This year, live events have been few and far between, leaving many event professionals to pivot their Wedding PR strategies and diversify their revenue streams to make it through. For many industry veterans, turning to education has served as an additional source of income while building a reputation as a thought leader.
Professional speaking seems like it’s as simple as creating a presentation and rehearsing it until the words roll off your tongue like second nature. While certainly vital components to a successful experience on stage (or onscreen), it’s equally important to protect your assets going into each new speaking engagement.
You see, as a Wedding Industry Speaker, you and all of your brilliant content represent your brand. Therefore, it’s imperative to safeguard your ideas, your resources, and your time before creating even your first slide.
Enter: Your speaking agreement.
Think about it — you have a contract for each client to sign before starting on any work for them. Why wouldn’t you do the same for speaking engagements? Agreements help to protect the ownership of your work and define the parameters of how your content may be used.
Here are the key elements to include in your speaking agreement:
- The basics: Include your topic, description, and takeaways to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to what you’re speaking about and for how long. Confirm the date and time, especially if you will be traveling.
- Pricing + travel details: You’ll want to cover everything from your speaker fee to the agreed-upon expenses that the organization will cover. Define the conditions you need to be successful: the right flight, hotel, ground transportation, and so on. Additionally, detail your travel plans and payments. If you are being reimbursed, what is covered? When will you see the payment? Who is responsible for booking? You want to provide them with the very best performance, so be firm about what you expect in return.
- How your content can be used: Get clear on how the host organization may repurpose your work, including how and when you expect attribution. Can it be transcribed and turned into a blog post? Are they allowed to resell it? If so, how will you be credited and compensated? Is there an end date at which point they must stop using your content? Your ideas and topics belong exclusively to you, so a contract prevents anyone from stealing your content or repurposing it in unapproved ways.
- Performance-related conditions: Every speaker has certain conditions they need to perform well, and you don’t want your reputation tarnished because the host organization didn’t provide you with the keys to success. Clearly state your requirements for speaking, including but not limited to:
- Power needs: I typically ask for a power outlet and cord near the stage. It sounds basic, but you would be surprised by the setup at some venues.
- A projector: I present slides with my talks, so I’ll let them know that I need a projector with the ability to play video with sound.
- Wi-Fi: A must-have, even if your presentation is saved to your desktop. Better to be safe than scrambling at the last minute!
- Sound amplification: Include your microphone preferences and confirm that it will appropriate for the given space. I personally like lavaliere mics, but you may prefer a handheld or stationery one at a podium.
- AV support: I require a dedicated AV staff member familiar with the system to check in 30 minutes prior to my talk. This is a non-negotiable for me. I’m not an AV expert and I do not want the success of my talk to rely on my ability to navigate a venue’s tech setup.
- Attribution, publicity, and presentation rights: The host group will naturally want to promote your talk, but you need to guarantee that you will be attributed as the speaker. Confirm that they will use your name, company, logo, headshot, and correct social media handles in their publicity, linking back to your website when possible. Be clear that you own the rights to the presentation and are granting a license to use it, so define what you are and are not comfortable with (i.e. videotaping, social media distribution, etc.).
- Cancellation and changes: This year has shown us that anything can happen, so be sure to include a clause that protects you in case of cancellation or changes due to the host organization or circumstances outside of your control.
I can’t stress enough the importance of having a lawyer on your side to review your speaking agreement and ensure that you’re properly covering yourself in every regard.
What should you charge?
Now, let’s move onto the other important facet of speaking: your pricing.
You should establish a pricing structure before sending out your speaking agreement, as it will help you delineate out-of-pocket expenses and the costs you expect to be covered. Speaker pricing is a personal decision, as it relies on many factors — not just the specifications of the organization, but also your particular “why.” If, for example, you’ve been accepted for a prestigious conference that won’t cover travel expenses but will provide free registration and position you in front of the perfect audience, you may be inclined to discount your fees.
On the other hand, if a group wants you to travel across the country during the week of your child’s birthday, you may consider charging extra to compensate the opportunity cost. It comes down to how much you value the speaking engagement in question and what it will ultimately cost you at the of the day.
There are a few ways to structure your pricing: daily rates, per person rates (by headcount), hourly rates (including content development), and flat rates. I personally find flat fees to be the simplest and most convenient, especially if you want to factor in travel and accommodations.
Regardless of structure, keep these questions in mind when defining your pricing:
- What are your motivations? If speaking is a means for revenue, you might consider charging more than someone who is speaking as a way to build their network. Get clear on your “why” and decide how that impacts your pricing.
- What can the market handle? Charge too much and you risk pricing yourself out of the market and losing spots to competitors. As you gain experience, you’ll get a better idea of where the market currently stands and you can tailor your pricing accordingly.
- How valuable is the audience? You get more value from people that are likely to convert, so the right audience may call for flexible pricing. Review your past bookings to determine the type of audience that make up most of your conversions, and consider that extra value when determining pricing for those opportunities.
- What can you deliver? Some topics may be so well-practiced that you don’t have to invest much time for prep, so that may factor into your pricing. Likewise, if you have to develop a new and robust presentation, be sure to charge accordingly.
- What else is covered? Ideally, a host group will pay for your transportation and accommodations, as well as onsite meals for the day you’re onstage. Confirm everything that’s covered and consider adjust your speaker fee based on additional out-of-pocket expenses.
- What is the opportunity cost? Speaker expenses go beyond travel, accommodations, and meals. Consider all that you’re missing out on. Will you need to hire a babysitter? Does your staff have to work overtime to cover while you’re out of the office? All of this should factor into your pricing to make the experience worth your while.
Virtual speaking engagements, on the other hand, may call for a different approach. Since you don’t have to leave your office (or home) for more than a few hours, online engagements typically don’t have a budget that accommodates steep speaker fees. However, your content is still valuable and you’ve invested time and resources into preparing and practicing your talk.
It’s a bit of a grey area when speaking online, so you need to decide what feels right for the situation. We waived many fees this year in light of the pandemic. However, in general, you can feel comfortable charging a small honorarium of $250 to $500 depending on your experience. If you plan to charge, be sure to provide actionable content and perhaps some exclusive freebies for those who stick around to the end. Once you nail down your pricing and iron out your speaker agreement, you’re all set to start creating and practicing your presentation! Remember that associations pay for quality, so commit to sharing fresh, compelling content that will ensure your attendees walk away inspired and motivated by your talk.