What To Do When Hiring a Speaker

You go through all the trouble of finding a fantastic speaker for an upcoming event. You work diligently to convey your vision and all your hard work (and possibly money) culminates with the delivery of a moving, memorable and catchy speech. You can’t wait to Facebook, tweet, and smoke signal this thing, it’s so great. The next day, it’s the first thing featured in your newsletter and a video is immediately posted on YouTube.

Aside from issues with the smoke signals, the other issue with all of this is that you assume you have a right to post, share and replicate the speech. But this may not necessarily be true.

Once a speaker commits their speech to writing it becomes their work, that solely they own (unless you are a legal eagle and dictate otherwise in a contract). By owning the speech, the speaker dictates who can use the speech, when and how. Meaning, they could easily quash your attempt at a viral campaign.

The easiest way to avoid this is to work out a license agreement ahead of time. A license permits you to use something someone else owns, within the parameters the owner sets. Include a provision in a writing (I”ll repeat, a writing) granting the organization a license to “use” the speech and any videotaped presentation or other materials. You’ll also want to:

  •  Define what “use” looks like. Does the license include your ability to post, publish or re-create the speech?  Work out other use issues, such as whether you can create derivatives or modify the speech in any way.  A derivative would by any type of work you create based on the original work. For example, if you created a mind-map of the speech.
  • Settle how long will the license last. A best case scenario is to get a perpetual (infinite) license, but regardless, make sure you agree to a time period.
  • Understand who can use the speech.  Will people outside of the organization be able to use the speech? If you prefer to “keep it in the family” then get language stating the license is exclusive. Meaning, you alone will be able to use it.
  • Make sure the license allows for use worldwide, if you’re an international organization. If worldwide use isn’t allowed,  you’ll still want to address where the license will apply geographically.
  • Hash out whether the license will require payments. If so, clarify whether it’s just one payment or whether you’ll be responsible for any royalties.
  • Make sure the intention to grant a license is clear; language that clearly states  “X” grants a license and “Y” accepts.  Mentioning a license in passing may not be enough.

Of course, this isn’t the end all be all of obtaining a license. But these thoughts will definitely help in ensuring you cover the bare necessities.

As a sidenote, get into the habit of making sure the organization owns, or has rights to use, anything that it posts, publishes, etc. That means addressing anything that is created by a contractor, vendor, developer, speaker, writer, volunteer etc.