Banner Image: Mountaineer Cathy O'Dowd speaking at Forum Excellence in Rome. 

While giving a speech about your adventure may be your idea of hell - and listening to a bad speech is definitely the audience's idea of hell - it is a very useful source of money and often the main source of income for adventurers between adventures or once their career starts to wind down. 

There are three markets for speeches where you may get paid. 


Presentations to schools that promote healthy living, outdoor adventure and self-motivation are popular with students, staff and parents. Rates will vary, based on what different schools are prepared to pay and what your adventure CV can command, but expect to get somewhere between £50 and £150, along with your travel expenses paid. 

outdoor events

The number of outdoor events has increased dramatically in recent years, and featuring speakers is always popular. Some will only pay for costs of travel (some won't even do that) but others do pay speakers. Expect to get in the £100 to £500 range, unless you are already famous or having done something world-class. 

Cathy O'Dowd talking about leadership and team dynamics on Everest, at an association for business owners in Germany. 

Cathy O'Dowd talking about leadership and team dynamics on Everest, at an association for business owners in Germany. 


Corporate talks are where the real money is. Rather than £500, expect to earn in the range of £3-5,000 for an hour-long presentation. And famous adventurers are earning substantially more. (Bear Grylls is probably earning 6 figures per speech.) However, to make an impact in the corporate market and to keep getting booked, your speech will need to be more than just telling your story photo by photo. The higher fees reflect a much higher standard of content and professional presentation. 

Many professional business speakers are niched by category (sales, futurist, etc) or by industry, which makes it easier to market for work yourself. Adventure speakers fall into the inspirational/motivational category, and work across a wide range of industries. Which can make it hard to find suitable opportunities on your own.

Many such speakers get gigs through speaker bureaus, which act as an intermediary between speaker and company (and take 20-35% of the speaker fee for their work). Speaker bureaus are not there to make non-famous adventurers famous. You have to have built your reputation first and need to have had publicity in national media, rather than just reach on social media. 

Speaking money comes in after an adventure rather than before it, but I did once pre-sell corporate talks to a corporate client I had worked with previously, as a way of raising funds to pay for my part in the Nanga Parbat Mazeno ridge expedition.

Expect to see more material on speaking coming up in the rest of 2017. It is how I pay my bills - I've been paid to speak in 44 countries, and have been living off my speaking fees for over 20 years - and the area where I have the greatest depth of personal knowledge and contacts. My speaker website is

There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.
— Dale Carnegie

helpful resource

Check out the podcast and website of Debra Searle, and her twin sister and marking specialist Hayley Barnard. Debra made national media in the UK in 2002 when she rowed on alone across the Atlantic after her husband had to be rescued. She went on to have a successful, on-going career as a motivational speaker. This podcast episode tells you all about how much corporate speakers get paid.