Now I Have My Speaker, How Do I Pay Them?

September 30, 2019
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We all know the recruitment of good quality subject matter experts (SMEs) is one of the hardest parts of creating a solid curriculum. But what happens after you have the recruitment down? How do you reward them and keep them coming back to offer additional content opportunities for you? 

Over the years I’ve found a couple successful ways to compensate your loyal SMEs. It doesn’t always have to be a monetary reward. We have to remember, as you navigate the recognition and reward, people like to be rewarded in different ways. Some like to be compensated for their time and it’s the only way they can justify teaching. While many SME’s are very willing to volunteer their time for a “shout-out” in your publication or at an awards banquet. Let’s breakdown a couple reward and recognition options: 

1. Monetary Reward

Some subject matter experts love the gold ole’ do-re-mi. You can decide to pay them per person, honorarium (flat-fee), or a revenue share. In any of these cases you have to be very careful that you aren’t overextending your P&L’s. The best way to figure out a payment structure is to breakdown your costs and revenue: 

  • Costs = technology, SME honorarium (you might not know at this point), and any other costs allocated directly to that webinar program.  
  • Revenue = Will you be charging for attendance or is this a member benefit? If you are charging for attendance, project a potential audience size based on past history of this particular topic or your overall webinar attendance. Do you wish to make a particular profit margin on the webinar program?  
  • Calculate the costs and revenue. This will show you just how much you can pay your SME and maybe shed light on the best payment option.  
  • Instead of paying them a dollar amount via check, you can also consider sending them a gift card. Or making a donation to their favorite charity on their behalf. 

This option can get tricky, so, let’s breakdown the payment options a bit more: 

  • Per-person: This is a great way to make sure you are making a particular profit margin per attendee. However, by using this method you might find yourself paying out more funds to your SME if the program is successful, but on the other hand, if it is smaller or not as popular, you aren’t stuck paying them a lump sum. Great way to start with a new SME to test the waters.  
  • Honorarium: This would be a flat fee paid for creating and delivering the content. A little riskier to use with one of your newer SME’s however figure out the break-even and ensure that you have that number of attendees. This will ensure you are making money. If you get closer to the program and aren’t breaking-even, you might want to think about rescheduling or recording it and playing the webinar back as a live event on a different date and time. Allowing for more attendees to join in on the live recording. Or another option would be to pay the speaker for authoring the content, delivery of the live webinar, and the ability for you to setup the recording as an on demand program for the one flat honorarium.  
  • Revenue Share: This is similar to the per-person fee, however you contract this as a percentage (%) of the revenue. You can decide if it makes more sense to offer them the revenue share of the gross or net revenue. Certainly, the net revenue is a bit less risky, as you know you’ve covered your costs.   

2. Information Sharing

Share your attendee list or a copy of the webinar recording to allow the SME to post it to their website. Some SME’s use a speaking opportunity as a way to gain business or recruit new clients. This option has no overhead for you and gives the speaker opportunity to network or share additional resources with the attendees to add more value. A couple ideas around the attendee list… give the SME the option to send one email to the attendees to limit their communication so the attendees don’t feel bombarded by the SME’s messaging. Another option is not to hand over the attendee list, but send the email to the attendees on behalf of the SME. 

3. Recognition

This option is a great way to watch your budget but give the SME the recognition they deserve so that they feel special and that you value their time. A couple ideas around recognition, is to highlight them in your magazine publication, in a speaker highlight on your blog, or during a recognition dinner.  

  • Dedicated Publication—Dedicate a special section within your publication or on your blog to highlight your outstanding SME’s. Think of it as a “getting to know you” digest. Thank them for their service and also use this as an opportunity to highlight other events they might be speaking at for your organization. 
  • Recognition Dinner — Invite your top SME’s to a recognition dinner, maybe aligning this recognition with your annual meeting. Have small trophies or certificates available. Something they can take back and show-off in their offices, to their colleagues. Honor the SME’s in some way publicly to recognize their efforts during the ceremony or meeting. Think about giving awards based on their survey ratings or your experience with them.  

Figure out how your speakers want to be rewarded for their time. If you don’t know, simply ask them! Don’t feel like you have to make a one-size-fits-all approach to compensation. Keep them happy once you recruit them; they will pay you back dividends with the member loyalty that will grow especially if their content is timely and high quality. If you make your SME’s feel special, they will pay you back ten-fold and keep your learners happy and wanting more! 

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