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Speaker Liability:  Lessons From a Real Case

January 2, 2018 // R. Shawn McBride

I’ve been asked about it countless times:  I’m a speaker, do I need insurance?

Of course folks chime in “Yes!”  Or others say “no, of course not.”

Those in the “no” camp rest on the fact that very few speakers get sued. And that’s true.

Now I am a lawyer, but I’m not your lawyer.  So I am writing generally here. For legal advice, see your lawyer.


While I am not your lawyer you can subscribe to my legal blog and get great tips for business owners.


As I lawyer I need to be informed on this issues.  After all someone who is my client will ask.  And they have.

So, do you need insurance?

I’ve always been in the “yes” camp. As a lawyer I know people can sue on anything and as a speaker you are on stage, controlling the audience and doing a lot — so a lot can happen.

But I didn’t have a story.

Speaker’s need stories, right?  That’s what we are told again and again.

And it does root us with our audience.

So how about a story?

Thankfully Rolling Stone has helped me with that.

What stone you say?  Rolling Stone – the music industry magazine. It’s not Speaker Magazine – but it has lessons for us.

As you’ve probably figured out we, as speakers, are a lot like musicians – traveling, audiences, varying popularity and a long-term fight to stay relevant.

So our liability profiles will be similar.

So let me tell you a story about one of the country bands I like:  Sugarland

Oddly enough one of Sugarland’s iconic songs, Babygirl, profiles the struggling growth of an upcoming singer — which can remind you of the journey of an up and coming speaker.

So Sugarland was on tour basking in the limelight and enjoying the fruits of so much hard work.

And then it happened.  The moment we fear.  Their perfect plan became less perfect.

A storm hit and their stage collapse.

7 people died. That’s the worst news of all.

And after that, as you can expect, lawyers showed up.

According to Rolling Stone the litigation lasted over 3 years.

And in the end $39 million was paid by the band, Live Nation and 16 others.

What, the Band?

I am not surprised.  Not in the least.  You see when lawyers sue they have to do what is best for thieir clients.  That is probably why you love your lawyer and hate others.

So they have to go after every dollar. And that includes the band.

Or the Speaker.

The simple truth is if something goes wrong and someone gets hurt at your speech you may get sued.

Is it possible a stage could collapse?

That you could slip on stage?

That one or your props – or powerpoint clicker – fly into the audience?

That you drop your water and someone slips?


A lot can go wrong when you are speaking.  Make sure you have insurance.


Want to think of your speaking career as an actual business – and not just a job you own?

Use my business valuation checklist to shift your mindset.


And if you think you might say the wrong thing and offend someone — who hasn’t done that once or twice? — you should have insurance for that too.

This article only went deep on one type of insurance.  You may need others.  Talk to your agent ASAP.


Do Business Different(™).  With the right protections.

Your friend,


R. Shawn McBride is a business strategist who calls on his years of continuing experience as an attorney to help businesses implement business plans to Do Business Differently(™).  You can check out his business blog at www.mcbrideforbusiness.com and his speaking site at www.yourbusinessspeaker.com.


Appearing on the TEDx Stage was one of the biggest honors of his life and he’d love your comments:  www.yourbusinessspeaker.com/tedxwomen

This posting is intended to be a tool to familiarize readers with some of the issues discussed herein.  This is not meant to be a comprehensive discussion and additional details should be discussed with your attorneys, accountants, consultants, bankers and other business planners who can provide advice for your circumstances.  This article should not be treated as legal advice to any person or entity.