Working with a Speakers Bureau to Build Your Speaking & Online Presenter Business and get More Bureau Bookings
by David Staughton CSP CCEO, Keynote Speaker on Business Growth & ‘Growth Habits’ and Expert on Small Business
Every conference speaker and online presenter dreams of getting LOTS of bureau bookings from Speakers Bureaus. It’s a great way to grow your speaking career and get lots of exposure to key clients.
On the flipside, every bureau consultant is BUSY & overwhelmed by hundreds of speakers seeking to start or build a better relationship to get more bureau bookings.
The question is – how many quality relationships can ANYONE really build and maintain?
Speaker Bureau Consultants put their time and relationship efforts into their favourite BUSY speakers and the BEST speakers that do a great job for their clients. They don’t want to spend much time on amateur, inexperienced or newbie speakers that MIGHT do a poor job or damage their valuable client relationships.
So how do you build a relationship with a Speaker Bureau Consultant? – get REALLY GOOD!
About Speakers Bureaus & Talent Agencies in Australia
Australia has many speakers bureaus – notably ICMI, Saxtons, Keynote, Ovations, Platinum, Great Expectations, Renegade, Inspire etc (read the blog on Speaker Bureaus & Talent Agencies)
Australia also has a number of talent management agencies for successful speakers like Ode, Leading Voices and Premier (and many more for Comedians, Musicians etc).
They are always looking for hot, new, fresh TALENT that is either Amazing or Famous or both. The BEST of the BEST.
They want AWESOME & AMAZING Speakers – not AVERAGE ones!
How to start a Relationship with a Speakers Bureau
When I first approached a Speakers Bureau in 2006, I thought I was already a great speaker.
In hindsight, that was definitely NOT the case. You just don’t know what you don’t know – Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule really does apply here. Are you really READY for the big speaking league?
- How many hours of BIG stage presenting have you done?
- How many hours of your OWN stage presentations have you watched?
- How many speaker DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOPS and courses have you attended?
- Are you committed to developing your skills – getting speaker COACHING in Methodology, Storytelling, Humour, Voice, Graphics or Stagecraft?
Speakers improve over TIME with practice & feedback.
Overnight success takes a lot longer than just overnight.
There is a LOT of work needed to have a successful & sustainable speaking career and a LOT of Time, Practice and Preparation!
Speaking is just like being an actor or artist. A few mega stars, many workhorses and a LOT of wannabes. WHY should anyone pay to listen to you?
With the current GLUT of people wanting to be a famous speaker, most “Wannabe” speakers attending a “Speakers training school” will probably NOT make a professional career out of paid speaking.
Having an EGO is a critical part of being a speaker, but most speakers really THINK they are better than they really are.
Please AVOID hounding speaker bureau consultants endlessly – WHEN and IF you are good enough they WILL find and contact you.
HOW do you JOIN a Speakers Bureau? – Tips for Getting LISTED with a Speaker Bureau
If you are a great NEW ‘content speaker’ or a talented person with a great story, many speakers bureaus will LIST you on their database/website as NEW talent – just in case they get a client enquiry for you. (Some will charge a small fee for this)
If you are a just an AVERAGE speaker but are NOT prepared to spend money and time to do the development work, you can get listed with LOTS of speakers bureaus but will be lucky to get more than just a few gigs per year, if any.
BUT with many bureaus listing thousands of speakers on their website – this does NOT mean that they will promote you, feature you or provide ANY help to develop your speaking career.
You’ll need to be an AWESOME or FAMOUS Speaker – be the BEST of the best.
What sort of speakers do speaker bureaus want?
Here are the Key Traits Of The Most SUCCESSFUL Bureau Speakers that SELL
- Famous speakers with a great story or a popularity with great content
- Speakers that Talk WITH the Audience – not AT the Audience or at the screen
- Speakers that Connect with the HEART – using Stories & evoking Emotions
- A Keynoter that INSPIRES and does Transformation on Stage – Not Training
- Have a NICHE TOPIC Focus (Not too Broad)
- Be BOLD and aim to Push Humanity Forward
- Offer a Solution Topic (Not a Problem Topic)
- Work hard and craft your Signature Stories
- Create Content that is Daring & Edgy (not blah!)
- Being A Contrarian – Have New & Unique Concepts
- Walk the Talk – You are doing it & have done it
- Be Quirky & Fun – adopt a “playful” Archetype
- Use more Humour & Comedy / Be Funnier on stage
- Mostly Speakers that are amazing and get invited back and get lots of spinoff work!
When it is the RIGHT TIME to approach a Speakers Bureau?
There is a time in a Professional Speakers career where they can do great things with a Speaker Bureau but they must be READY. Being listed too early doesn’t help get you more bureau bookings.
Here are 10 indicators that you are READY to approach a BIG speakers bureau
INDICATORS YOU ARE “SPEAKER BUREAU READY” – for a “content speaker”
- ENQUIRIES – You are an established paid speaker and now getting some some leads for your Professional Speaking
- TOPIC – You have a HOT Speaking TOPIC that is trending and 1 or 2 more that are next – have a Keynote, Blog & Expertise and maybe even a Book coming out.
- GREAT CONTENT – A unique insight or cutting-edge IP to shift minds, win hearts and drive behaviour change (transformational)
- PROOF – You have Great PROOF from past clients – A Great professional VIDEO and several Branded Client/Buyer TESTIMONIALS
- SPEAKERS FEE – You are regularly paid a SPEAKERS FEE above or moving towards $5k+GST and worth every cent
- DEVELOPMENT – You are committed to being AWESOME on stage (getting mobbed & getting standing ovations) – Doing speaker development coaching – voice, stagecraft, humour, graphics – Amazing Signature Stories
- FAME IS A BONUS – You are Getting Better Known and More FAMOUS – a Recognised Name, making Promotion/PR/Publicity effort – good word of mouth is spreading or a brand sponsor or partnership.
- YOUR WEBSITE – A modern WEBSITE with a history of quality content would help
- FANS! – You have built a FOLLOWING of FANS online – at least one platform – own Email list, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, a Podcast or Video channel
- SUPPORT HELPS – You might have a SUPPORT team – PA/VA Help etc, your Diary is organised, Social media support, Speaker Coach/Mastermind/Tribe
How do I get LISTED with a Speakers Bureau to get more bureau bookings?
You can apply directly to some speaker bureaus and fill in their application form but many speakers do that and NOT much might happen. Most speaker bureaus find talent using these 4 ways.
- Be SO GOOD on stage or so FAMOUS you are noticed and approached by a bureau directly – the bureau will contact you after hearing about you
- Be RECOMMENDED by an existing bureau speaker, a client or person that the bureau trusts implicitly – the bureau will contact you directly.
- WIN a speaking booking over the other professional speakers suggested by a bureau – the bureau should contact you
- Prepare an impressive new speaker APPLICATION and APPLY to the Speakers Bureau – you could email or send an amazing “Shock and Awe” support package of your materials and a gift.
Here are links explaining the new speaker application process at some Bureaus
- SAXTON Speaker Application – Has 10 suggested criteria for speakers to meet
- ICMI Speaker Application
- GREAT EXPECTATION Speaker Application
EXTRA TIP FOR NEW SPEAKERS – If all else fails – BRING one of your bigger upcoming bookings to a bureau consultant and GIVE them the commission for managing that booking with that client – they will get the commission, get a new client and hear first hand from the client the conference feedback about you. You will have your first bureau booking and have started a great relationship!
How do I build a better RELATIONSHIP with a Speakers Bureau & Speaker Bureau Consultant?
- COMMIT to Building Solid Long Term RELATIONSHIPS with Clients & Consultants
- Show LOYALTY to the Bureau Consultant (Refer any spinoff work back to consultant)
- Have your marketing MATERIALS updated & professional – bio, pics, video, topics etc
- Be AVAILABLE for the booking when they contact you (limited availability sucks!)
- Always make the client & bureau consultant LOOK GOOD
- Be GRATEFUL and APPRECIATIVE – give CARDS, GIFTS and THINGS they want
- Get more SPINOFF WORK from every booking – “2-3 Cards for Gigs in Hand”
- RECOMMEND a client use a bureau consultant to find another speaker
This can also be done by:
- RESPONDING to enquiries within 12 hours
- Doing the required BRIEFINGS, etc. leading up to the event without being chased up
- Advising if any CHANGES to the event brief or extra add-on services post brief
- Building a RELATIONSHIP with the client and showing the client a lot of LOVE
- Deliver a KNOCK OUT presentation where the client is AMAZED by the presenter and thinks their bureau consultant is the best there is for suggesting them
- Providing the bureau consultant FEEDBACK as well as forwarding event leads to prove it
How does a Speaker get LOTS more bookings from a Speakers Bureau?
Building loyal relationship and thinking long-term not short term gets more bureau bookings.
- Be AMAZING on stage – get and give LOTS of spinoff work from each booking
- Be LOYAL – ANY Spin off work is redirected back to the bureau consultant Be Easy to work with – NEVER abusive to staff or clients
- Be FLEXIBLE & Easy to Work with – not too demanding, just make it happen.
- Be RESPONSIVE with updated & customised marketing materials and proposals
- Be INNOVATIVE and develop new materials to evolve your topic
- Be UPDATING – keep in touch and update them regularly with client testimonials and any news to help promote you
- Be CO-OPERATIVE – Offer to run and sponsor co-op events with your bureau – boardroom, bureau showcases or public events. They can invite clients.
- Be HAPPY about paying commission to the bureau – it’s their client and they got you to do the work. You don’t pay them – they paid you!
WARNING! – Speaker Bureau Consultants have LONG memories and knowledge about which speakers have wronged them and word travels fast in the industry.
Remember – “Don’t Steal the Spinoff Work” – The commissions you pay today get you a LOT more business tomorrow.
Why does ONE particular Speaker get chosen for the Conference Gig ? – Why didn’t I get the bureau booking?
For each available slot at a conference there may be many speakers getting proposed by many different bureau consultants (plus many other speakers negotiating directly).
Imagine if the Conference client contacted 3 bureaus and each put forward 3 to 5 speaker suggestions – You might just have a ‘1 in 10’ chance of getting the bureau booking, IF the event even goes ahead.
These things can help the client pick you out of the speaker consideration set and get hired:
- A SOLID ENDORSEMENT from the Speaker Bureau Consultant
- A GREAT REPUTATION – Personal Brand / Known Recognisable Name
- A CUSTOMISED PITCH addressing the client/industry – by Video or Proposal
- QUALITY SPEAKER INFO Quality – Videos, Pics, Bio, Website
- RAVING TESTIMONIALS from right level people (proof)
- A GOOD FIT – Relevance of Theme/Topic/Experience
- Proven SPECIALIST EXPERTISE – Books, Blogs, Videos
- SOCIAL MEDIA Proof – FB, Insta, LI, YT Videos
- PR EFFORT – Recent Media exposure & Media Collateral
SIX ways to KILL or DAMAGE a relationship with a Speaker Bureau or Bureau Consultant
- The Speaker was DISLOYAL (e.g. took ANY ‘spin off’ business themselves)
- The Speaker took the booking DIRECTLY from the client (cutting out the consultant)
- The Speaker FORGOT about the booking entirely and didn’t show up for the event
- The Speaker performed BADLY on stage and got complaints from client
- The Speaker UPSET the client and was unreasonable to deal with – refused or ignored a briefing, got drunk/sleazy, charged outrageous transport fees or extras to their room account
- The Speaker made the bureau LOOK BAD – blaming the bureau for something or revealing the fees & commissions paid
Should you be EXCLUSIVE to just ONE Speakers Bureau to get more Bureau Bookings?
Some speakers prefer to have all their work organised through just ONE key bureau – read this BLOG and consider being exclusive – The Benefits Of Being An “Exclusive Speaker” With A Speakers Bureau
There are many speakers who have built a great relationship with Speaker Bureaus and get the bulk of their speaking work from bureaus. It takes a lot of work and loyalty to build Trusted relationships and regular contact to stay ‘top of mind’ with consultants.
This BLOG is a work in progress for my Speaker Colleagues and Industry Professionals. If you have any input or comments please contact me.