What should I include in a speaker agreement?

Things to clarify in a speaker contract

By Douglas Vermeeren


Recently one of my masterclass students was invited to speak at an event and they offered her a fair chunk of money to do it. She didn’t have an agreement or contract to use and asked for ideas on what should be included. Generally speaking when I am speaking I create a simple letter of understanding. I have found that often if I draft something too contractual or use the word contract it can frighten away some promoters. I have divided these ideas  for this memorandum of understanding into sections.


The following are some basic ideas of what I include in my speaker agreements:


The Event


What are you going to be talking about? It is important the you understand the needs of the event and what they expect of you. I have arrived at events and had them add things to the program at the last minute and some of the stuff wasn’t comfortable for me or I was unprepared. (For example would I be willing to sit on a panel and discuss complex social issues – ummmm…. prefer not to. Not my area of expertise.)


How long are you expected to be there? I like to know that the event organizer is indeed organized. If I am speaking in a city where I have lots of contacts or business to do I may try to use the trip to get more done than just their event.


Can I get a schedule of the event? I like to have a schedule of the event not just to know when I am speaking but also to know who else is speaking. Sometimes this has altered my topic as I knew some of the other speakers might be covering or disagreeing with content I normally share. Also it may give me an opportunity to leverage authority. And often I may adjust my travel if there is a speaker on the program I would like to hear or meet.












Payment for event


How much will you be getting? Clearly state in your agreement what you expect to be paid and in what currency. If you are speaking abroad this is extremely important.


Deposits – Industry standard is 50% to secure the booking. This is non-refundable as it prevents you from doing business one that day with others who may also want that date.


When it will be paid – As stated above deposits should be done at the time of booking. The balance is typically paid out two different ways 1) Either the balance a week or so before the event. 2) A check prior to you taking the stage. Although I’ve never had it happen to me I know of speakers who have agreed to get paid once the promoter “settles his books” two to three weeks later and sometimes that final payment never makes it.


Penalties for non-payment or cancellation may be included – This is optional in the case that the promoter does need to settle accounts after the event. You may wish to include some form or penalty or clearly indicate what your resource is to collect. In addition you may wish to include a penalty for cancellation if this is initiated by the event organizer.


Product sales

Clarify if you are allowed to sell – I have had many paid events that have actually asked that I not sell. One case actually happened moments before I took the stage.  Make sure that your expectations and the promoters are on the same page with this issue before you agree to participate. This should be in writing as part of the agreement.


Revenue splits if expected -Industry standard is typically a 50/50 deal between the speaker and the promoter. However this is not set in stone and also depends on the product. It is worth negotiating in this area. I have also had it where the promoter has not taken a percentage.


Who will handle sales, refunds and when will payments to you be made – These are all important questions which will determine if you need to have support staff helping you and order forms present. If they are handling the processing generally you will need none of these things. Refunds can also be a sticky issue if the promoter took the money typically they will handle all customer refunds or concerns if any. It is recommended that there be a cut off after the event where refunds can be accepted. Typically it is 5 days and it is indicated in writing on the order form as a binding contractual obligation attached to the order. Naturally if the promoter is accepting the payments you will have to outline when you can expect your payment to you.


Clearly ask for a break after you speak to complete sales – If the promoter moves right into the next part of their program without a break for people to buy from you your sales will suffer. In my agreements with promoters I typically ask for a minimum of 15 between me and the next person on their program. Sometimes that isn’t even enough, but it is generally does the trick.


Stage & Room Details


Room set up – While not all events will structure their room set up around my desires if they are willing I sure tell them what I want. I do not like an isle down the middle of the room as a create a separation among the audience members. I don’t like having people siting at round tables as it creates ‘clicks’ rather than group energy. I also don’t like to have a stage if it’s a small group and if I must have a stage I don’t like to have it too far away from the first row. Just a few thoughts.


Audio visual – I clearly ask for what I will need and clarify what I will not need. I don’t use a podium. I don’t like handheld microphones. If I need power point, an internet connection, the ability to play a video, a dvd player, audio music, the ability to transfer data from a USB drive or a flip chart I make sure these things and anything else I may need is talked about and agreed upon.


Pre-event tech dry run – With technology I always like to check it out prior to taking the stage so I now everything is working. There’s nothing that kills your flow worse than having technical problems in the middle of your speech. Make arrangements to try things out before taking the stage where possible.


Additional details

Accommodation – It is always important to know who is paying for and booking accommodations. And if you are booking will you be reimbursed or is this something you will be expected to pay.


Travel – It’s also important to know who is in charge of travel getting to the location. This can include everything from who covers your airplane fare to who will pick you up at the airport and get you to the hotel you are staying at and the event – and then don’t forget everything it takes to get you home too


Travel & Accommodation points – Chances are pretty good that as a speaker you have some kind of travel or accommodations reward card. While not the biggest concern on your plate some speakers I have met like to include in their agreement that their travel point cards be used in the transactions to get them there. Just a thought.


Daily allowance – Although not industry standard some speakers also ask for a daily allowance for themselves for such things as meals and so forth. Typically when I have seen this done (and it is rare) this is around $50 a day.



The Mission of High Profit Speakers is to create profitable world class speakers. We believe this comes through building a correct business model for your speaking business, positioning yourself as an expert and learning how to sell effectively from the stage.  If you are a speaker and would like to learn more about how you can do this. Come to www.HighProfitSpeaker.com for a free ebook on 3 obstacles that are keeping you from your speaking success. This tool will immediately open the door to new thinking about your speaking business.