Speaker fees for Virtual Events in 2023

Phil Henken
Phil Henken
Updated December 26 2022
Virtual event speaker fees
Phil Henken
Phil Henken
Updated December 26 2022

The more things change, the more things stay the same. Even though virtual events are trending upward as a routine part of our work lives, one thing both virtual and live events have in common is that a recognized speaker on the bill can be a big draw.


On the other hand, while a top-tier speaker like a former U.S. president can command a six-figure fee for appearing live, what do speaker fees for virtual events even look like? The level of effort and time commitment required is completely different. Barack Obama could (hypothetically) drop by your virtual event and deliver a rousing speech from the comfort of his living room.


You might not need the star wattage of a celebrity, politician, or celebrity politician to carry your virtual event, but in this post, we’ll give you a helpful guide for handling virtual event speaker fees. The rest is up to you and the former President’s booking agent!


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What are speaker fees anyway?

New to the event planning game? Speaker fees are the “good and valuable consideration” (i.e., money) that event speakers receive for their time and effort addressing your event.


These will often be negotiated with the speaker’s booking agent or another type of representation. The thing is, there’s nonetheless a distinct difference between the speaker fee structure for virtual events vs. in-person events. A few major factors tend to influence these fees, and you’ll most likely want to set things down in a speaker contract.




How much does a virtual event speaker cost?

In general, you can expect speaker fees for virtual events to be 50% to 70% less than the fee a speaker would charge for an in-person event. As we pointed out above, being able to skip travel to the event will require a lesser effort on your speaker’s behalf.



Here is a short list to give you a sense of where things stand regarding different tiers of speaker fees for virtual events. Dollar amounts are based on delivering a keynote speech but depending on the engagement you might expect to pay slightly more or slightly less:


Guest Speakers

$500 – $2,000

Speakers at this level tend to be new experts in a field and charge the lowest fees as they’re still making a name for themselves as experts. They are also usually an excellent choice for virtual events, especially smaller events, event segments with limited audience capacity, or events on a tight budget. Your event will also be an opportunity for this level of speaker, as they are still looking to gain exposure and expand their networks.


Experienced Keynote Experts

$5,000 – $10,000

This type of speaker has a recognized name and many years of experience in their industry. They’ve delivered keynotes and can comfortably speak at different occasions and a variety of events. Subject matter experts who’ve carved out a niche for themselves in an industry might be at this tier.


Thought Leaders

$10,000 – $40,000

Cutting-edge researchers, scientists, business leaders, and other authorities in the industry or field. These types of speakers charge more, however, they’re differentiated from regular experts in the field as they may already have their following online or offline. Their following and the fact that they’ve likely published books or have another media platform will gain exposure for your event. Additionally, accomplished speakers like these have a lot of added value for your audience as will the information they can deliver.


Recognized Figures

$25,000 – $75,000

We’re getting into the “celebrity” tier here, in some cases, these kinds of speakers could be known for a number of reasons, not always due to their expertise. Hiring a “recognized figure” to speak is an excellent strategy for attracting a large audience, as well as an opportunity to add value to your marketing by showing off the speaker.


Top Celebrities

$50,000 – $200,000
A dyed-in-the-wool celebrity at your event, be they a famous business leader, the type of subject expert with their own TV show, or an actor, musician, or comedian, guarantees event success and exposure. At this level, your virtual event is likely to or is looking to, draw a huge audience. Event organizers aim for the “celebrity” tier when they’re fairly certain ticket sales will outweigh the high fees these speakers command.


“The A-List”

$100,000 to “the sky’s the limit”
Famous motivational speakers, singularly successful CEOs, former US Presidents–essentially, household names. These speakers are known both regionally and globally for their expertise, fame, or success. At this level, people will attend your event FOR the speaker alone, regardless of what else is on offer–you can get worldwide attention with one of these. Of course, you’d better have the budget.




How to hire speakers for your virtual events the right way, and at minimum cost

Make sure you approach your speakers through the correct channels. As mentioned above, in some cases you’ll first be reaching out to a potential speaker’s representation, not necessarily the individual. This is particularly true in the case of celebrities, athletes, and other A-listers. However, on the “guest speaker” level it might still be appropriate to approach your prospective speaker directly.


As we also mentioned above, speaker fees for virtual events as well as other major guidelines for this virtual appearance are best set down in a speaker contract. That is, a document outlining the professional agreement between the speaker and the event host (you). Contracts cover the scope and extent of the work the speaker will do, due dates and deadlines, and circumstances that could prevent due dates from being met. Within the contractual agreement, you’ll want to cover things like “What hours are included in the speaker fee?” and “What happens if the speaker can’t fulfill their contract?”


It’s OK to ballpark the price of a virtual event appearance based on what the speaker’s normal in-person fees would be. Be ready to (respectfully) bargain and make sure you know where to draw the line if a speaker’s fee would break your budget. Keep the following factors in mind as they might affect a speaker’s ultimate cost.




Elements dictating the price of a speaker for virtual events


  1. Pre-Recorded vs. Real-Time: Typically, prerecorded content is a more favorable deal. Live events, especially those involving interaction and engagement like Q&A are likely to cost more. Consider your format in advance!


  1. Duration: Shorter is better, especially in virtual events. The good news is, that’s likely to be more cost-effective than having a speaker prepare and deliver an hour-long speech. On the other hand, longer, more costly sessions are to be expected (and also may be considered a value add to the audience) where thought leaders or celebrity experts are concerned.


  1. Preparation Time: Remember, short notice will almost always cost you more. If possible, work a few months in advance with ample notice to the speaker. You’re more likely to strike a better bargain.




Final Thoughts

Online events rely heavily on guests and keynote speakers to attract and engage their audience, but even for virtual events, speakers come at a price. The right speaker will add value to your event and bring extra exposure, so consider hiring speakers carefully based on budget and what would best suit your specific virtual event.