The hidden economics of highly paid speeches

It is reported that once she hits the lecture circuit, Hillary Clinton will get paid around $200,000 for a two-hour speech, like her husband and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I can understand that you need to pay some speakers to get them to attend. Speaking is often the way that writers earn much of their livelihood because the money they make from the sale of their books and articles may not amount to that much. Even for those who do not depend on speaking honoraria to make a living, an offer of an honorarium partially compensates for the hassle of leaving one’s home and traveling to often distant places to give a talk and then upon returning of having to catch up on all the work that piles up at home in your absence. Even I get paid small honoraria by groups that have money to pay for speakers, though I also speak for free to groups that have no budget for this.

But surely these kinds of large numbers bandied about for the big names make no sense? What could anyone possibly say that would be worth that amount? Clearly the hosts are paying for something other than the content of the talks. But what? Just to be in the same room and breathe the same air? To have a photograph taken with the speaker? To briefly exchange some small talk? And what kinds of organizations have that kind of money to spend on a single brief event?

The only reason I can think of is that the sponsors of the event want to curry favor with the speaker in return for some favor, making it a form of lobbying. Or that they want to draw a large crowd and only a big name will do it. But that cannot be the whole story, surely? Why would they want a crowd just for its own sake?

There is clearly a world out there that is opaque to me.