No-Fee Public Speaking Yields Wonderful Advantages

Ginny Richardson

Public speaking. One end of the spectrum is you’d rather be tortured for eternity. The other end is having a professional speaker’s bureau represent you charging thousands of dollars per speech. There is life in the middle, however, and that’s the subject of this column.

Many people find that no-fee public speaking yields wonderful advantages both personally and professionally. First of all, it’s terrific public relations. Second, it’s networking at its finest, and third, it’s goodwill and community service.

If you have tinkered with the idea, consider researching a topic, outlining, rehearsing and giving it a whirl!

Let me relate a story. For almost seven years, I’ve been presenting my crash course in how to get free publicity from newspapers, radio and television. Each time I agree to speak, I drive off to the engagement mumbling and grumbling. After all, I’ve had to a.) get up at an ungodly hour of the morning, or b.) leave my office and the many projects on the desk, and c.) take time to brush up and rehearse.

However during the talk, a metamorphosis occurs. I feel like a million dollars. I’m “on stage” and teaching about a true passion of mine – media relations. Yes, there is the occasional post-luncheon napper, but usually everyone is listening and providing plenty of positive feedback.

Following the talk, a number of people ask for my business card. Let me share the really good news. Some of these people actually do call, and a precious few have resulted in delightful clients for my PR company.

Driving back to my office I realize I’ve had an absolutely terrific experience, made new friends, and I wonder that I don’t do more public speaking!

Now let’s focus on you. You may be wondering what topic to present. You might share your expertise in business. Could you tell about your work in a way that applies to an audience with a wide variety of interests and businesses?  How about your hobby? How about inspiring and motivating people? You need to identify a slam-dunk topic and write it, rehearse it aloud, rehearse it again and time it. All the effort is up-front. Once you have a talk that works, you can customize it for use over and over.

The groups that are searching for no-fee speakers are business clubs such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions; chambers of commerce; libraries; church groups; sorority and women’s clubs; and retirement communities. Typically, the audiences are as small as 12 people and as large as 100. Your talk will be brief, approximately 30 minutes (20 minutes of talk and 10 minutes for Q&A). Hand-outs are good, and don’t forget the business cards.

The most important task of all, however, is to show up. This seems obvious, but believe it or not, there is a tendency to think that, because the talk is no-fee, the booking is optional. Not true! There is nothing worse than a group of people, all fed and squirming in their seats, waiting for a speaker who never arrives. The program chairman is left holding the bag, and program chairmen talk to other program chairmen. Honoring the commitment is the number one priority. If you have scheduling uncertainties, say no.

If you say yes, arrive early and enjoy the meal with the group. You’re the star of the meeting so you will be treated royally. Provide the program chairman with a written introduction of yourself to be read right before you begin.

Once in front of the group remember that it’s OK to use notes, but with a little experience, you’ll find you won’t need more than an outline to keep you on track. If you’re scared silly, feel free to stay behind the lectern. Later you may venture left or right, and soon you will find yourself moving among the audience members, microphone permitting of course.

There are additional benefits. Public speaking provides invaluable experience in communications; each and every time you speak you improve. No-fee speaking can lead to free public relations since many groups send out press releases about you and your talk to the papers (who, in turn, reach thousands of readers). Another positive is that you have a grand opportunity to educate the public; and maybe most important, you are giving something of yourself.


Ginny Richardson is president of Ginny Richardson Public Relations (GR-PR). Based in Hinsdale, IL, the firm provides media relations to clients in the fields of healthcare, business and the arts. She is the founder of, a speaker’s bureau that offers nearly 200 no-fee speakers to groups with limited budgets.