According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy and Giving USA, philanthropy for 2017 hit a record high and continues to break records. “Powered by a booming stock market and a strong economy, charitable giving by American individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations to U.S. charities surged to an estimated $410.02 billion in 2017, according to Giving USA 2018: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2017″ 

Philanthropy will always go on, but during times of economic prosperity, giving throughout history has increased. Aggie Sweeney, chair of the Giving USA Foundation, said “As people have more resources available, they are choosing to use them to make a difference.”  When people have more, they give more. Giving to the arts has increased in 2017 by 8.7 percent to over $19 billion dollars. Giving to education in 2017 is almost $59 billion dollars. This spells great news for speakers and artists who want to use their creativity for the greater good.

Researchers from the Indiana University Lilly Family of Philanthropy found that giving rose by at least 5% in three of the four categories they polled — corporations (8%), foundations (6%), and individuals (5%). Among all groups, foundations had the largest increase in donations, increasing by 15.5%.

Even though charitable giving should be altruistic, there are many tax benefits to it as well. In 1917 tax code changes allowed tax payers to deduct up to 15% of their taxable income when they donated to charitable causes, such as charities for the poor, scientific study, and arts and education.

Changes in the tax code allowed corporations to deduct charitable contributions up to 5 percent of taxable income. Now most major corporations have a corporate foundation, and charitable obligations to society have become an expected part of doing business.

Throughout history, people have used philanthropy to gain prestige, power and recognition. In David Callahan’s book “The Givers: Wealth, Power and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age”, he shines a light on the new generation of top mega philanthropists and how they’re using their philanthropy for power and influence. Whatever reason they’re doing it, it still benefits speakers and artists. Those entrepreneurial artists who know how to partner with philanthropists will not only help advance their own careers quickly, but will also become a part of a growing social movement to better their own communities.

Andrew Carnegie, one of the most high profile philanthropists of the Gilded Age, said “it is more difficult to give money away intelligently than to earn it in the first place.” He put his own money where his mouth was and gave away 90 percent of his fortune in his lifetime. He also encouraged other wealthy Americans to follow him in giving their money away to improve society.

Like Carnegie, today’s philanthropists know that it isn’t just about writing a check. It’s about using that money wisely to produce the best possible outcomes for society. This is why speakers and artists need to learn the business side, as well as the creative side.

An important piece of the patronage partnership is grants. Philanthropists want to improve the human condition and make a positive change to society through their contributions. They are always looking for new and unique ways to improve their communities. Socrates said that the act of giving away his thoughts in his speech was his philanthropy, and Plato left his farm to a nephew with instructions to use the profits from the harvest to help the students and the teachers at the school he started.

Speakers and artists who can align themselves with a worthy cause and partner with philanthropic entities can literally create their own “jobs” and use their creative voice and passion to make the world a better place.





All writers have run into writer’s block at one time or another. According to Wikipedia, writer’s block is “a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work, or experiences a creative slowdown. The condition ranges in difficulty from coming up with original ideas to being unable to produce a work for years.”

The same thing can happen to speakers. You go through a dry spell and don’t have work booked for a long time, you are still doing the same canned speech you have been giving for years, or you simply are not expanding your knowledge or challenging yourself as a speaker.

If you get to that point where you feel you have speaker’s block, here are some tips to get out of it:

  • Speak! Yes just get out and speak. It sounds simple and it is. If you aren’t booked to speak anywhere, call your local library, church, or Chamber of Commerce and ask if you could come in and give a speech. Even if you’re used to being a paid, working speaker, if you aren’t working, make it happen. The best speakers I know will simply speak anywhere, anytime. Speaking, like acting, isn’t a skill you can just read about in a book and get better at. You have to actually do it.
  • Try something new – I remember when I was in Toastmasters we would have to write and deliver a new speech every month or two. I loved the idea of picking a random topic and doing a speech on it, just to see if I could. This is a good thing to do when you’re speaking at your local library or church. When you’re speaking for free you can experiment. Pick a topic that interests you and not just one that you need to make money with. But play to the top of your game and give it your all, even if you’re speaking for free.
  • Do something else creative – Sometimes if you step away from speaking and try something else creative, you stretch your creative muscles and will come back to speaking even stronger. Try writing a short story or poetry, take an improv class, go dancing, sing at a Karaoke, take up photography, make a scrapbook, etc.
  • Get an outside point of view – If you’re stuck, sometimes having an outsider look at things will give you a fresh way to look at your career. Have someone look through your website, speaker videos, etc. There is probably something you’re missing, and you can’t see it because you’re too close to it. Get a fresh point of view and get re-energized.
  • Remind yourself why you’re a speaker – If you find that things are getting boring and you’re just going through the motions, remind yourself why you became a speaker in the first place. Think about your audience and why you want to get your message across to them. This will help put the passion back in your speaking and get you excited about getting back on stage.

The next time you find yourself with speaker’s block, try one or all of the above!




You walk off stage to thunderous applause and pat yourself on the back. You nailed it. The audience was with you and they loved you. But did they really? How do you know?

One of the first speeches I gave felt like this. Until I got my feedback. “She didn’t know who we were or what we do”. Yikes! I had no idea they felt this way. But the truth is, they were right. I had spent so much time perfecting the craft of my speech but I didn’t spend any time getting to know who the audience was or whether they would like or even need the material. I never made that mistake again.

But sometimes it’s hard to tell from their reactions or their applause how an audience really feels. So how do you find out?

  • Ask the meeting planner – Meeting planners will usually get feedback about a speaker so they know what kinds of things the audience likes or doesn’t like. Some of the feedback is brought up in the wrap-up meetings after an event. If you’re brave, you could call or email them to find out what kind of feedback they got. If it’s positive, great! If it’s negative, you need to know so you can improve.
  • Look on Twitter – It was only when I started checking the event hashtags that I discovered some great feedback from an event that I thought the audience hated. They didn’t really participate in the interactive portion and I had a hard time getting people to even raise their hands for questions. But it turns out they were a shy group, which explains why most people were sitting in the back of the room and didn’t want to be called on. But they put all kinds of praise on Twitter. I had no idea.
  • Ask the audience – This is also tricky, but I tried it after the last speech I gave. I asked people in the audience one on one if there was any information in the speech that they could use in their own organizations. I not only got an idea of the things they could and couldn’t implement, but they gave me ideas for other content to look into. If you’re doing a breakout or your own events you can give people a feedback form to fill out.

If you really take the time to know and understand your audience’s needs you should be getting good feedback from them. Audience feedback isn’t a one time thing, but should be done after every speech. The more you know, the more you will improve as a speaker.

As a professional speaker and someone who works to get paid work for speakers, I was happy to see the latest report from Meetings Outlook for the speaking industry forecast for 2018. The survey showed a majority of experts in the meeting and event industry said they predict 2018 will be a good one for growth.

One reason speakers have been struggling with free and low fee gigs is because supply has been greater than demand. But for the first time in years, demand is starting to curve slightly in favor of supply.

Over half predict favorable business conditions and slightly higher budgets in the new year. Live attendance is expected to grow approximately 1.6%. Still not enough to have full employment for speakers, but definitely a trend in the right direction. More demand than supply will also mean higher fees for speakers who are working.

According to IBTM World, the industry’s leading showcase of meetings, incentives, conferences and events, “there is significant optimism among meeting and event planners”. This is based on their Trends Watch Report, which was compiled using 25 key sources of industry data.

It seems diversity and inclusion will be on the minds of meeting planners in 2018 according to IMEX. “We at IMEX have experienced the rising importance of diversity in the industry, particularly around women in the workplace and career advancement.” The idea of having more women and minority speakers had been debated for years. Maybe it’s finally trending in that direction.

According to the 2018 SITE Index more than half of planners think their incentive travel budgets will increase. But that doesn’t mean they won’t still be watching their budget. Most will still remain frugal about unnecessary spending, especially as the costs of everything will be going up.

This means as a speaker you would be wise to continue giving meeting planners the best return possible on their investment. Even though demand is trending upward, they will still be looking for the best value for their audience.




Influence is the new currency. Micro influencers are the new rock stars, and micro influencers have enormous currency to a sponsor looking to get in front of a target audience. Celebrities with a large following are great for big corporations. Ask Kim Kardashian who makes $10,000 for sending out a single tweet.

But Speaker Sponsor is more focused on small business sponsors and large corporations doing local and regional sponsorship. In that case, Kim Kardashian’s  millions of followers is too much. And it’s also too expensive for local or regional small business sponsorship, and doesn’t necessarily guarantee a better return on investment. Just being famous or semi famous isn’t enough for a small business.

I’ve been preaching this for a while now, but a recent roundtable event put on by Eventopedia and Bold with a group of event professionals may prove what I’ve been saying to be true. Even Ad Age is talking about how the micro influencer market is booming. Recent research shows that micro influencers have about as much credibility as family and friends do.

Recent Instagram research found that micro influencers had more engagement, which shows that it’s more about quality vs. quantity. Micro influencers had several times more engagement with followers than celebrities did. This makes sense since you are reaching a much more targeted audience.

One thing small businesses are looking for, even over the big corporations, is sales. And sales are more likely to happen when customers are more engaged. People buy from people they like and trust. The more positive engagement there is, the more sales a small business will get. Small businesses usually don’t have money to waste on people who aren’t interested in their products. Big corporations can spend millions on TV ads that reach a lot of people who aren’t interested in buying from them. Small businesses can’t do that. They need to be more targeted and efficient.

This is all great news for you as a speaker. When you are hired to do a speaking job, you are instantly a micro influencer. You have a targeted audience for a small business, who wants to get in front of them. You have at least an hour of face to face time with that audience who is looking at you as an expert. If you do your job right and give them great information, you are also gaining their trust. And if you show them your sparkling personality, which you should be doing as a speaker anyway, you are also getting them to like you. This is all extremely valuable for a small business.

If you are asked to speak for free, which is about half of all of the speaking jobs out there, you have an opportunity to use that time to help a small business get in front of their target audience at the same time you get paid. It’s a win-win for everyone!

As a speaker, the time is right for you to take advantage of this new trend and start making really good money as a sponsored speaker by being a micro influencer. What are you waiting for?


As a speaker bureau, one of the hardest kinds of speakers to book is a generalist. Being exactly like every other speaker and speaking on exactly the same topics means you blend into the woodwork. When a meeting planner asks what’s different about them, it’s usually met with a silence that means “not interested”.

I’m not saying generalist speakers don’t work. They certainly do. But there is a way to guarantee you’ll get more work.

In my course, “Create Your Own Job“, I talk about the 3 ways you can guarantee you’ll get more work than you can handle in any economy. One of those ways is by doing something no one else knows how to do.

I remember when I was working in casting we were looking for a good actor who could also play the piano. Good actors are a dime a dozen. And we could also find plenty of good piano players. But finding both in one person was extremely difficult. We put out a call to everyone we could think of and were willing to see absolutely any actor from anywhere who could possibly fit the part.

There are a lot of inspirational speakers who are in the category of having a story that no one else has. Nick Vujicic is one of those speakers. According to Wikipedia he was “born with tetra-ameila syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by the absence of arms and legs. He is one of the seven known surviving individuals planet-wide who live with the syndrome.”

As a speaker you can set yourself apart and be booked constantly by doing something no one else knows how to do or by having a topic no one else has that you know better than anyone else.

The best example of an in demand speaker who does this is Brene Brown. This info on her website tells it all: “Brene’s reputation as a speaker is built on her ability to explore difficult topics”. Brene says” I’ve spent the past 16 years studying courage, vulnerability, empathy and shame”. She knows the value of speaking on a topic no one else speaks on and knowing it better than anyone else.

Another way to do this is through primary and secondary research. Secondary research is by studying what experts have written about a topic and drawing your own conclusions about it. Primary research is by conducting your own experiments and publishing information you can’t find anywhere else. This is the best way to guarantee you will be the only speaker who has that topic. You truly would have no competition at all by doing it yourself.  

Many organizations have to deal with changing regulations on a constant basis. There is always a need for speakers who are on top of what’s going on in their industry as far as regulations are concerned. If you’re a good speaker and can address new and current regulations, you will probably get a lot of work in that industry, especially in the medical and financial industries where regulations are changing constantly.

If you think all of this sounds like a lot of work… it is! But the speaking industry isn’t easy, and the competition is enormous. If you really want to work as a paid speaker you have to be willing to work harder than the next person who wants that job.



Last week I talked to a meeting planner who had a keynote speaker coming from Florida who wasn’t able to get to their event due to hurricane Irma. When I asked what she did, she said she keeps a list of speakers she knows she can count on in a pinch, and goes through the ones local to the event in case of an emergency.

I’ve been on the other side of that as a speaker who was booked because of another speaker having to cancel. When you have to pull together a speech literally at the last minute, it helps to be an expert in that topic who knows the subject backwards and forwards. Here are some examples of speakers who have been in that situation and meeting planners who have saved the day when a speaker cancels:

“As an international planner who has been in the events profession for over a decade, I have experienced a handful of times that a speaker has canceled their set less than two weeks prior to a conference. Only once have I had someone cancel onsite, and that was due to food poisoning. Surprisingly, he pulled it together and showed up after he cancelled.

In the times that a speaker has canceled, we have a few systems in place. First, we work with the speaker to see if there is a way for us to pre-record some of the content for our group or find out if there is a way to do a live stream before we announce any changes. Most of the time, either of those solutions works. Sometimes they have a protege they can send in their place, which most of they tend to deliver messages with more enthusiasm.

We also work with the speaker who canceled to implement post conference content that can be pushed to the attendees, which is a win-win for both their brand and for the attendees to still feel they received information from an industry leader.  In addition to those strategies, we always contact several speakers beforehand on their schedules and inform them that we may need them for a conference. Most of these speakers are of the lower tiered in their category, so their schedules are a bit easier to manipulate.”

Robin Oloyede
Events and Communications Director for Texas State Optical
Global Accounts Manager for Helms Briscoe

“As a frequent speaker, I find that too many meeting planners try to get their speakers on the cheap which is what leads to cancellations.  Yes speakers have important information to share, but frankly, we are not doing it for our joy and personal satisfaction alone, but we need compensation to keep doing what we are doing.

I have found today that too many speaking engagements are offered as ‘networking opportunities’ with very little financial incentive to make those engagements worthwhile.  Personally, I don’t accept such engagements, because I don’t want to be forced to cancel at the last minute, but I think the idea that “you get what you pay for” is important for those who need professional speakers to round out events.  Being too cheap simply sets them up for last minute cancellations.”

Pam Danziger
Speaker, Author, Market Researcher
Unity Marketing

“I’ve been an meeting planner for 2 decades and speaker’s canceling at the last minute is rare. Although, I worked a conference for another planner this week and 5 speakers canceled in two days which was really unusual. I hope it’s not a trend. I teach a class at AZ State Univ. and funny enough last night the topic was “meeting planners working with speakers” and we talked about this exact topic!

What do you do when a speaker cancels happens? Three things:

  1. The contract w/speaker is critical as there must be a cancellation clause that details out what the liabilities are when the speaker does cancel (6 months out, 3 months out, etc.). The next part is how the deposit will be handled such as return of % of deposit to the association or company based on timing.

In the contract you could require if the speaker does cancel they are responsible to providing a replacement based on the terms of the contract, meaning no additional cost to the host company.

  1. As the planner or educational committee you need to have a list of back-up speakers who could be called on to present the topic. The resources could be just knowing who are the experts in the field they can call on, other planners who have a list of recommended speakers, speaker bureaus
  2. Cancel the session if it happens at the last minute, like the day before, and the planner doesn’t have a local expert – this is the worst option as attendees are always disappointed that the topic they want to hear is not available. This happened yesterday when a speaker didn’t show and the room was packed. Truly a bad reflection on the speaker.


Marla Harr

Business Professional Development Consultant

Business Etiquette International

Act Well Do Well

“I was speaking at a conference in Boston 2 years ago in February, the winter of historic snowfall in the area. A major storm hit the day before the conference so several speakers could not make it into town because the airport had cancelled so many flights. I am based locally and ended up speaking 3 times on different topics the day of the conference.A lot of people who were already there ended up having to step in as well. It actually worked out amazingly well, the attendees were appreciative that the event went on and many seasoned speakers like myself were able to join panels on related topics or step in and give an impromptu talk based on their experience and background.

The survey after the conference rated it very successful and popular,sometimes you just have to roll with the punches as needed. I have spoken at other events over the years when the keynote had a last minute family emergency or conflict and the person who replaced them gave a terrific talk. Sometimes it works out even better than expected, the replacement speaker does not have time to get nervous so speaks off the cuff and the audience has lower expectations and is blown away by the authenticity of a less prepared speech.

Paige Arnof-Fenn
Founder & CEO
Mavens & Moguls

“Every meeting planner has that stomach-dropping moment when they have a room full of people waiting for a speaker that doesn’t show. The mark of a good planner is the ability to think on their feet – and this is definitely a test! Act quickly and calmly – if you have other sessions happening simultaneously, make a short announcement informing attendees of their other choices, and ensure them that you will have any materials (slide deck, handouts) they missed out on circulated post-meeting.

If you’re in a situation where the speaker is the main event, here’s where knowing your audience is key. Every conference has a few stakeholders in the room who may have a presentation or some seasoned advice up their sleeve – this is the time to pull together an onstage interview or fireside chat with those folks who you know will jump at the chance for the mic.

None of these options available to you? Slot in some extra time for networking! Many conference attendees are bored by constant programming and wish they had more time to connect with their peers – turn this into an opportunity.

Whatever you do, make sure you follow up with attendees who may have been disappointed by the change in schedule. Reach out to your speaker to see if they’ll record a video message or send a note to your attendees who missed out on their knowledge.”

Moey Fox

Senior Manager at Scott Circle, a full service communications, conference, and event management firm based in Washington, D.C.

“One time I was attending a 3-day leadership conference — as a participant — when it was learned that one of the speakers scheduled for the next morning would be unable to make it. So, when asked if I could possibly jump in to fill this void, I had to put together an entire 3-hour workshop – including powerpoint slides and handouts – overnight, on the fly! Glad to be able to report that it went great.

I’ve jumped in to speak, sit in on panels, and deliver workshops a few other times, as well, with less than a day’s notice.

The key to me, first of all, is to be a subject matter expert in your field, and to have a strong brand, so that others feel confident reaching out to you to step in with little notice. And to know your content so well that you can deliver it with minimal preparation.

Secondly, and of equal importance, is, in your preparation, to be clear on who your AUDIENCE is…and what your PURPOSE is. One-size-fits-all, generic presentations are, usually, not very effective. So I always try to find out as much as I can, as quickly as I can, about the Who, What, When, Where, and Why…so I can best determine the How.”

Todd Cherches

CEO & Co-Founder

BigBlueGumball LLC


“I host an annual event for small and growing business owners called, The BOLD Move Event.  We’ve been doing these two-day events since 2012, and have had only one speaker cancel.  She literally cancelled the day before the event because she said, “She wasn’t feeling the crowd; I don’t think there will be enough people for my workshop.”  Well as the event host, I had become so full of last minute registrants, changes, sponsor requests, that I literally said, “Fine.  We will do something else.”  I consult with businesses and do some speaking, so I created (on the fly) a workshop about when we have to make adjustments to plans and activities in business.  It was a big hit.

A last minute speaker cancellation can cripple an event and do harm to the hosting organization’s reputation, especially if the event is built around that speaker.  If the host is knowledgeable,  flexible and quick on his or her feet, a last-minute cancellation can create a positive lesson for conference participants.

Michelle Aikens

Sepia Prime Woman

At least several times each week a speaker will call with the question “Would you do my sponsorship on commission?” This is usually followed up with something like “I have the best property in the world. You’ll make lots of money on it.”

I can tell they already have the idea in their mind that someone will take them on for free and everyone will get rich. But then I have to explain how sponsorship really works, especially if you don’t have a property like the Olympics or the NFL. For a speaker, even an A list, top dollar speaker, I would say the odds of someone taking you on as a sponsorship broker on a commission only basis is probably zero.

It’s the same way Hollywood works. Every year tens or hundreds of thousands of actors flock to Hollywood looking for an agent who will take them on, for commission only, in the belief that they will work hard for that actor, and everyone will get rich. But that’s not the way it works most of the time. Just like sponsorship, you have to do the grunt work to get things off the ground before anyone will pay attention.

Once upon a time there may have been sponsorship brokers who would work on commission only, but those days are pretty much over. I tell speakers “If you find someone who is willing to do your sponsorship on commission only you should jump on it.” If you find anyone who will do anything on commission only, jump on it. But I’ve personally never found that person.

These days most agencies work on a monthly retainer, plus commission. Retainers usually range from $5,000 to $15,000 depending on the complexity of the deal. Of course, we’re talking about large events that already have established track records. Smaller properties without a track record might not even be able to get a sponsorship broker at all.

When people ask how much money you’re going to be able to bring them for that retainer you have to honestly say that there is no guarantee that you can bring them any money. (If they do give you a guarantee, that should be a red flag.) This is a hard pill to swallow, which is why, as a speaker, you have to learn how to do it yourself.

The next thing I hear from speakers is “I’m too busy. I don’t have time to do it myself”. So, if you don’t have time to form relationships with sponsors, how are you going to have time to service them after you cash their check? And how are you going to know what to do to help them get a return on their investment?

OK, now that I’ve burst your bubble, here is the good news. Once you learn how to get sponsors, you have a very valuable skill that will make you money over and over again. With around 18,000 corporate sponsors and over 25 million small business sponsors in the U.S. alone, there is no shortage of money out there for speakers willing to put some time into building up a sponsorship portfolio.

Once you learn that valuable skill, you never have to wait around for anyone to give you a speaking job. You simply create your own.

The Speaker Sponsor directory is a great place to be listed. Sponsors and meeting planners visit the site every day. That is guaranteed. Just like the monthly high dollar retainer fee paid to sponsorship brokers, there is still no guarantee a sponsor will pick you up. But at $9.00 a month it’s certainly much less than those huge retainer fees. And if a sponsor does pick you up from the site, 100% of the sponsorship funds go to you.

Just like actors in Hollywood, you have to do the groundwork to get your career started. And just like Hollywood, the speaking industry wants speakers who are already working. Sponsorship helps you jump past your competition while everyone else is waiting on the sidelines for someone to get the work for them.





Has your speaking career stalled? Has the phone stopped ringing? Getting fewer jobs?

This week is when summer officially begins, so I thought it would be a good time to talk about spring cleaning, since summer is typically a slower time in the speaking business.

I remember watching a video of Joe Calloway speaking at an NSA conference. He talked about how we tend to cling to our old speeches, outdated training manuals and jokes that no longer work. His solution… “throw it out!”

As speakers we work incredibly hard doing research, preparing speeches, writing books, creating workshops, putting together one sheets, etc. So hearing that we should just throw it all out sounds a little daunting.

But all artists (I would call a speaker a performing artist), need to occasionally sit down and take inventory of what’s working and what isn’t. There’s no point in spinning your wheels going in a direction that isn’t working for you. Every so often you need to re-evaluate your speaking career, and now is as good a time as any while business is slower. Here are a few things to think about when it comes to reinventing yourself as a speaker:

  • Do a forensic analysis – Go through all of your marketing materials one by one. Which things bring in the best ROI? Is it your website? Your printed one sheet? Postcards? Referrals? Are your materials outdated? Can they be improved? Sit down with someone who will give you honest feedback and get their input. Hire a speaker marketing coach to help you. Get several opinions. If you hear the same advice from a few different people you need to take notice. 80% of your business is probably coming from 20% of your effort. Find out where it’s coming from and do more of it.
  • Create your material in different ways – Keynote speaking isn’t the only kind of speaking out there. Many speakers make a great living doing workshops. In fact, I recently talked to a meeting planner who told me they got all of their keynote speakers for free. When I looked at the line-up, I was surprised. “You mean this guy speaks for free?” He said “Not only does he speak for free, but he actually pays us to speak on our stage”. I was surprised. So, if established speakers are paying to speak, where does that leave up and coming speakers? He said his company pays very well for trainers, and that it’s going to be much more in demand in the future. So, do you have a workshop ready to go? Do you have training materials? I lost a good job opportunity a couple of years ago because I didn’t have a workshop prepared.
  • Freshen up your performance – When I first moved to L.A. I worked in a comedy club and I watched how comedians prepared their material. One night was dedicated to open mic, where new comedians could get practice and established comedians tried out new material for their act. If it bombed, usually no one saw it. And if it got a great response, they would add it to their act, and constantly honed it until they got 5 minutes of the very best material. You can do the same thing as a speaker. Summertime is a great time to try out new things. Test out something new, and if it works, add it to your speech, while cutting the lame, old material that isn’t your best. What you want is what comedians aim for – 60 minutes of killer material.



Most professional speakers work as independent contractors and run their own businesses. With all of the business expenses speakers encounter, there are also plenty of tax write-offs for speakers. We asked the experts what expenses speakers were allowed to write off and which expenses they tend to overlook:

“In addition to the meals, travel, etc., here are some deductions that people might not know about:

Educational materials – If you take classes, lectures, or online courses on how to become a better speaker, it’s usually deductible

Losses due to theft

Newspapers and magazines – You can use these to stay on top of the industries in which you speak

Prizes for contests –  This is a good deduction, especially if you run a contest to get some promotion”

James Pollard


“If you’re a professional speaker, most likely you are self employed. Small business owners and self-employed individuals can write off almost any ordinary and necessary business expense that they need to keep their business running. For a professional speaker, some of these deductions might include….

Transportation for work — You can make deductions on any transportation expenses you incur for work, including any driving you do for business purposes (as long as you keep a detailed record of all miles driven). If you travel away from home for speaking engagements, you can also deduct travel expenses (as long as they are for business, not pleasure, and aren’t overly lavish or extravagant). If a trip is longer than a normal work day, then you can deduct lodging and meals while you’re there as well. You may even be able to deduct dry cleaning and laundry costs.

Advertising and promotion — Business cards, brochures, posters, and branded giveaways to promote yourself are all deductible. So is your website and any mailing list software or services.

Phone and Internet — You can deduct fees for Internet and phone service. If you use for both business and personal, then you must keep track of what percentage of the use goes to business and deduct only that amount.

Equipment and Supplies — Whatever supplies you need to be a professional speaker are probably deductible. This might include basics like pens, paper, and printer ink or it might include projectors, microphones, lights or other equipment for your speaking engagements.

Education and Research — Your education expenses are deductible. Any classes or seminars you take and books or supplies you need to buy are write-offs. You might also qualify for a tax credit. Some credits only apply to higher education (college) costs, while others will cover continuing ed and any other classes to will help you improve your speaking skills. Your student loan interest is also deductible.

Child care costs — If you’re the parent of a child under the age of 13 you might be allowed to claim a credit for money you spend on childcare while you’re working.

Charitable work — If you donate your time for a charitable event you can’t deduct the time spent volunteering, but you can deduct expenses you incur while volunteering, such as transportation costs.

Tax preparation costs — You can even deduct the fees you paid your accountant to prepare and file your taxes or the cost of tax preparation software.


Joshua Zimmelman
Westwood Tax & Consulting LLC
265 Sunrise Highway, Suite 1-411
Rockville Centre, NY 11570
Tele: (516) 792-0505
Fax: (516) 324-3136

“Some of the overlooked tax deductions we see speakers miss out on are (1) software and online service subscriptions (2) Business entertainment and meals and (3) commissions paid by your business.”

Mark A. Wingo | Author of Wingonomics
President & CEO – New Beginning Financial Group, LLC
Toll-Free (877) 483-NBFG
And if you are a speaker who works on cruises, here are some cruise tax write-offs:

“Presently you can only deduct up to $2,000 per year for each person attending conventions and seminars on cruise ships, and only if the cruise trip meets all of the following requirements:

– The convention, seminar, or meeting offered on the cruise ship must be directly related to your trade or business.
– The cruise ship must be a vessel registered in the United States.
– All of the cruise ship’s ports of call are in the United States or in possessions of the United States.

– You must attach to your tax return a written statement signed by you that includes information about:

The total days of the trip (not including the days of transportation to and from the cruise ship port),
The number of hours each day that you devoted to scheduled business activities, and
A program of the scheduled business activities of the meeting.You attach to your return a written statement signed by an officer of the organization or group sponsoring the meeting that includes:A schedule of the business activities of each day of the meeting, and the number of hours you attended the scheduled business activities.Accordingly, conventions and seminars offered on Caribbean cruises are not tax deductible since their ports of call fall outside the United States.  There is a way, however, to take a Caribbean cruise and deduct more than $2,000 in travel expenses:  simply find a convention or seminar held in any of the North American Areas sanctioned by the U.S. Department of State and travel there by cruise!  The North American area includes U.S. islands, cays, and reefs that are possessions of the United States and the locations listed below:American Samoa
Antigua and Barbuda
Midway Islands
Netherlands Antilles
Northern Mariana Islands
Baker IslandHowland Island
Palmyra Atoll
BermudaJarvis Island
Puerto Rico
CanadaJohnston Island
Trinidad and Tobago
Costa RicaKingman Reef
DominicaMarshall Islands
U.S. Virgin Islands
Dominican RepublicMexico
Wake IslandUnder this tax strategy there would be no need of restricting your travel on US vessels and to US ports of call, and of signing and of obtaining from the group sponsor detailed prescribed attest statements.  If your cruise does not exceed a week, simply attend a business related seminar or convention (even a one day event suffices for a one-week cruise), and you have satisfied the ordinary and necessary expense criteria of a qualified business tax deduction of your travel expenses.  Of course, on any business trip, document your business expenses by addressing the who, what, when, where, why questions, save receipts, and collect convention/seminar paraphernalia as IRS souvenirs.  If your cruise exceeds a week, you are still eligible to deduct the cost of the cruise as long as your nonbusiness activity does not constitute 25% or more of travel time. ”

Vincenzo Villamena, CPA

Online Taxman | 347 Fifth Ave. Suite 1402-171 | New York, NY | | (p) 646.400.0046 | (f) 815.550.8651 |