The Pesky Non-Compete Clause

CK from British Columbia writes:

Vanessa, I just received a contract for a booking for next year. There is a clause in it that states I cannot accept any other speaking engagements in the state for 3 months prior and 3 months after my engagement with them. The state is huge and that limits my ability to speak there for 6 months! What do you suggest?


I’ve seen this sort of clause from the larger meetings for many years. The organization is likely wanting to ensure attendance. If their speakers are presenting nearby within a short period of time before/after their engagement, it may affect attendance at their event. For those speakers who do not reside in-state (most speakers), it likely wouldn’t be a problem. For those who are local, however, I can understand the quandary.

If you feel this is unduly restrictive on your business based upon your proximity to their meeting, you might approach the planner to see if this point is negotiable. Perhaps they can reduce the time to 30 or 60 days before/after, or even waive the clause for local speakers. If you’ve worked with this group before, they may be more willing to work with you. This negotiation point should be approached carefully and respectfully. Reach out to the person who hired you to ask their reasoning behind it in the interest of understanding. This should open a door for you to also share your thoughts on the subject.

(NOTE in follow up: After discussion with event organizers, the clause was removed from the contract.)