A Better Offer?

So here’s the deal. You get a call from some group to speak at their event. You say yes. There might be 30 people there, the host says. We’re so excited you can come. You pen it on your calendar and forget about it. The date is a long way off.

And then you get another call, maybe a month or less before the Booked Event. Speaking at the New Event is such a great opportunity! But wait. It’s on the same day as the Booked Event. Rats. The New Event will give you a bigger audience, or more money, or better exposure. What should you do?

The simple answer? Honor your first commitment.  

Most organizations will begin promoting their event months ahead of time on websites and in print materials. People will have signed up for the event with the promise that you will be there. If you pull out, it can have a significant impact on that organization financially as well as reputation-wise. People may not trust future line-ups if they feel that speakers may pull out at the last minute. And your own reputation will take a hit, too. 

Okay –  so what’s the more complicated answer? Talk with your host. 

If the New Event is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (and not just a better offer), you might talk with your First Host to see if rescheduling would pose a problem. Or you might suggest a replacement speaker (one that you are in contact with). But the bottom line? The decision should be the host’s.

Here’s something I’ve learned through the years. When someone calls me and I say, “Sorry, but I’m already booked for that date,” it does not diminish my reputation. It sends the message, “Call me earlier next time.” And it tells the late-caller that I honor my commitments. This inspires trust. 

Last year, a fabulous organization asked me to speak at a fundraising luncheon. I would be the only children’s book author in a line-up of three authors. Over 250 book-buying women with children and grandchildren would be there. I had to decline. I already had a smaller commitment for that date. “But do keep me in mind for next year,” I said. They did. I’ll be speaking for them in 2014. And that’s just one story of many. 

Of course, there are other events in life that may conflict with your Booked Event – illness, the birth of a baby (your own, that is) – but bailing on your commitment  for a better offer is really not honorable.

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