I’ve been working as a speaker for the past 15 years and have encountered a lot of different situations. But there is always a first time for everything. I’m posting this as a precautionary tale in case it ever happens to you in your speaker contract issues.

A few weeks ago I left for a very much needed 2 week vacation to Ireland. There must be some kind of law that says that you will book work as soon as you go out of town and stop looking for it. This has happened to me many times.

So, I’m in NY and miss my connection because of a 3 hour delay in L.A. and get stuck there for the day. That’s when I got a call about a speaking job. I’m not the most tech savvy person on an iPhone, but was able to get the meeting planner the info she asked for in a PDF version. Then I got a call from her right before getting on a plane to Ireland. I got the job!

Speaker contract issues

So, I relaxed and settled in for my 2 week vacation thinking all was good. Then she asked me to send her my contract, which I did asap. And by the end of the week I had signed the contract and thought I would be doing the job. She was supposed to send me the contract back with a signature and told me to go ahead and book my travel and hotel.

I got back and spent hours rebooking another speaking job to be able to make this one, and booking the flight and hotel like she asked me to do. I sent her an email to tell her that my flight and hotel was booked. That’s when she sent me an email to tell me that they had decided to go in a different direction for the event. This is after I rearranged another job and paid for a non-refundable hotel and another plane ticket.

I sent an email and called to find out what the problem was, but didn’t hear back from her. After leaving a voicemail she finally sent me a short message that they had never signed a contract. Basically I relied on her good word and the fact that she asked me in an email to book the travel and she asked me to send her a contract. I found out that she had done the same thing to other speakers and speaker bureaus.

My word of caution is to never, ever book anything until you have a signed contract AND a deposit. Even with a signed contract you still might have to fight it, but if you get a deposit at least you won’t be out the money.

Has this ever happened to you? How did you resolve it?