horror and ask me if I have no shame.)

It’s business. And in the business world EVERYTHING is negotiable. If you call me today for a job tomorrow, that is right across the street, you would be amazed at what a deal you will get.

Tell me you have an audience of six thousand and they are known for buying product, and I will probably pay you to come.

We can argue all day long about whether speakers should work for less than their fee – but I will shut you down and walk away pretty quickly. There is no hard and fast right or wrong. The only way that’s right is the way that makes YOU happy. Period. Enough said.

But sometimes there is still that job that you can’t decide whether to accept.

It’s less than your fee, but this is a day when nobody else on the planet ever books you. It’s an easy gig and you can pretty much phone it in – but you have so much on your plate, is your time better spent staying home to write? These are the kinds of things that make our job hard sometimes.

Recently I stumbled on a question to ask myself that puts it all in perspective:

Is there any way I can turn this small opportunity into a bigger one?

This played out in my business just this week. A small church contacts me about speaking for their women’s conference. Their fee is minimal, and I began the process of determining whether or not I can make it work and still be a good steward of my time, energy, and resources.

I was really undecided about what to do, until that question popped up. “Is there any way I can turn this small opportunity into a bigger one? What would need to happen to make this a better experience for me?”

Selling product?

Already a given. Won’t make up for the discounted fee in this case. And no guarantees.


Not for this crowd. Would probably  just spin off into more jobs like it. No buyers in this group.

Pulls on my heart strings? For a good cause?

Sure. But so were the other five people who called you last week for good causes.

Then it hit me.


I have been wishing for years now that I had a product specifically geared to the faith market. Bingo. Here’s my chance. What if I had them video my entire program? Two cameras. They should already have the equipment and the people. They could follow me all day – catch me on stage and off – in the breakout session and in the halls.

They could get testimonials from the people in the audience and the clients.

They could even get some footage of me talking about what I do and how I do it, to weave throughout the video. They could give me all the raw footage and I can splice it into hundreds of YouTube clips (gets me business!), some demo clips (gets me business!), and a DVD that I could sell in the back of the room AND sell to clients who can’t afford to bring me in person, but will buy the DVD for their audience to watch instead.

And I can make sure the client is motivated to really put some sweat equity into it, by telling them they can use the DVD for their own mission fundraiser or something.

Now THAT would be worth taking the gig.

So I did.

I told them my idea and they loved it. And I’m convinced that the video will pay off in ways I can’t even begin to measure.

So next time you are on the fence about taking a job that won’t have an immediate pay off – ask yourself:

Is there anything I can do to turn this small opportunity into a bigger opportunity?

And while we’re at it – why only small jobs? What if we looked at EVERY job to find ways to maximize the experience?

Ain’t nothing small about that!

Stay tuned for more tips for professional speakers!

Kelly Swanson
You. Your story. Make an Impact.

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