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$20,000 embarrassing? It's the going rate on the speakers' circuit

Commander Hadfield could command $50,000.

A $20,000 speaking fee may be a source of embarrassment for Liberal leader Justin Trudeau but for politicians, athletes and celebrities, it’s the going rate on the speaking circuit.

According to the National Speakers Bureau website, speaking fees can range from $3000 to $25,000 in Canada, depending on the profile of the speaker.

Greg Mulroney, executive coordinator for membership with the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers, said that range can be even greater.

“It could be anything from $1 to $1 million,” he said, “It all depends on who wants you there, how badly do they want you there, and how much did you ask for.”


Chris Hadfield could speak at your event for $50,000.

Astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield who recently returned to earth and retired from Canada’s Space Agency, could demand a premium fee for a Canadian audience.

“I doubt he would ask it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he could get up to $50,000, easily,” said Mulroney.

The public speaking circuit can be lucrative for high-profile individuals, and both Canada and the U.S. have a thriving industry for speaker bureaus, or booking agencies, who handle public appearance requests for athletes, economists, politicians, and just about anyone else who’s an expert in their field.

It’s been reported that former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were paid about $300,000 in total to appear at a 2011 Regional Economic Summit in Surrey, B.C.

Heather MacLean, director of (formerly the Professional Speakers’ Bureau Inc.), isn’t surprised by Trudeau’s $20,000 speaking fee.

“It’s pretty consistent with [the] fees other people of that scope and stature are securing,” she said.

MacLean’s clients include several in-demand individuals including Wayne Gretzky and Olympic soccer player Christine Sinclair, “wealthy barber” Dave Chilton, and former Chief of the Defence Staff Rick Hillier, all popular choices these days for those looking to book a speaker.

Speaking fees often include travel and accommodation costs for the individual speaker, and there’s usually a commission for their representation if the booking was handled by a bureau, said Mulroney.

Depending on how much or whether you plan to charge for tickets to an event, booking a speaker can be a “drop in the bucket” for an organizer’s overall budget, added Mulroney, as ticket costs for attendees will often easily cover a booking fee.

“The speaker you get helps to fill seats, sell tickets—the proceeds of which will go back to the charity [or organizer],” said MacLean, adding that many planners look for big names who will help to promote their event.

Trudeau spoke at a charity event in June 2012 for New Brunswick’s Grace Foundation which runs a nursing home. The charity said that they lost money on the event that featured Trudeau and have asked him to reconsider returning his fee.