Submitted by Hannah Samuel

I recently received an email from an experienced, and highly respected, professional speaker regarding apparently unethical and unprofessional behaviour from another professional speaker based overseas. The email was to give a ‘heads-up’, so to speak, and let me, and no doubt many others, know of this speaker’s run in with an event-organiser.

These days, especially with the internet and social media, news travels fast, and bad news travels faster. The speaker/Author industry is relatively small and close-knit. It doesn’t take much to ruin a reputation, and a career, from allegedly unethical behaviour.

Thinking through where you might stand on an issue, and what your response might be, without having to deal with a real, live incident, can be useful for all of us. For example:

You’ve agreed to speak at an international convention for no fee to promote your book because being there could provide future speaking and distribution opportunities for you. The marketing materials have been sent out and around 80 people have already booked to hear you speak. Three weeks before the event you are approached to speak at another event on the same morning at a nice, big fee.

Would you honour your original commitment or bail and take the fee-paying engagement?

Of course, each one of us will have our own views and opinions as to how we may deal with scenarios such as this, or other challenging situations that may arise.

The incident regarding the international speaker I mentioned above related to what was apparently an ‘exclusive’ booking turning out to be a double-booking with two different organisers, and yes, agreements had been signed for both.

As speaker/authors we often spend a fair amount of time focusing on what I call the first two ‘S’s of speaking/writing: our ‘Subject or Story’ and our ‘Stagecraft’, and far less on the third S that will actually keep us in business – our ‘Standards’ or behaviour.

Clearly, our subject or story – what we speak or write about and are known for – is a major factor in being selected as a speaker or author. If we don’t fit an event organiser, publisher or distributors’ programme or target market from this perspective we probably won’t be booked.

Our ‘Stagecraft’ and ability to connect with a wide range of readers and audiences is critical.

Relevance is essential and we need to deliver on our promises in terms of the content of a ,publication and any marketing ‘spin’ relating to it.

However, the third ‘S’ underpinning both of these is our ‘Standards’ or behaviour. It’s this ‘S’ that really provides to foundation for a long and successful speaking or writing career. We can have the most compelling topic and best stagecraft or rapport, and be booked solely for those reasons. But if we demonstrate unethical or unprofessional behaviour towards our peers, our clients, our readers, our audiences and others, the chances of being published, distributed or booked again and again will diminish rapidly.

The internet has turned ‘word-of-mouth’ into ‘word-of-mouse’. It behoves us to act in ways that are deemed morally and ethical appropriate. Of course mistakes happen and we won’t necessarily get it right 100% of the time, but being able to put your hand on your heart if challenged, and demonstrate how you believe you acted with integrity, is worth bearing in mind.

As philosopher Joseph Hall said, almost 200 years ago,

“A reputation, once broken, may possibly be repaired, but the world will always keep its eyes on the spot where the crack was”.

Hannah Samuel

The Reputation Champion

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Hannah is a reputation expert, professional speaker, author and founder of online performance-based service directory, TRUSTcite. She regularly comments on issues around reputation, trust and integrity in mainstream media and on her blog Contact her by email on: info at

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