"Whether an association is securing a volunteer or paid speaker, it is important that the parties enter into a written agreement..." advises attorney Susan Feingold Carlson in Forum.

Volunteer workshop presenters at association meetings have usually submitted proposals and have signed agreements that were included in their acceptance materials.

But many more volunteers have been invited to speak at meetings of various types and were usually not asked to sign anything. Their agreements were verbal and often not very specific.

In fact, I've booked a couple of speakers for small group meetings who did not address the agreed upon topics. The fee could have been withheld from a paid speaker in situations like that, but what can you do to volunteers?

Actually, a written agreement might have prevented that problem from occurring. If the volunteers had signed contracts that delineated the contents of their presentations, they would probably have been far more likely to adhere to that content.

But what's the penalty for volunteers' breach of contract? Their reputations would have been tarnished and they may not have been asked to speak again. For volunteers, that could have been a significant penalty.

So, in the future, I'll require all volunteers to sign agreements. Even if they aren't being paid, they should still do what they agreed to do.