Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Writer as Speaker – Tips for Getting Organized

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell @LucindaSMcDowel

You may be a fantastic writer—author of all sorts of books and blogs and articles. But when your readers begin to invite you to speak, it’s important to make sure you have a whole new set of skills to ensure that your speaking events run smoothly.
           
I love to encourage writers and speakers. And one of the key ingredients to having a successful speaking career is making sure all details have been clearly communicated between you and the event organizers. 

In advance. 

Believe me, this will prevent all kinds of heartache.

I cannot even begin to tell you the stories I have heard from speakers who expected one thing and were shocked when it never happened. (By the way, I hear just as many stories from event organizers who had certain unmet expectations from their guest speaker.)

To avoid such misunderstandings I learned many years ago that a mandatory “Speakers Contract” was my best tool for covering the details on both sides. As soon as the invitation has been extended, whether by phone or email, I set about to determine answers to basic questions. These include the date and time and place of the event; the sponsor and demographic and number of the attendees; what will be provided in terms of travel reimbursement, meals, overnight accommodations, and honorarium; topic and length of presentation(s) and if group discussion questions are required; whether or not a book-table and helpers will be provided; and any helpful feedback from this same event the prior year.
           
It's imperative to get your agreement in writing.
Though much of this information is often covered in a phone conversation, it is imperative to get it in writing as well. I also include on my contract form a place to write the primary contact person, address, phone, etc. as well as the sponsor’s website and Facebook pages for publicity. I include details on what I require if they are making a DVD or CD of my speaking, and ask them what/when they need from me with regards to publicity photo, description, handouts, etc.
           
Most importantly I require that they complete this form and return it to me by a stated date “in order to confirm the appearance of Lucinda Secrest McDowell at your event.” They are encouraged to keep a copy as well. Both parties benefit from having these details written down and signed by the contact person. No form, no commitment.
           
If you are just starting out as a speaker or you are a seasoned speaker, you will come across as committed to your craft if you utilize such a tool. I know it can be tricky discussing money, but whether you work with your hosts on an honorarium fee or accept a love offering, this form should spell that out. If you expect payment to be made “at the event” rather than mailing it to you afterwards, make that clear. I require a 20% deposit of the agreed upon honorarium as well.
           
What I do may not work for you. I am including my simple contract form here, (An Example of a Speakers Contract) but suggest that you decide what details are important for you to know. Then, be willing to work with those who are interested in your message. Be flexible, but never apologize for being a professional.
           
In the comments section of today’s blog I hope you will offer your own suggestions for what needs to be decided ahead of time as speaking events are planned. We can all learn from one another. 

The most important thing to remember is to be grateful for every opportunity to share your message. Being recognized as a speaker on any given subject is a privilege and an honor and we want to always be kind and gracious to those we meet. Our influence does not begin when we walk up to the podium—it begins when we first answer the phone or email from someone who is interested in our words.

TWEETABLES


Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is the author of 11 books, contributing author to 25 books, and has published in more than 50 magazines. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, she studied at the Wheaton Graduate School of Communication and served as Communications Specialist for the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (Thailand) and Editor for Billy Graham’s International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists (Netherlands). A member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA), she has received “Writer of the Year” awards from both Mt. Hermon and Blue Ridge Writers Conferences. Cindy speaks internationally through her ministry “Encouraging Words” and co-directs the New England Christian Writers Retreat. Known for her ability to convey deep truth in practical and winsome ways, she writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England. Visit her online at www.EncouragingWords.net

Links  www.NewEnglandChristianWritersRetreat.com
Blog/website  www.EncouragingWords.net

16 comments:

  1. Excellent advice, Cindy! The sample contract is thorough--readable and nice layout.

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  2. Cindy, Great post. I have seen you speak and the Lord uses you mightily. You are professional and personal. Every lady was blessed by your words. I have been speaking for 20 years and still have much to learn. Writing is new to me. When I arrive at an event and mingle with the ladies, I don't introduce myself as the speaker unless they ask. The ladies seem more comfortable. On one occasion, I made a life long friend. We talked, laughed, made cards together. When she found out that I was the speaker her face turned white as she said, "If I knew you were the speaker I would not have talked to you, good thing I didn't know." She was serious in her statement. I told her I was glad she did not know at first. Then we both chuckled. We still keep in touch. I am not trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes, for some reason people treat the speaker differently. Yes, we are all sisters in Christ, serving the Lord in the capacity in which He called us to serve. As speakers or anyone serving God, we should be above reproach but approachable. I love your statement, "Our influence does not begin when we walk up to the podium—it begins when we first answer the phone or email from someone who is interested in our words." Our ladies ministry did not invite a woman to speak because she was rude during the phone conversation. This happened on two separate occasions. Thank you for being a role model. May God bless you and the work of you hands (and mouth)

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    1. You are very kind and these are great ideas -- I also "work the room" before I speak. By the time I get to the podium, the audience are my friends...

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  3. Lucinda, thank you for sharing this information. I keynoted a weekend retreat in another state. The planner disclosed their budget couldn't cover my expenses. We arrived at a solution, but I felt uncomfortable during the process. I appreciate having your contract as a guide.

    May God richly bless your ministry, my sweet friend.

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    1. When this occurs you have to decide whether or not you can go as a ministry gift. I do a couple of these a year, my decision. But this week I had to decline a gig because it meant I would have to take a day off work and I just couldn't afford to do that. Yes it was awkward, but I had to be honest.

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    2. I should have added that it was disclosed after I arrived at the hotel!

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  4. I'm working now on booking speakers for a convention. I make the initial contact through email. However, I find that people are skimming the information even when I send an attached document. This is why a final contract is so necessary.
    Thanks for the reminders, I'm rethinking some of the things I communicate.

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    1. Yes! I think such things are actually helpful to event planners as well! All the best with your convention...

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  5. Great info, Cindy! I hesitated on having a contract for years, but when I finally saw the wisdom of it, I was surprised to learn that event planners appreciate and depend on them as much as we do! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. You are the expert! But yes, I too was hesitant. Until I learned. The hard way, of course...

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  6. not as a writer, but when i gave my college Senior Presentation (Interior Design!) 3 years ago, i wrote out what i wanted to say, recorded on my phone and played it over and over... and over again, to get it near-memorized and solid in my mind. i also printed it out in 14 or 16 point font so i could follow along easily without having to read off the page. i realized after the presentation was over i had left out a whole (small) part but it didn't matter. what mattered was i gave a smooth and professional speech, and was able to answer questions from the gallery without stuttering or having to fumble with my notes to find my information.

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    1. Great suggestions! I actually do the same thing - gotta love 16 point type...

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  7. Such helpful words, Lucinda! I remember once when my husband was asked to speak to a group of writers, we both just assumed (always a bad thing to do) that the group of writers were Christian writers. His presentation was all on writing as a way to honor the Lord. Yeah. They weren't Christian writers. It turned out fine, however. They were gracious and he adapted on the spot, but wow, your helpful suggestions would have prevented that from ever happening. I'll be remembering your advice!
    Thank you and blessings,

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  8. So many stories like this, Sarah. All the best in your future endeavors!

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  9. Excellent advice. But having spent a career in public speaking I would suggest you add to your contract any audio / video equipment you expect to be provided. I always requested an LCD projector and screen as my presentation was on my notebook computer. I also requested either a white board or flip chart. Not all speaking events require these (mine did) but I suggest including any equipment you wish to be provided.

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