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ENNICO: Some legal and tax tips for professional speakers 

“I do a lot of public speaking to promote my small business. Most of my speaking is for local organizations; I don’t charge them a fee, and there’s no contract involved. But lately I’ve been contacted by some event planners to speak at trade shows around the country, and their contracts are several pages long! What are some of the things I should be looking for in these contracts? Do I need an attorney to look at each of these when I receive them?” 
Generally, when I look at speaking contracts, I focus on three basic questions: 
No. 1: “How and When Do I Get Paid?” 
Speaking contracts are usually clear about the amount you will be paid for speaking, but you would be amazed how many contracts are fuzzy about when payment is due. Most event planners will want you to submit an invoice for fees and expenses after you speak, which is fine, but if there are significant expenses involved — such as cross-country air travel — you might want to ask to have those expenses reimbursed before you board the plane. Watch out for language saying the event planner will pay you if they or their client are “satisfied with” or “have accepted” your work — that can be awfully subjective, and you don’t want your payment held up on somebody’s whim. 
No. 2: “Who Owns My Presentation?” 
There should be only one answer to this question: YOU should own the copyright and all other rights to your PowerPoint slides, handouts and other materials you give to attendees, and any other content you create for the event. Many speakers’ contracts require you to assign your copyright to the event planner, and you should resist these provisions as much as possible. Once someone owns your copyright, they can do whatever they want with your presentation, you get nothing for it, and you can’t use that same presentation anywhere else. Consider instead giving the event planner a nonexclusive, perpetual, royalty-free license to use your content only for certain specified purposes — such as posting the content for a limited time on the event’s website. 
No. 3: “Am I Restricted From Speaking for Someone Else?” 
Never, ever sign a noncompete agreement for a speaking event. No event planner has the right to prohibit you from speaking for other organizations or clients. If they protest, tell them you won’t agree to a noncompete unless the planner agrees to give you a minimum volume of speaking business each year while the noncompete clause is in effect. 
It’s a good idea to have an attorney review your first couple of speaking contracts. I would recommend you meet with the attorney and have him or her educate you on the things you need to look for to avoid getting into legal trouble with the event planners. After that, you can probably review these yourself, keeping your attorney on speed dial if a particular contract has language you haven’t seen before. 
“I am a corporate training professional who conducts programs at hotels and convention centers in my state two or three times a year. While I can limit myself to my home state, a future goal is to offer training in other locations across the country, and I understand I may be subject to income and sales taxes in other states if I conduct programs there. What’s the best way to learn about the tax rules in each state where I may wish to conduct training?” 
When you conduct training classes in another state, especially if the classes last for more than one day each and/or you conduct several classes in the state each year, you may have nexus with that state for tax purposes. This means you are responsible for paying income or sales taxes to the tax authority in each state where you conduct training programs. 
To find out a state’s nexus rules, find the state tax authority’s website — you can search online for “(name of state) revenue department” — or go to for a nationwide directory of state tax websites. Once you get to the state tax authority’s website, search for the nexus information page. There almost always will be one. 
Each year, Bloomberg Industry Group conducts a survey of state tax departments about their nexus rules and publishes the survey in book form. For a free download of an executive summary of the 2020 report (the most recent one available online), see For a copy of the 2022 survey, call Bloomberg Tax at (800)-372-1033 and ask for “Bloomberg Industry Group Survey of State Tax Departments,” but be forewarned: It will set you back about $200. Avalara, a software company specializing in sales tax compliance, has an excellent summary of state nexus rules at 
As a last resort, you can always call the state’s tax department, ask to speak to a revenue examiner and ask them flat out if your proposed activities within the state will subject you to income or sales taxes. The good news is that they’re usually fairly friendly and will tell you exactly what to do. The bad news is that they will almost always find you have nexus in the state and will have to pay taxes. 
Cliff Ennico ([email protected]) is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series “Money Hunt.” This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our webpage at 

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