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Speaker Agreements – The Key to a Great Association Event

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An event planner’s relationship with a speaker for an association conference often starts with a formal speaker agreement. With this being the initial interaction with the speaker, you want to make sure you get off on the right foot and ensure the details of the engagement are clear and concise. What is included in the speaker agreement and how it is delivered to the speaker is extremely important as you begin your working relationship together.

What to Include in the Speaker Agreement

There is a fine line between including an appropriate amount of detail and risking it looking like a lengthy legal document. You want to be as thorough as possible while still making the document an easy read.

The Basics

The first thing to include in a speaker agreement is the basic information. This highlights the basic speaker information and event details including:

  • Name and designation
  • Contact information (pre-event and onsite) –a speaker will often have a personal email/phone number and a professional email/phone number so it is good practice to distinguish which is preferred for communication as it relates to the event.
  • Event name
  • Venue with address and room name
  • Date, session start and end time
  • Session title – the earlier you can confirm the exact session title, the earlier you can plug it in to your program and begin promoting the event agenda.

Expenses

Following the basic details, you will outline exactly what is and what is not included with the speaker’s participation at the association conference. This includes:

  • The negotiated speaker honorarium or fee and the currency that it is being paid in as well as any applicable taxes. (For a great reference on determining this honorarium, visit https://strauss.ca/compensating-industry-speakers/)
  • The dates and conditions under which payment will be provided
  • Travel – whether there is a maximum expense that will be covered and if any restrictions are in place (i.e. seat upgrades, baggage fees, toll booth fees)
  • Accommodation – if it is being covered and for how many nights
  • Meals including during the event as well as pre- and post-event

Everything that is being compensated should be listed with a maximum dollar amount. For example:

“Round trip flight to the host city at a maximum of $750 CAD plus taxes or mileage at $0.50 CAD a kilometer for a maximum of $200 CAD.”

Information surrounding non-monetary items should also be listed. This includes whether or not handouts will be provided for the speaker’s session or if any additional equipment or materials will be provided at the speaker’s request. Avoid last minute printing or rental costs by being clear at the time of booking. It is essential to not leave any room for interpretation as expenses can drastically increase in any sort of speaker agreement grey area.

Audiovisual

Nothing disrupts a live conference presentation more than technical issues. Avoid this as much as possible by providing the speaker with as much notice as possible as to what equipment is being provided and what format presentations should be saved in. List what is included in the room set up for AV including microphone (quantities and formats such as lavalier, handheld, or podium style) projector, screen and whether a laptop will be provided or if the speaker should bring their own (hint: Always provide your own laptop and have the speaker forward a file that can be loaded in advance. This avoids any connectivity issues at the start of the presentation. Never, ever rely upon a speaker setting up their own presentation or laptop five minutes before the event.). Give the speaker plenty of time to request additional equipment should their presentation require something outside of the standard set up. This is something that we, as event managers, want to know well in advance so that the items can be sourced. It is also a good idea to request in writing that presentations be saved in a specific format so that they work with the onsite equipment.

Deadlines

Arguably, the most important details on a speaker agreement are the deadlines. Dates when all items are to be completed should be clearly outlined within the speaker agreement. This gives the speaker notice as to when things are expected and keeps them accountable to stick to those dates. Include deadlines related to content, the provision of a speaker biography and headshot (with specific file type and size)as well as a session description and final version of the presentation. Also include deadlines as they relate to specific action items, for example when a flight should be booked or when a hotel room should be reserved. Having these deadlines clearly laid out within the agreement, not only keeps things on track, but it also helps keep costs down as flights and other expenses can increase if arrangements are made last minute.

One good habit to get into when sending the speaker agreement to the speaker is to highlight the deadlines in the body of the email as well. By pulling the most important information out of the agreement and putting it in front of the speaker you will maximize the chance that these details are not overlooked.

Dealing with Contingencies

What happens if the speaker does not show? Are the fees refunded? Is it different if they are ill versus a weather delay that affected their air travel? For an example of a real life situation and how this was handled by one of our event managers, visit https://strauss.ca/real-life-crisis-speakers-flight-canceled/.

Addressing how these types of situations will be handled in advance makes for a far less stressful experience and better crisis decision-making should the unthinkable actually happen.

Some speakers also like to sell their books and online education materials as part of their session. Will you permit this and if so under what conditions?

All That Starts Well, Ends Well

A solid speaker agreement sets the tone early. By being thorough and clear with your documentation, you set yourself up to stay on track during the planning process and demonstrate to the speaker that you are organized and value the time that they are dedicating to making your event a success. This is something that benefits both your organization and your speaker.

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