October 19, 2021

Treat Your Trainers Well: Lessons from the Downtown Little Rock Partnership

I have traveled to many locations around the world to speak to groups.  Some people who hire me are very gracious and truly help out as I do my best to get to some of the most remote locations.  And, then there are other organizations who:

1.  Want me to pay my way to fly across the county to speak to them for free (saying…oh…you will sell books and get clients if you speak to our group)


2. They pay a portion of expenses and a small stipend and I am then on my own to find a hotel, the location of the speaking event, and so forth

I have done it all…I have spoken for free, have made all of my own arrangements, have paid my own bills to travel to a city and so forth.  And, as a result, there is a big lesson I have learned:

1. I lose money each time I have to pay to travel to speak to a group who does not pay speaking fees or travel costs.  Not only is this usually about $800.00 in travel fees, I am away from my office for 2 days, so my clients who are paying get postponed so that I can speak to someone who has no interest in working with me in the future…they just need a speaker, but they have no money.

2. People who want you to speak for free do not truly value what you have to offer, and they need to just move on and find someone other than you to take advantage of.

I had the best speaking experience of my entire career last week.  I spoke to the Downtown Little Rock Partnership, and I felt like the red carpet was rolled out for a dignitary.  This group was more than accomodating, and I am going to tell you all what they did and how you really should treat your speakers and trainers.  It may not seem like this to you, but we work very, very hard and we have spent years (decades really) to acquire a great deal of knowledge to share, and it is important to know that if you treat your trainers well, they will tell the world…just like I am doing now.

1. Becky Falkowski, Public Relations & Communications Director worked very closely with me prior to the event (at least 6 weeks out) to make sure I had the equipment I needed for the event.

2. Becky picked me up at the airport…she texted me while I was still on the plane to tell me she was there waiting for me out front…what she was driving and wearing.  She was very easy to find.

3. Becky and her team reserved a beautiful room at the Doubletree Hotel for me.  On arrival, Becky made sure to ask for a room with a view.  I got it! (along with a wonderful chocolate chip cookie)

4. Sharon Priest, the former mayor of Little Rock and former Secretary of State for Arkansas and Becky took me to dinner on Tuesday evening before the event on Wednesday…just lovely!

5. On Wednesday morning, Becky was in the room making sure that all was ready to go.  She was on top of the breakfast, the way the tables were set and on the AV guy to make sure all was rolling along.

6. I delivered the presentation…anyone who is anybody was in attendance…leaders from all corners of Little Rock…a very diverse and well thought of group.  We had a very lively discussion on the topic of Generation Y.

7. Sharon took me on a tour of Little Rock and even drove me out to see a piece of property my husband owns to take photographs (that’s another story.)  But my point is…she did not have to do this.  She went out of her way to be helpful.

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8. Sharon took me to Heifer (gorgeous facility and is has achieved Platinum level LEEDS certification…amazing!)  for a wonderful lunch and then dropped me off at the airport.

And…a check was slipped into my hand for my speaking fee.  I did not have to ask for the payment (as I often have to do…sometimes I have to send 3 or 4 invoices before I get paid!)

I just could not believe this trip.  I thought “This is how it should always be!”  This is how speakers should be treated, yet 9 out of 10 times, we are treated as if the organization is doing us this huge favor by inviting us to come and speak for free on our own bills.  The Downtown Little Rock Partnership took a different approach.  They treated me as if they were so honored to have me there and as a guest who they wanted to share Little Rock with (which by the way…is beautiful!  I have never been to Little Rock, and it is beautiful…you should go there on your next vacation.)

So, if you are reading this, and you are consider hiring a trainer, please know the following:

1. Your speakers need to be paid…stop asking them to speak to your organization for free.

2. Find a way to pay for travel.  If you cannot afford a hotel, ask a friend who has a nice guest house or extra guest room to put him or her up for a night.

3. Shop airfares…there are some great deals out there, and you can find the funding to pay for their flight.

4. A sponsor will probably help you pay to get this all financed.  Just remember…we are all business people too!

And…to all the trainers out there…when someone calls, ask these questions:

1. Do you pay for travel?  If so, how much?

2. What speaking fee are you able to pay?

If they say “)

Nothing and Nothing…then, I would walk away from this.  This organization has no interest in doing business with you and does not value you or your time!  If you are a trainer who delivers speaking and training for a living, you have bills to pay just like the rest of the world, so get in there and fight for what you are worth..

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