Secrets of Public Speaking No. 7 :: Contracts + Agreements

Thursday, August 04, 2016

When it comes to the details of a speaking engagement, the best way to handle things is to spell it all out in your speaker agreement or contract. If you are choosing to speak for free, I still recommend having a written speaking agreement. This helps prevent miscommunication and hurt feelings later on. I also recommend having an attorney help you put your contract together.

The details of your speaking contract should protect both you and the event host. Here are some of the things I include in mine:

Details of the talk: how long I will speak for, whether or not the session includes Q+A as well as how many sessions I'll be participating in.

Details of the event: whether or not I am expected to participate in other parts of the event (welcome parties, luncheons) and to what extent, etc.

Speaking fee: the fee itself, payment details and due dates, what gets prepaid by the event host and what gets reimbursed, etc.

Travel details: whether travel is included in the speaking fee or on top of it, travel details (including air/ground transportation), accommodation requirements (private, non-smoking, etc), whether meals or a per diem is included, etc. One specific example: I will not speak the same day I arrive. Airline cancellations and delays are outside of everyone's control and I'm not willing to risk missing a contracted engagement because not enough margin or time was allowed for the unavoidable to occur.

PR details: details on how I am promoted as a speaker as well as how I promote the event on behalf of the event host. In addition, expectations and limitations on where else I can speak in a given geographical area within a certain time frame.

Distribution details: whether or not the talk can be recorded and by whom, whether it can be posted online or distributed to attendees or a mailing list, whether or not an additional licensing fee is required, etc.

AV details: This is called a technical rider and it includes everything the AV team needs to know: your microphone preference, presentation software details, lighting details, monitor details, equipment requirements, etc.

Cancellation clauses: the circumstances under which an event can be cancelled (including Acts of God) and by whom, how payment works if an event is cancelled, etc.

Confidentiality: details about the speaking agreement and other communication that can or cannot be shared.

Other pre-event details: This can include a variety of things. Sometimes I will be asked to serve as an advisor to an event and the event host and we will spell out the expectations for this in the initial speaking agreement. I also include a requirement that the attendee list be provided within a certain timeframe prior to the event.

This may all seem intimidating, but it's really not. My speaking agreement is two pages long and was put together by a specialized attorney. Remember — you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate. This goes both ways. The event host has every right to ask for certain things and you have every right to say no and vice versa. This is why spelling out expectations up front is so important. A contract gets everyone on the same page and prevents assumptions that can be personally hurtful or damaging to either your or the event's brand.

Originally published January 2015

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