Tips for Speakers

Set your fee schedule ahead of time. Decide when, how often, how much, and for whom you are willing to waive or discount your fee. Always state what your fee schedule and policies are. Ask your host if they would like an invoice for your talk ahead of time.

Items to sell

If you have books or other items to sell, be clear as to whether you prefer to bring and sell them, or have your hosts purchase and sell them. It is not uncommon for a speaker who brings their own books to donate 10% of the profit (not gross) back to the organization.


If you travel more than 30 miles by car, it is reasonable to expect to be compensated for your travel. Be clear about:
  • Mileage reimbursement rates if you are driving. Current IRS rate is 55.5 cents/mile.
  • Who will make and pay for reservations if you fly, take the train, etc.
  • Whether you are comfortable staying in someone’s home or if you prefer a hotel 
  • Who will make and pay for hotel reservations if you stay in a hotel.
  • Who will make travel and hotel reservations and how reimbursement works
  • Reimbursement for food and other travel expenses
  • Whether your host(s) will arrange a meal in your honor
  • Any “down time” you might need
  • Whether you would like to visit gardens or other sites while you are in town, and how that is to be arranged
Select a topic
Agree on a talk topic and title. When you send your host your talk information, include a brief bio, and a headshot.


Clarify how your talk will be promoted. What will the content of the promotional information be? When will it be released, where, how, and to whom? Arrange to review the information before it is released if you can. You have a role in promotions -- through your website, other talks, on Facebook, etc.


Agree on how handouts will be handled. Some groups prefer you to bring the handouts, then submit a receipt for reimbursement. Others prefer you to send them the handout (typically via email) so they can make copies.


Occasionally, an organization has to cancel a speaker. If that happens after you have made non-refundable travel accommodations, expect your hosts to cover those costs. Do you have a kill fee? Or are you okay with foregoing it?

Track agreements and correspondence

If you do not hear from your host a month before your talk, contact them to reconfirm the arrangement and expectations.


Ask the host to describe the audience's interests, knowledge, recent speakers, etc. Even if you present a canned talk, customize it for each audience. Plan for and speak only for the allotted amount of time. In case you run short of time, decide what can be cut without compromising your presentation. 


A handout is to give the audience something useful to go home with. It should not include the content of your talk. For plant talks, be sure to list plant names so that the audience isn’t scrambling to write them down and miss what you have to say in the meantime, and let them know that ahead of time. Include contact information, your website, etc. on your handout.

PowerPoint/KeyNote Presentations
Presentations should support the talk, not to be the talk.  Talk about each slide, don’t talk from the slide or read the slide. Avoid putting text on slides.  If you must use text, make sure that the typeface is large enough to be read from a distance. Rehearse.  Know what you are going to say.  Use your notes only in an emergency.
Your Talk Stuff
Experienced speakers carry a
small, battery powered LED reading light for dark rooms without podium lights. A laser pointer and remote control are great additions. Extra cables and connectors, especially if you use a Mac. If you use a Macintosh computer, you need a special adapter to connect to a projector.  Never assume that the venue will have the adapter, even if they provide the projector. Make it a policy to carry your own.

Present your talk and manage your audience

  • Start by thanking your hosts for inviting you
  • Let the audience know whether you welcome questions during your talk, or prefer they hold the questions until the end.  When they do ask questions, repeat the question aloud before you answer it
  • Give audience permission to let you know if things are not working out, i.e. if they can’t hear you or can’t see the props or images
  • Set a good pace. Don’t race, don’t dawdle
  • Involve the audience.  Ask questions, share personal stories, especially a failure or two – that helps the audience connect with you
  • Be gracious, even if questions strike you as less than appropriate
  • Allow plenty of time at the end for discussion 
  • Don’t go over your allotted time – at least not without asking the audience (and hosts) for their permission to do so. Give those that have to leave permission to leave whenever they need to
  • If you sell and sign books, have someone else collect money so that you can interact with the people