I was first approached online via email.
“I’m looking for speakers.”
I was excited. I had just moved to the area and wanted to start making my mark locally. After all, I have been speaking publicly for years, mostly on the east coast. Plus, I have a unique voice and message.
“Please come to my audition for speakers.”
Wait. I have to audition? I have a speaker website, some clips and speaker one-sheets for each of my speeches. (And I thank my speaking coach Felicia Slattery for making sure I had it all together!) This isn’t American Idol. This is person who does local seminars in a region where there are tons of capable speakers.
However, I can understand there are a lot of people who would love to be on stage who are horrible presenters. Even though I was a former TV anchor, I still have a speaking coach to hone my own skills. Many people do not make those kind of investments. But they know that presenting is an opportunity to get more customers so auditioning might be a way to go if you are starting out.
“And there is a $50 fee to attend the audition.”
Now I have talked about pay-to-play before when it comes to speaking, but this takes it to a new level.
It harkens to all those little girl pageant scams where you have a hefty entry fee, in addition to the costumes, makeup, and other stuff needed to compete.
It costs money to speak, whether you are being paid or not. From the time taken to prepare a speech, to handouts, to clothing, makeup and more, it isn’t cheap. So paying to audition seems a bit nutty.
I’ll admit, I was insulted by all this. But perhaps it was my vanity about my speaking skills making me over-react. Perhaps an audition made sense for some novice speakers, and perhaps the fee was just a way to cover the cost involved in arranging an audition, although I think its the cost of doing business. So I bit my tongue and let it go.
But then that ‘pay-to-audition-for-me” person met me at another event I was speaking at. After my presentation, the person proclaimed how wonderful it was, gushed about how exciting and fresh I was as a speaker, and how great my content was. And then that same person once again asked me to audition to get the chance to speak for another group.
Really? You think I am such a great speaker that you want me to pay to let you decide if I am a good speaker? You just saw me on stage, captivating the entire room, but now I have to audition for you? If I wasn’t good enough, then don’t ask.
Now I really was insulted. Obviously, the only reason you want me to audition is to make me pay for the audition!
I have cast a few things in my day: from murder mystery dinner theatre shows to reenactments for the History Channel. And to get GOOD talent, you don’t have people pay to audition. Period.
And if you pay for an audition, you need to know you will get results in the end, right?
But there is no guarantee, is there? No promise of getting that speaking gig. No promise that they will fill the room of the right audience for you if you DO get the speaking gig.
Sure, you may get some feedback and coaching to improve, as this person promised to do at the auditions in the advertising. But hiring a speaking coach who will work one-on-one with you can do the same thing BEFORE you ever set foot on stage.
So where’s the ROI? Well, the only ROI is pay-to-audition schemes is to the people filling their wallets.
So here’s some advice when you are approached by such an offer:
- Do your homework. See what the event host has done in the past and what the outcomes have been.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints about the company hosting the event.
- Ask other speakers what, if any, their experiences have been with the company. Do they deliver?
And, always remember, caveat emptor.
Is it the right thing for people to charge you an audition fee to speak? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.