My Lesson Learned: Get Speaker Consulting Details (and fee) In Writing

I was rather happy when a non-for profit that I have been working with regularly asked me to give three talks over the summer.  The past several years the firm paid me $500 each time I gave a 1-hour talk.  This was not a huge sum when you consider what speakers make, but from the perspective of a graduate student it is a serious chunk of money.

When considering that it takes about three or four hours to prepare for a one hour talk and even more time to prepare the slides, the hourly rate came out to about $20 an hour. Not great, but not bad, but at least  was working and had some summer income.

Three talks in three months came out to $1500, a nice sum considering the talks were already drafted and only required modification.  But I made a huge mistake; I did not sign the details in writing.

So far I gave given two of three talks.  The first was a webinar style talk where I get to give the talk from the comfort of my own home.  After the first talk I was told “a little something is in the mail”, the phrase I heard in the past that means “your $500 check is in the mail”.  Two weeks later I flew to give my second talk on location (expenses paid) and  after the talk was given a check odor $500.  Excellent! I had $500 and hopefully upon returning home I would have a check waiting for me…. but it never came.

Once the two week period hit I write the organizer and told her that I did not get my first check.  Her response was “we were only able to pay you $500, but you are first on my list of we have honorarium funds.”  WTF.

Rather than get mad I realized that I totally screwed up by not signing a contract.  Shame on me. Next time I’ll be sure to request a contract with the following:

  • What is the topic of the talk?
  • What is the speaker fee and how/when will I be paid?
    • If the talk is cancelled after signing the contract will I still be paid in full or partial? (I would make this a requirement).
  • Is the talk a lecture or workshop?
  • Who is the audience for the talk? Public, academic, private, age, etc.
  • What is the purpose of the talk?
  • What is the length of the talk?
  • Where will the talk be given?
    • If online what software is used?
    • If face to face are all travel expenses paid?
    • What is the room like?
    • Is there a projector?
    • Do I need my own computer and adaptors?
    • Are there dual monitors?
    • Is there audio?
  • Is the talk recorded (and if so my rate goes up)?
  • What is the dress code for the talk?
  • If the talk is off site do I need to arrange my transportation?  If not, can you send me a schedule?  If I make my own travel plans will I be reimbursed?

Perhaps with these questions in mind, and IN WRITING, I won’t get screwed in the future.

As I become more processional I may also consider a speaker contact such as these offered by the National Speakers Association:

Since, once I give the third talk I will have provided $1000 in “service and training” for a non-for profit.  What do you think, will I be able to recoup the costs as a deductible?