Who Earns More, a Keynote Speaker or Trainer?
My answer may surprise you. If you dream of doing either at the world-class level, this insight may matter greatly. I wish someone told me this back when I started. It could have helped me avoid frustration and help me to start earning more sooner.
I’ve been in the professional speaking world for the past 30 years. Though I may not have all the answers, I have a great deal of experience to tap into. In the 1990’s I dreamed of being a keynote speaker. Many of us do. How cool is it that you get an amazing audience, huge applause, and a paycheck equal to a year’s salary at my day job? What speaker wouldn’t want that?
As a member of the National Speakers Association, I got to know many professional speakers and trainers along the way. The keynote speaking fees you see on bureau websites can be incredible. They are real. They are impressive. Check for yourself. Here are two agencies who book me: https://speakerexchangeagency.com and https://www.executivespeakers.com. Look up your topic, and you will see a wide range of fees and numbers that might blow your mind.
What I’d like to help you consider is not your end goal but your path to get there. Here is what you might not have considered, when you are a keynote speaker, you are usually unemployed when you walk off stage. Though there are exceptions, even if they love you, most conferences seek out other keynote speakers for their next conference.
Training is different. As a trainer, there are often multiple dates and other divisions in a company that could use your training. Many colleagues I have who provide training get contracts in excess of $100,000. Often, they are even renewed the following year and possibly many years to come.
Though I love keynote speaking, I earn much more as a trainer for my business model than I do as a keynote looking at annual income. What I personally love about training, over speaking, is the deeper impact you can have on people’s lives and careers. The goal of speaking is to entertain and inspire. The goal of training is to change behavior. Big difference. Which do you prefer?
Here is something else you may not know. Many high-paid, in-demand keynote speakers started their careers as trainers. The list is long, but to mention a few who began their careers working as trainers were Ford Saeks, CSP, CPAE, Mark Sanborn, CSP, CPAE, World Champion Ed Tate, CSP, World Champion David Brooks, and World Champion Craig Valentine. Yup.
The opportunities and competition are different too. Though the statistics vary, I’ve heard there are a few thousand speakers in the US vying for the big keynote speeches vs. many tens of thousands of trainers. That does not even consider the number of corporate trainers that are large companies. That could be a way to start getting paid as well.
Unless you win a gold medal with a great back story or star on a hit reality show, it’s rare people go from zero to $50,000 with keynote speeches. I will tell you for certain, whether it is training or speaking, there is always room for people who are world-class. The challenge is that most people DIY it. Do-It-Yourself is not a great plan. You can’t take a 101 course in either and expect to earn the big bucks. Great speakers and trainers are not born; they are trained. Do your due diligence and find the proper training from people who are successful in the craft to give you the necessary tools. We have a train-the-trainer workshop coming up if you are serious and want to make a bigger impact quickly. Go to: https://www.stagetimeuniversity.com/workshops/train-the-trainer/
Yes, keynoting can lead to glory, but training can lead to gold faster. Keynoting can be fun and lucrative but still requires excellence and marketing. You need to stand out! If you want help and mentoring on the business of speaking, check out our Business Mastery Program: https://www.stagetimeuniversity.com/business-mastery/
What my colleagues would tell you is that if you are great at what you do, you will get referrals. Planners know planners, and corporate executives know executives. Being great on stage or in the boardroom is critical. I’ve learned in my business and talking to my friends that a great keynote speech can easily lead to follow-up training. Great training can lead to keynote speakers. Both can also lead to great book sales, but that is another article.
The big question is, where are you now, and where do you want to go? I hope you consider training as a possible path that can be more lucrative than you think. Pick a path to get there and go!