The Taping Trauma, Can You Or Can't You Tape When Hiring Presenters, Speakers, Motivational Keynoters, Trainers, or Seminar Leaders?

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The Taping Trauma, Can You Or Can't You Tape When Hiring Presenters, Speakers, Motivational Keynoters, Trainers, or Seminar Leaders?

As the owner of a speaker's bureau, I hear this question often, usually from a planner telling me how unhappy he or she is with a speaker who "refused to go on unless the tape machine was not turned off"… or from a speaker complaining "that planner was so unethical to tape me!"

Who is right? Can you tape your speakers, or can't you? Some speakers say "NEVER!" Others say, "Who cares?" Some say, "Only for a fee."

This issue has created so much aggravation for my office, I decided to find the right answer. I interviewed experts in the meeting and speaking industry. I asked their opinion to the taping issue, "yes" or "no" and especially "why" or "why not."

First, I asked meeting planners. Most said they did tape, did not pay the speaker extra, but usually asked for a release. (The attorney I checked with said it is absolutely illegal to tape anybody without their consent!)

One planner I talked with, to my surprise, does not tape their major conferences…

Bruce Di'Agostino, Director of Public Relations, Dairy Food Industry Supply Assn. - "We don't like to tape our Annual Convention because we want people to attend. If the members know they can get the information without going, they are not going to take the time to go.

We only tape our educational industry-related seminars. The speakers do it as an industry service and do not receive remuneration.

At any meeting, I feel if the tapes are being sold, the "professional" speaker should be compensated. If it is only being taped for a historical record, the speaker is unreasonable to ask for a fee."

Which brought me around to speakers …

Cavett Robert, President Emeritus and Founder of the National Speakers Association - "Frankly I am flattered when anyone records a speech of mine which I am giving to their organization. I do not even object to people sharing with others in their organization, the remarks recorded.

A large part of the exposure a speaker receives is from recordings, regardless of where they are made. Also, I am flattered if I can help anyone through my remarks, regardless of where they heard them."

Zig Ziglar, international motivational speaker, and author of many books - "I always say 'yes' to taping if it's a church organization; I sometimes say 'yes' if it is for the company or association use only; I generally say 'no' if it's for resale at their profit.

Overall, my feelings on single recording boil down to the fact that when people hear a part of my message, I'm creating a prospect for all of my message. SEE YOU AT THE TOP!"

Mark Sanborn, speaker and trainer - "An MD charges accordingly for each service provided. An office call is made and the patient or insurance company pay for the subsequent diagnosis. If medicine is prescribed, there is an additional charge. When a speaker presents, they are remembered for their program. If the meeting planner wants to tape and sell, that is an additional service that should have a fee associated. The key: clarifying expectations (i.e. 'what's included') in advance. Historically I have allowed meeting planners to tape my programs without charge, but I'm not convinced it's an equitable arrangement."

Art Linkletter, television personality, author and motivational speaker - "I do not permit taping because it is often abused by either selling the tapes or by adding to the danger of overexposure. My own tapes are for sale through Nightingale Conant, so it is self-defeating to permit free duplication."

Al Walker, humorous speaker and sales trainer - "I prefer not being taped for two reasons…
1) We've all heard the statement 'you're so much better than your last tape.' Therefore, I want to be able to control all of the tapes that are distributed with my name on it.
2) We put in a lot of time delivering first rate material that we feel is best suited for our market. Thus, we want o sell our own tapes. We're entitled to make a profit from our skills and hard work."

Denis Waitley, author of many books, including "The Psychology of Winning," international speaker - "Although my primary source of income comes from royalties resulting from the sales of audio tapes and books, my policy is to allow organizations to audio tape my presentation before their audience, provided the tape is made available solely for internal use by the organization. Where problems arise, if any, is when organizations sell the tape for profit, by mail or by some other form of advertisement, for an extended period of time after the meeting to their own membership and even to individuals outside of their organization. This problem usually can be eliminated by stipulating a limited use both in terms of audience, time of use after the meeting and proper copyright acknowledgment of the material on the packaging.
I believe it is short sighted for a speaker or an author to deny the audio-taping of his or her presentation on the basis that it threatens income. Actually, it is great publicity and an excellent reference for future engagements and for the sales of professionally - produced material. Many times the speech or presentation is dated by something the speaker refers to and, also, many times the quality of the recording is such that the tape offers no serious competition to the speaker's other 'commercial' products. My policy is to provide the service. Video requires a fee consideration."

After careful study of the speakers' attitudes, it seemed to me to be "absolutely most likely not generally some of the time!" Well, it was interesting, if not entirely useful in setting strategy for my company on taping policy. Since the speakers' opinions were so varied, I tried other related industry people.

Barbara Kincaide, President, Speakers International (Speakers Bureau) - "One of our speakers did a regional meeting. Someone in the audience taped the speaker without the speaker's knowledge. Then they used the tape at a national meeting instead of hiring the speaker. Of course the speaker would never have allowed it … had he known … because obviously he wanted to be booked into the national meeting. But perhaps even more important, the material was out of context for the national meeting and not as appropriate as it would have been if the speaker had designed it for that audience. The impact was horrible and the blame was put on the speaker, not where is belonged; on the poor recording and the inappropriate message."

Nick Carter, Vice President of Nightingale-Conant Corporation (one of the largest producers of cassette albums in the world - Nick is also a paid speaker - "In every instance, I believe it is the speaker's right to say 'yes' or 'no' on whether or not taping will be done … and if taped, whether or not there would be a special fee. My approach, because I'm 'Johnny Appleseed' for Nightingale-Conant and because I offer a hundred different presentations myself, is to say 'yes' to audio and/or video recording. I do ask for a copy for my possible use.
If the companies make copies and sendsthem all over the world I thank them … and look at it as good sales promotion."

Ed Larkin, Owner, Speakers Guild, Inc. (Speakers Bureau) - "(Planners should) Assume it is 'no' unless you have a written release signed by the speaker or his/her agent. Many speakers will allow taping for a fee. Usually an additional 50% - 100% of the speaking fee.

A new twist, some speakers ask for $1 to $2 of each tape sold."

Woody Young, owner of the Kit Kat Clock Company and author of "Copy Write or Copy Cat" and professional speaker - "Most speakers won't allow their presentation to be taped because they are afraid it puts their material in public domain, and they don't want their material 'lost.' Planners and speakers need to say to attendees, 'you are welcome to adapt not adopt what you hear.'
Tell the people in charge of distributing the tapes to set both a circle 'c' (©) and a circle 'p' on the labels, and the date. That warns everybody that both the material and the tape itself are copyrighted. If that is not on there, attendees will have reason to believe it's public domain. People may still steal it, but the burden of proof is on the plagiarist, if the materials have been protected with this on the label. I don't allow any tapes to be sold to anyone in the open market after the event, without adequate compensation prior to taping. In a simple-worded agreement, I insist that only participants at the event may buy the tapes and I retain the copyright. If other tapes are sold after the event in the open market they are competing with my own materials."

Well, the waters are still murky on my attempted consensus of what is "right." But it did become apparent that paying people for what they do for a living is mandatory. For actors, it is only fair to pay them when re-runs are shown on TV. When working with speakers it is the same. We are obligated to pay every time we use their work, regardless of whether the speaker is there in person, or just their voice on an audio or video cassette. Most of us would never even consider taking a tape recorder into a Bill Cosby show at Vegas, then selling copies of the tapes at a swap meet; there is no question in our minds that it "wrong." Yet, I have often heard the speakers referred to as unreasonable if they complain when we do much the same thing to them. I used to agree, now I'm 'absolutely most likely not generally some of the time' sure that it's not "right!"

Although I didn't come up with a firm picture of "right" I did get some good guidelines to help avoid those situations that come up after the event when speakers and planners both look at each other and call an "ethics foul." "Ethics" questions usually come up because we just forget to ask a few questions well before the event.

Before your next event …

• First decide if it is a good idea to tape at all—it may detract from attendance.

• Make sure you gain written consent from anyone you tape.

• Discuss expected payments, either taping rights fee, or a per tape fee (and put it in writing!).

• Make sure the tapes are not going to be used anywhere that you don't express written permission to use them.

• Add a (©) and a circle 'p' to the labels, with the date.


Lilly Walters the author of five of the best-selling books about the professional speaking industry, such as, "Speak and Grow Rich," "1,001 Ways to Make More Money as a Speaker, Consultant or Trainer: Plus 300 Rainmaking Strategies for Dry Times," and many more.

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Lilly Walters - has for over 20 years THE LEADING RESOURCE helped Corporate and Association Meeting Planners find PERFECT speakers and entertainers for their events: motivational, business leadership and management experts, keynote, celebrities, corporate entertainment, humorous, diversity, political, authors, consulting and training solutions, sport athletes and much more.

Lilly Walters is the author of five of the best-selling books about the professional speaking industry, including the best seller she wrote for Dottie Walters, "Speak and Grow Rich"