Adventures in Hiring a Speaker

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This morning as I reviewed my email I saw one from a colleague in the Genealogical Speaker's Guild telling about her adventures and disappointments. She had responded to a "call for lectures"  with some proposals. A member of the program committee called shortly thereafter to tell her that she had been selected. While waiting for written confirmation that never came, she declined two other speaking opportunities. When she contacted the host society next, you can guess what she learned– she was not on the program. The other opportunities are gone too. I felt her disappointment as I read the message. Is her experience unique? 

Unfortunately no.This weekend on the northern great plains a friend of mine is speaking at an event where he says the hosts asked him to speak but poorly communicated during the lecture topic negotiations leaving him confused and distressed needlessly.

A genealogy librarian who travels to Canada frequently to lecture was surprised to discover two groups on opposite ends of the country were advertising his appearance on the same day! Though a man of substance, he is, I assure you,  neither divisible nor cloned.

I was personally delighted to read in the published minutes of a left coast genealogical Society news of my forthcoming lecture to their society. However, it had not ben communicated to me. The truth was,  I learned upon enquiry, that it was discussed and voted down. Minutes in error,were published before approved.

Communication problems like these can be avoided. There are some very  helpful suggestions on hiring a genealogy speaker on the Genealogical Speakers Guild website. Click here and learn more.

In part, here is the GSG advice for societies and speakers. It deserves careful reading. 

"Each lecture is negotiated between the speaker and the society. Some societies and some speakers have contracts for these events. However, here are some general guidelines for both speakers and societies.


  • Contacts the speaker well in advance of the event and advertises only after a written agreement is reached.
  • Provides written confirmation of the engagement including topics, arrangements, and compensation.
  • Sends a draft of promotional materials including proposed presentation schedule.
  • Organizes the event including location, publicity, and logistics.
  • Furnishes the required audio-visual equipment.
  • Appoints a host to assist the speaker with local arrangements.
  • Compensates speaker at close of the event, according to agreed terms which may include honorarium, travel, and other expenses.


  • Provides written confirmation of the engagement including the topics to be presented.
  • Informs society in advance about requirements including audio-visual needs and any special dietary or lodging needs.
  • Sends handout material, if any, in advance to allow society to duplicate it, and includes written permission for the society to print.
  • Gives well-organized, educational lectures on the agreed-upon topics.
  • Provides information and materials in a timely fashion.

Society and Speaker

  • Each should maintain communication with the other about arrangements for the event.

The longer I have been speaking, the more evidence I see that a contract or letter of agreement is needed up front by both host and speaker.  

What do you think?



One response to “Adventures in Hiring a Speaker

  1. Ken,

    I agree totally with you about having a contract between speaker and the society. It prevents many problems.

    My little society is working on one this month and we hope to implement it this fall. We had a speaker last year who mailed us her contract to agree to and sign. We did.

    Cheers — Randy

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