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External speaking request playbook

If this is a press request (newspaper, TV station, radio station, podcast, or blog) forward the request to press@gsa.gov and do not respond directly. OSC will handle responding, coordinating, and gaining the necessary approvals.

Share your expertise

We want you to share your expertise and represent TTS/GSA, and we want the approval process to be as seamless, transparent, and speedy as possible. We understand this process is complex. If you have questions or want additional information, please reach out to #trainings-conferences in Slack or via email at tts-events@gsa.gov. We also have a help slide and office hours🔒.

Speaking externally in your official capacity is a privilege, as you are representing GSA and your fellow TTSers. There is an approval process. GSA’s Office of Strategic Communications (OSC) and TTS Outreach must approve your participation, talking points, and presentation materials before you can participate in any external eventsin an official capacity. For additional information on representing GSA in an official vs. personal, please see official vs. personal section.

This playbook contains the most recently updated speaking guidelines. It’s the best place to start whenever you have the opportunity to speak. If it’s your first engagement or if you haven’t been on the speaking circuit for a while, schedule a run-through with TTS Outreach once your request has been approved. This process has four major steps and can take up to 3-6 weeks to complete. Here is a breakdown of the four major steps.

Steps

If you want to represent TTS at an external event in your official capacity, you will need to be part of the TTS Speaker’s Bureau. In order to join the TTS Speaker’s Bureau you will need to

If you have been formally invited to participate in a speaking engagement, you need to think through the following questions.

  • Will you be speaking in your personal capacity? For additional information on representing GSA in a official capacity versus a personal capacity, please see Official vs. personal capacity in the additional information section.
  • Do you have time?
  • Does the event fit fully within your realm of expertise? Is there someone else at TTS that may be a better fit for this speaking opportunity?
  • Have you reviewed the Event Justification Example?
  • Does the event reflect TTS and your team’s larger mission?
  • Are you clear how speaking on this topic to this audience in this forum advances TTS and your team?

Critical questions that you need to address before submitting a speaker event request. If you answer yes to any of the following questions, stop here and contact your direct supervisor or TTS Outreach.

  • Are you submitting a proposal for an event or conference?
  • Is a colleague better suited to speaking on this topic?
  • Are there any sensitivities that may preclude you from speaking publicly?
  • Is this event not inclusive or representative of our TTS diversity?
  • Is this event scheduled for less than 15 days from now?
  • If you answer yes to any of these questions, stop here and contact your direct supervisor or TTS Outreach.

Request that your external event point of contact complete the TTS Speaker Request Form to ensure you have all of the critical information for the approval process and return to you, ccing speakers@gsa.gov.

Gather information

1. Prepare your talking points

Talking points are required for you to get approval to represent GSA at a speaking engagement.

  • Use the TTS-wide Talking Points Template to create talking points.
  • Have a brief intro prepared for your engagement, along with a few lines about your role at GSA. For guidance, see the above Talking Points Template.
  • Once you’ve drafted your talking points, submit them to your direct supervisor. And if you will be speaking about a specific engagement, submit your drafted talking points to the engagement lead.
  • Review the TTS Internal/External Virtual Events Guidance and know how to answer Project Specific/TTS/GSA-specific questions, including those outside your direct area of expertise or the topic at hand.
  • Gather feedback from your peers prior submitting your Talking Points.
2. Submit your request

Complete and submit the TTS Events’ Speaking, Conferences, and Training Google Form to TTS Events.

To fill out this form, you will need:

  • A description of the audience
  • A copy of your event invite [create a PDF and upload to Google Drive; make it accessible to all of GSA]
  • To know if the press is invited
  • To know if your event/panel will be pre-recorded
  • To explain why your participation is beneficial
  • Complete Talking Point

Once you submit a request, you will receive an automated email confirmation. That email will also ping your supervisor to approve your request, so it can move up the approval chain. TTS Events will move your request through the GSA approval process, gaining approval from:

  • TTS (your manager, Outreach Director, and Head of Service/Staff Office (HSSO))
  • Federal Acquisition Services (FAS), and
  • Office of Strategic Communications (OSC)

Approval timeline

Most approvals will take 2–3 weeks to complete. Some approvals can take up to 3-6 weeks to complete depending on the approvals necessary. Requests submitted with less than a week lead time are not likely to be approved–please check in with your designated Outreach/Events lead before submitting an approval with less than a week lead time.

  • Until you have been fully approved, the event organizers cannot name you in their marketing materials. Let TTS Outreach know if you run into an issue.
  • You should not promote your participation until final approval has been given by GSA.

You can track the status of your request here with the request number in the subject line of the automated email or reach out to #trainings-conferences in Slack or via email at tts-events@gsa.gov.

As your speaking engagement is moving through the approval process, take some time to consider the following topics.

  • Until you have been fully approved, the event organizers cannot name you in their marketing materials. Let TTS know if you run into an issue.
  • You should not promote your participation until final approval has been given by GSA.
  • If your talking points change at any point in the process, you are responsible for notifying the TTS Outreach Director.

Preparation

TTS template 18F template Centers of Excellence template Presidential Innovation Fellows template
Cloud.gov template Challenge.gov template Login.gov template FedRAMP template
USAGov template
  • Is your presentation accessible? Do you verbally describe the images on your slides?

  • Is your presentation engaging?

    • Are you simply reading bullets or language from the slide, or are you adding information that’s available only by listening to your presentation?
    • Can you ask questions of the audience, either verbally, or through polls?
    • Do you use different formats (images, flow charts, graphics, charts, bullets, etc) to keep attention?
  • Have you planned for the unexpected? Ensure your computer is fully charged.

    • Determine if you can log in from your phone if an issue arises with your computer.
    • Be prepared to dial in as opposed to using computer audio if needed.
    • If you need notes, have a print out or have them pulled up on your phone so they’re easily accessible.
  • Think about your outfit, certain colors and patterns can create a moire effect which can impact people’s perception and ability to digest the video. If possible, avoid stripes or busy patterns and stick with solid colors.
  • Be conscious of lighting. For optimal lighting and video quality, presenters want to be lit from the front and not the back, so make sure your light (whether artificial or natural) is adjusted accordingly. A single light source is ideal.
  • GSA’s Logo Policy does not authorize vendors of any kind to use the GSA Star Mark logo. The GSA Advantage, GSA Contract, and GSA Schedule logos are the only logos approved for use by GSA contractors. When in doubt, ask the Outreach team!
  • Recording and sharing materials: In general, all material that GSA presents is in the public domain, and government employees can be photographed or recorded doing official activities on official time without permission. As long as the event coordinator is not trying to: retain the rights to the content, put the recording behind a paywall that is not accessible to the public, or use the recording for monetary gain, then you can give them permission to record and post.

Coming soon

Additional information

When receiving an invitation to speak, you need to decide if you want to do the event in your official or personal capacity: The FAS Speaker Guide – Version 1.0.

Official capacity

You’ll participate as a TTS employee and discuss the work you do on behalf of GSA and our partners. You’ll be using GSA funds to travel to the event or pay for conference fees. You’ll prepare during your work time and use GSA equipment

Personal capacity

You didn’t receive the invitation because of your position at TTS, but because of your expertise in the subject. You won’t be representing TTS/GSA. You’ll refrain from discussing any official work you do at TTS/GSA or with our partners. You’ll use your personal leave or participate after work hours. You’ll prepare on your own time and use your own equipment.

Personal capacity guidelines
  • There is a general prohibition on receiving compensation for personal capacity speaking on a subject that relates to your official duties. Free/waived attendance or registration fee is not compensation.
  • You can accept travel and event-related expenses from the sponsor or organizer, but would also need to take leave to attend.
  • You can use title/position in conjunction with your speaking activities, but only if provided as one of a number of other biographical details. Bottom line is that it should be clear that you are not representing GSA when speaking in your personal capacity.
  • You can include your office/team in your bio that is included on the conference website, but you cannot be listed in the agenda as “Sally Smith, TTS/GSA.”

GSA speakers are not permitted to sign speaker consent release forms that have not been reviewed/approved by OGC. You must use the GSA approved response letter and have it reviewed by OGC.

Yes, federal employees are allowed to be photographed or recorded (audio/video) while performing their official duties. Approved attendance or speaking at a conference is considered an official duty. Release forms are not required for federal employees who are documented while performing their official duties.

Permission for GSA visual information producers to document GSA presenters at events not hosted by GSA must be granted by event organizers prior to any still, video, or audio recording. Find much more information in GSA’s visual information policy.

GSA is responsible for providing neutral and unbiased advice. It is essential that we remain fair and unbiased in all that we do and say. As such, we avoid endorsing, or demonstrating favoritism, to any single one of the following:

  • Vendors
  • Brand-name products
  • Service providers
  • Industry associations/groups
  • Media outlets

Therefore:

  • GSA SMEs cannot speak about brand-name products or companies.
  • GSA will not provide quotes to event hosts for press outreach or marketing materials.
  • GSA has to carefully consider if accepting an invitation to an event sponsored by a single vendor will be seen as endorsing that vendor.

All material (slides, presentations, handouts, etc.) presented by GSA are public domain, and GSA will not create special or exclusive content for an event that is not available to the public through other channels. As such, event hosts (companies or association/trade groups) may not retain the rights to GSA content nor may they profit off the sale of that content.

For example, recording a presentation for archival purposes, or for later viewing, is permissible. Putting that recording behind a paywall, or selling a DVD on which it is included, is not. GSA will provide consent to be recorded or photographed only if that recording will not be used for monetary gain by the event host.

In general, it is okay to pre-plan or post live to social media while you are at an event. From an official GSA account, tweets or retweets from a group highlighting a GSA principal’s appearance on a program (TV, radio, podcast, webinar, etc.) or at an event are fine. Be careful to limit your tweet or retweet to only sharing facts rather than encouraging people or GSA employees to attend a conference. For example:

  • Don’t: @USGSA’s Sally Smith is speaking at this event - make sure to sign up and go!
  • Do: @USGSA’s Sally Smith is speaking about GSA priorities @GovMediaAtoZ.

Also, avoid making any personalized statements as they would be considered an endorsement. For example:

  • Don’t: This is my favorite fed IT event of the year! @USGSA’s Sally Smith speech on GSA priorities @GovMediaAtoZ
  • Do: The GSA Administrator is speaking tomorrow: @USGSA’s Sally Smith speech on GSA priorities @GovMediaAtoZ

Find much more information at GSA’s social media center.

Conference fees

Under the speaking and similar engagements exclusion to the gift rules, when an employee is assigned to participate as a speaker on behalf of the agency, the employee’s acceptance of an offer of free attendance at the event on the day of the employee’s presentation is permissible when provided by the sponsor of the event. The employee’s participation in the event on that day is viewed as a customary and necessary part of the employee’s assignment and does not involve a gift to the employee or to the agency. See 5 C.F.R. 2635.203(b)(8).

The waived registration fee is only for the day you speak. If you plan on attending additional days of the conference, GSA needs to pay the difference between the full and waived registration fees, or determine if the additional waived amount, if provided as a gift, is acceptable under the widely attended gathering determination exception to the gift rules.

Travel fees

If an offer for non-federal source travel payment is extended to speak at or attend an event (e.g., full/partial registration, transportation, meals, lodging), then the Event Tracker request must also include the invite, including documentation of the offer listing each item the source will provided, including the cost of each item as well as a statement that all the items are provided in-kind, along with a completed Request for Acceptance of Payment from Non-Federal Sources Worksheet (if going on TDY to attend the event).

Food fees

You can have lunch or dinner at the event, as long as it complies with one of the exceptions or exclusions under the Standards of Ethical Conduct or has been accepted by the agency as a non-federal source travel payment. Under the exclusions to the Standards of Ethical Conduct, the term gift does not include anything paid for by the government as well as anything for which market value is paid by the employee. See 5 C.F.R. 2635.203(b)(7) and (b)(10).

For local speaking events, under the speaking and similar engagements exclusion free attendance includes waiver of all or part of the fee for an event or the provision of food, refreshments, entertainment, instruction or materials furnished to all attendees as an integral part of the event. It does not include travel expenses, lodgings, or entertainment collateral to the event. It does not include meals taken other than in a group setting with all other attendees, unless the employee is a presenter at the event and is invited to a separate meal for participating presenters that is hosted by the sponsor of the event. See 5 C.F.R. 2635.203(g).

For a travel speaking event, if a non-federal source offers to pay for a meal, the agency must accept the offered item under the non-federal source travel payment statute, 31 U.S.C. 1353, before travel begins. The item must be provided in-kind (no reimbursement or money provided to the employee) and accepted by the agency as a non-federal source travel payment.