Blog

10 Highest-Paid Public Speakers In the World

by Staff Writers

How much would you pay to see your favorite celebrity, politician or business leader speak? For some businesses and organizations, the answer is a lot more than you’d expect. Here, we’ve pulled together some of the biggest payouts ever made for keynote speakers, though it has to be said that it may not be a definitive list as some speakers don’t disclose their fees openly. You may be surprised to learn what some of the big names earn for a few hours of work as you work your way through this list. You might even be compelled to change your own college major to public speaking.

  1. Donald Trump, $1-1.5 million: In 2006 and 2007, The Learning Annex shelled out a hefty fee to have Donald Trump at their Real Estate Wealth Expos, paying him a whopping $1.5 million per speech for a 17-seminar conference. Trump only had to speak for an hour at each one, but audience members say he gave them their money’s worth by staying to answer audience questions. This was after Trump had already raked in one million per speech speaking at the same seminars in 2005. The company felt Trump was well worth the money, however, as few others have the celebrity and business savvy he does.
     
  2. Ronald Reagan, $1 million: Back in 1989, the Fujisankei Communications Group in Japan paid this former president a cool million per speech to come to the country and tour. Reagan gave two speeches while there as well as speaking at media outlets and giving interviews. Still, Reagan didn’t make out too shabby with $2 million (in 1989 dollars) under his belt for sharing his business and presidential experience with the company desperately in need of public relations help. The Reagans created a national sensation in Japan, boosting the company’s profile.
     
  3. Tony Blair, $616,000: On a lecture by lecture basis, Blair is likely the world’s best paid speaker. In 2009, he made almost $616,000 for two half-hour speeches given in the Philippines, raking in over $10,000 a minute. Listeners didn’t get to hear what he had to say for free, however, and many tickets to the event topped $500. Even in a time of economic crisis when many have slashed their fees, Blair’s have remained buoyant, due perhaps to his lengthy stint as Prime Minister and the insight and analysis he can offer as a result of it.
     
  4. Bill Clinton, $150,000- $450,000: It isn’t unusual for this former president to net $150,000 and up for a speech. Clinton has spoken at a wide range of events around the world from environmental conferences to business meetings, often promoting causes like HIV/AIDS treatment, economic empowerment and leadership development. The same charisma and likeability that won him two elections likely contribute to organizations’ willingness to shell out the big bucks to have him speak. Clinton has scaled back his speaking schedule, however, to support his wife as Secretary of State.
     
  5. Rudy Guilani, $270,000: While millions of New Yorkers got to hear Guiliani speak for free during his time as mayor, his speaking fees aren’t cheap now that he’s retired. Since his time in office, he’s earned nearly $10 million in speaking fees, with his most expensive gig netting him $217,000. This speech was given at Sage Capital, a St. Louis-based private equity firm, and chances are his presidential candidacy may have helped out the bottom line on his fees as well.
     
  6. Alan Greenspan, $250,000: Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan has been able to bring in the bucks since retiring through giving speeches. Only a week after his retirement, Greenspan spoke at a Lehman Brothers dinner, earning himself $250,000. Worth noting is that his successor to the position, Ben Bernacke, won’t even make that in his first year on the job, earning just $191,000.
     
  7. Lance Armstrong, $100,000 and up: Straight facts are hard to get on just what Armstrong is paid to appear as a keynote speaker. With inspirational fodder gained both from his successful battle against cancer and his comeback win of the Tour de France, Armstrong is in demand as a speaker regardless of the kind of fees he commands. While he might only need $100,000 to appear at some events, industry insiders have noted that he asked for $750,000 for a series of speeches given overseas just last year, a fee that might not be out of line for celebrity speakers.
     
  8. Al Gore, $100,000-150,000: Since his time as Vice President and his famous run for president, Al Gore has made a name for himself as a strong opponent of global warming and an environmental activist. Gore has maintained his draw as a speaker because of this activism, and now routinely charges in the $100,000 range for speeches. Having an Oscar-winning film and a Nobel Peace Prize under his belt sure can’t hurt either. While some have criticized his high fees, his camp maintains that he donates a percentage of his fees to the Alliance for Climate Protection.
     
  9. Richard Branson, $100,000 and up: This business mogul is known world wide for his record company and airlines, not to mention his forward-thinking business plans. It is, perhaps, a combination of these things–his business savvy, willingness to take risks, and ultimate success–that make him such a desirable speaker. Of course, if you want to bring him to your event, expect to pay at least $100,000, though many other companies have been rumored to have paid more.
     
  10. Sarah Palin, $100,000 and up: A few years ago, few people outside of Alaska had any idea who Sarah Palin was. Now, a presidential race and loads of media attention later, Palin is a household name, and she is capitalizing on it big time. Who can blame her, however, when she can command $100,000 and more for a speech? Since leaving office as governor, Palin has brought in nearly $12 million in book royalties, speaking fees and soon, a reality TV show.