Point: Endorsement permission is assumed unless specifically
denied. Groups who have hired speakers expect that they may be
used as a reference with another company. Unless your calendar
is totally full and you receive more calls for business than you can
accommodate, good prospecting is a necessity. Newsletters and
press releases with potential client information abound. This is a free
market economy in which only the brave thrive.
Counterpoint: Ethical endorsement requires the permission of the
endorser. Some speakers cross over this ethical line, implying
endorsement even if not stating it. Also, it is not ethical to list
as clients groups or companies you have spoken to
only once and/or many years ago. The term “client”
implies a current relationship. One-time audiences
that have long since forgotten the speaker or the
speech are not technically current clients. Another
example of this is misrepresenting your relationship
with another speaker by contacting companies
or associations who have hired them, implying
that you are being recommended to them by
What are the ethical guidelines regarding
speakers selling to upcoming speakers?
Point: Speakers selling their services to other speakers is good business. This potential ethical issue is usually discussed when experienced speakers are interpreted as targeting novice speakers and
making a lot of money from them in the process. In a market
economy, what is wrong with this, if in fact, two adults are willing to
exchange money for services agreeable to both? Experienced
speakers can provide important assistance to novice speakers,
and to do so for a mutually agreed to fee benefits both.
Counterpoint: Experienced speakers should spend their time mentoring to, not selling to, novice speakers. Professional associations,
such as NSA, encourage the masters to shepherd those new to the
fold. Novice speakers are easy targets for slick marketing, which
can result in denigrating the speaking profession. Experienced
speakers serving as mentors can help novice speakers avoid this.
What guidelines should we follow in creating
hype in our marketing?
Point: Embellishing the truth is ethically acceptable. In marketing as
in life the same terms are interpreted differently by different people.
There is no way to control the differentiation. Who is to say what specific number defines “frequently?” How many is “many?” Who determines “best?” If it is technically not incorrect, is it ethical?
Counterpoint: Descriptive terms speakers use should be accurate,
not “stretching the truth.” For example, “Frequently quoted author in
many publications” is not accurate to describe a speaker who has
been quoted twice in a local publication. “Heralded by many as the
best business speaker of current times” is probably stretching the truth
unless the “many” being referred to is someone’s family! This description can be accurate if “the” is changed to “one of the.”
You might have easily answered the questions posed above.
You may have agreed with the points or counterpoints. Or you may
be left with more questions. Wherever you find yourself on these
points, have a framework for your ethical decision-making while
being willing to challenge your own assumptions with new and better information.
In doing so, there will be less, or no, “shame in your game.”
Patti Fralix inspires positive change in work,
life and family through speaking, consulting,
and coaching in leadership and related
areas. She is a past president of NSA/Caroli-nas and chair of the 2007–2008 NSA Ethics