Speaker contracts

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I’ve been speaking at events for four years now, with these spanning small, free, community events in the UK, to large corporate curated events in the USA. Whilst I was very comfortable presenting to clients and internally at my agency, my first ever public outings were under my role as an Adobe Community Professional at Adobe user groups in Paris and Brussels (which was a pretty terrifying baptism of fire!) and involved paid-for travel and accommodation – something that many user groups aren’t able to afford. At the time, everything was organised very informally, with all of this being agreed via email. This is in contrast to when I later spoke at Adobe MAX, where a very formal contract was sent over for me to sign in advance, agreeing all of the details and remuneration to a very high degree of detail.

Over the years, contracts were something that I didn’t really pay much attention to when it came to speaking, despite them obviously being par for the course and crucial in both my employed and freelance projects. Sometimes I was sent them, sometimes I wasn’t, and I kind of went along with either scenario. Last year however, speaking starting to become more of a proper income to me, and having subsequently experienced scenarios around not being paid and a conference being cancelled, I’ve realised how important it is to have a framework in place so that both parties set out their expectations to one another. I spend an awful lot of time preparing talks, with my ideas gathering spanning months, the talk compilation and practice taking a few weeks, plus revisions (I usually always tweak the talk for each audience/event) and practice for each time I give it. I also have to book this prep and event time off from client work, meaning that even if I’m being paid, I usually come away from an event financially ‘down’. It’s an investment I choose to make in order to participate in events that I think are great, but it also means that I leave myself open to some risk. Likewise, as a speaker I have never walked away from an event after agreeing to do it, but I can only imagine the huge implications for event organisers of someone backing out. As much as possible I’d like to reassure them about my intentions, about the fact that I’ll do the level of prep that I’ve detailed above, and that I’ll turn up and give a talk to the best of my abilities.

Enter the speaker contract. I did some research a while back, and despite having heard previous rumblings about Andrew Clarke investigating the kind of contracts people use (and hoping he had something I could nick!), I wasn’t able to find one that met my needs. As such, I returned to Andrew’s trusty Contract Killer as a starting point, and put together my own. I use a heavily customised variant of the Contract Killer for my own work, and it was this kind of friendly, straightforward approach that I wanted to use for any speaking contracts.

The result was my Speaking Contract, which you can find as a gist on GitHub.

Speaker contract gist


What it covers

The key areas that I’ve looked to establish are as follows:

  • An introduction, establishing the purpose of the contract.
  • Details of the event.
  • Details of my session.
  • Any requirements around A/V setup, equipment, photos & recordings, exclusivity, and presentation materials.
  • Compensation (fees, travel, ticket, accommodation etc) and payment schedule.
  • My details (name, company, bio etc).
  • Details around event promotion.
  • Details around event/speaker cancellation.

As with my work contract, I’m sure that I shall tweak this as I experience more situations over the years!

Your feedback

Whilst I’ve looked at quite a few guidelines and templates, I’d love your feedback on things that I may have missed out, or areas that you feel could be done better. Likewise, my situation may be different to yours, so please feel free to fork this and adapt it for your own needs. If you’re an event organiser or speaker, I’d love to see a sample contract if you’re willing to share one, as it would be great to feed this back into mine.


As you can probably tell, I’m not a legal advisor, and this has not been put together with a lawyer. I’m happy that this covers my needs to set out how I’ll be working with someone, and that the type of people I want to speak for aren’t interested in finding loopholes, however I’d recommend that you have this professionally reviewed for your own needs. I cannot be held responsible for any negative consequences of you using this contract. If you are a lawyer, I’d love your input, but I still want to maintain the overall simplicity and tone.

Well, it wouldn’t be a good post on contracts without some kind of get-out-clause, would it? ;)