Would you pay $299 or more to attend a two-day conference to listen to 10 speakers selling products from the stage? We wouldn’t and there’s a growing audience rebellion brewing out there that agrees. In the future, it will become harder to fill your conference seats when your audience is just sitting there waiting for the hook, the “gotcha,” or the ask. Why pay to subject yourself to an advertising campaign? Shouldn’t they be paying you?

Four years ago, conference organizers would tell us as speakers not to sell from the stage! We didn’t and never have. Our goal has always been to educate and entertain our audiences with the hard lessons we learned building an international brand using resourcefulness, cash flow management, employee engagement, and strategic alliances. Our goal has always been to send the audience home with effective tools they can use in their business today. We want our audiences to thank the conference producers for providing those tools.

Over the past year we’ve noticed a big change. Now, most conference producers are operating on a model that basically “sells” their audience to their unpaid speakers. Now, these producers actively promote platform selling by their speakers to their audiences who have paid to attend their conferences. Imagine, free speakers plus income from attendees! When we point this out, they’re always quick to say that they are creating networking opportunities for their audiences and speakers. But how much longer will audiences pay to be treated like prospects?

We believe audiences attend conferences not just to network but to learn new strategies and techniques they can use in their businesses. We believe they can “smell” an upsell 20 minutes away. We believe upselling speakers creates a kind of anxiety as the audience is expecting to be teased and have key pieces of information withheld from them unless, of course, they pay more to get it. Now their conference ticket just buys them a pitch.

More new conferences are popping up every day trying to use this pay-to-be-upsold model. “Why should we pay speakers,” they say, “when we have a whole stable full of free speakers?” The fact is, there are no “free” speakers. They may not charge the producers for their talk, but they are hoping their audience will buy their services instead. When an audience is used like this, are they more likely or less likely to return next year?

Today many so-called speaking coaches are quick to jump on this bandwagon. They advise their speaking clients to sell their services from the stage. This advice is based on the idea that their clients are not professional speakers but are merely using the stage to sell something else to a sequestered audience.

Think about the last three conferences you’ve attended. Does any of this sound familiar? Do you need more people soliciting you? Do you need more emails from their sales campaigns in your inbox? Or do you want to get value for the money you paid to attend the conference?

We think you should get information that is of great value to you. It won’t happen unless you complain about platform sales or simply vote with your feet. Let’s go back to paying speakers on the condition that they don’t perform platform sales and that they deliver valuable and usable content in return for their fees. Let’s get more speakers who have actually done what they’re talking about instead of those who’ve created a new word, written a book about it, and were a bestseller on Amazon for 2 ½ seconds.

When speakers only speak for fees, they have a financial interest in delivering value. They don’t tease, scare, or hold back. They must perform, or they won’t get paid again. Speaking is their real job. It’s what the audience is paying for. Right? If you are a speaker, a conference attendee, or a conference producer, let us know your ideas on this subject.






Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at www.consumerbrandbuilders.com.

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact sales@thebarefootspirit.com.