Agreement On Scope Of Activity
You’ve been approached to give an early afternoon keynote. Sounds simple. Fly there in the morning, give the keynote, fly back in the late afternoon. A long day for sure, but still just one day. So you agree, and suggest a pretty modest fee since it will require only one day. Then come the details. Of course, the event planners say, they’ll need you to join them at a kick off press conference earlier in the day, and they want you to attend a late afternoon social and reception. Your hosts think this will be no big deal, no significant additional work. They see the extras as simply integral parts of your being their keynoter. You’ll be, after all, the star of their show. But now travel both the day before and the day after your talk will be required, and your one-day engagement has suddenly turned into three days at the one-day price.
Many speakers have had the experience of accepting a smaller than normal fee only to discover that the engagement was much more difficult and time consuming than originally expected. It turned out to be a bad deal, they think, after the damage has been done. In almost all cases, this outcome could have been prevented.
Several factors can drive up the time and work effort required of a speaker significantly beyond what was expected when they first quoted their fee.
Event planners may want significant unique talk content. To them, this additional content may seem easy. For you, however, their request may require some careful and potentially time consuming research and writing (that you’ll likely never be able to use again for anything else).
The scope of add on requests you’ll sooner or later encounter is vast. It includes: leading breakout sessions; being a member of panel discussions; receptions; meals (usually as an introduced head table guest); book signings; press conferences; one-on-one media interviews at the event; one-on-one media interviews prior to the event; meetings with the sponsoring organization’s staff or leadership team; side meetings with event sponsors or talk fee underwriters; secondary talks (staff, stakeholders, community, schools, classes); Q & A sessions (staff, community, stakeholders); and pretty much anything else you can imagine. If it is possible, sooner or later, someone will want you to do it.
How these additional activities are arranged in time can often have a larger impact on what is required of the speaker than the activities themselves. If you will be waiting 4 hours to do a 10-minute panel segment, the wait is far more significant than the 10-minute segment.
Imagine an 11 am 30-minute press conference, lunch from 11:30-1 (as a head table guest saying “just a few words”), a keynote at 1, and a panel from 2:15-3. Four packed hours. If you are a two-hour flight away, this can still be a one-day effort.
Now imagine the same two-hour flight with the press conference at 9 am, a keynote at 1:30, a panel from 3-4, and dinner from 6:30-8 (as a head table guest saying “just a few words”). Virtually identical tasks and time required for the tasks themselves, but hugely different impacts on the time consumed by you because of the need to push travel to adjacent days.
What event organizers may see as minor changes could well end up determining if this event is really only going to take one day or whether it will effectively kill the better part of three days for you. Most speakers, if they knew all this in advance, would quote significantly more for the second scope of work even though the only difference between the two would be scheduling.
You can see from this example that simply agreeing on activities would not be enough. The activities would need to be placed in a schedule so that the speaker could assess travel options and provide a fee quote that would reasonably anticipate the amount of time and effort that would be required of the speaker.
Experienced speakers understand this well, often as a result of learning it the hard way. Event organizers seldom seem to grasp how their small changes can have major impacts on a speaker.
Some venues seem to feel they have purchased your time for the duration of your visit with them, and they consequently work hard to use every minute effectively. Left to their own inclinations, they’d schedule you into back-to-back activities for a full day prior to an evening talk, resulting of course in you being exhausted by the time the main event rolls around.
There is a dilemma here. Venues want a keynoter who is cooperative, helpful, flexible in working with them as their event evolves from a general concept to a very specific plan and schedule. You want clarity before you propose a fee, but they want to know what you are going to cost before they have nailed down all the “minor” details of what they are going to want you to do.
Navigating this is an art. A deft personal touch, by you or by your representative, can make the difference between success and failure. Deals can be structured to allow flexibility without exposing the speaker to undue risk. Doing this involves the understanding the details of specific engagements. Win-win solutions will generally be unique adaptations to each specific set of circumstances.
You can also use the method of initially quoting a fee range, discussed elsewhere, or provide quotes for more than one scope of work, as ways to balance the venue’s desire to know the cost and your desire to know the scope of services you’ll be expected to provide.
The point is this. Be stylistically flexible while gently but persistently looking for solutions that protect you from scope-of-work creep.
You want them to like the experience of working with you, from beginning to end. You may give a great speech, but if you want them to hire you again, or recommend you to others, you’d best be sure that, in addition to your great speech, you’re also “easy to work with.”
There are a lot of prima donnas in this business. Don’t be one of them.
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