3 Lessons from a Keynote Speaker

Jason Vitug
2 min readJun 8, 2023

I’m often asked how to go from presenting at workshops to keynoting big stages.

So I want to share the lessons learned as a keynote speaker.

Typically, the question of “how” is a financial one because doing a workshop will never pay more than keynoting.

In my inner circle, I’ve shared openly how I went from begging people to have me present to turning down 5 figure speaking gigs.

If you want to become a highly-paid speaker, this post is for you.

Here are 3 short lessons:

1. Storytellers will always get paid more than presenters. Your story is the one unique thing about you (yup, AI can’t replicate that) and only you can share it with passion and intrigue. Know your story and choose the lesson you’ve learned that applies to the group you’re sharing it with.

The majority of people will remember the stories, not the data. It’s the psychology of us humans that emotionally ties us to stories. Focus on storytelling with the data intertwined.

2. Know your worth and set your price range.
Not everyone will agree with how much you’re worth. I’ve had Fortune 500 companies offer “exposure” and the promise of more work while a non-profit will find $1000 to pay for a 30-minute talk.

A few years ago, I had a big media company (like really big) ask me to speak with their employees. They had no budget for a speaker and emphasized the food that would be served. I recall asking the event organizer, “Is the event’s purpose to feed their stomachs or their minds?” Here’s the truth: their budget should be allocated to the goal.

I’ve also had organizers try to shame me or talk me down. I want you to know this: some can afford you while others can’t. It’s like how some can afford a luxury car while others need something much less.

Assess your value and set your price. And choose when and with whom you’ll give a discount too.

This brings me to the importance of assessing each gig differently.

3. Don’t automatically turn down “unpaid” gigs.
I started by giving free talks at church basements and with community groups. And I learned there is always someone with a budget in the crowd or a decision-maker looking for a speaker for their event. Determine if the unpaid gig aligns with your values and who might be in the crowd.

And doing unpaid speaking gigs can be an opportunity to refine your talk, try something new, and so on.

An agent represents me, but I have the flexibility to do free talks occasionally. The event must align with my values and missions (or if I can help a friend).

I hope these three lessons help some of you.

Here’s a bonus: decide if your goal is to be a speaker or presenter. There’s a difference.

Any questions, let me know in the comments.



Jason Vitug

Happiness and wellness advocate. Founder phroogal.com, creator Road to Financial Wellness. Preorder Happy Money Happy Life > https://www.phroogal.com/happy