The reality is harsh and unsettling for new speakers. They don’t.
Are you one of the many brand new motivational speakers looking for a speakers bureau to represent you?
Here’s the deal …
Unless you’re hugely famous or instantly recognisable, don’t consider using a speakers bureau until you have been at your professional speaking career for at least 4 years.
When I started my career as a conference speaker in 1998, it was a different world. Many speakers bureaus signed up just about anyone who had a pulse and professed to be a professional speaker. So, it was easy to get on their books. Most of us didn’t make much money out of the speakers bureaus … but we were on their books.
Not so easy now (to get on the books and to make money ;-)).
This is so unfair!
If you’re a new keynote speaker and you think it is grossly unfair that you can’t get onto a speakers bureaus books, look at it from their side:
- Speakers bureaus are in the business of making money (yes, there’s also all the good stuff like connecting amazing people to audiences so that they can make a difference in the world). But, in essence, it is profit that counts. In South Africa, if a bureau can’t charge a professional speaker out at R15 000 as a minimum, then it is really not worth its while. From that fee, the speakers bureau gets 20% (in this case R3000). New speakers generally don’t start out at the R15 000 mark and often start out at less than 10k (the good ones grow into R15 000 and more in time). So, as a business case, a new speaker is not a viable option.
- Unblooded and untested speakers are risky business. A speakers bureau has built up a reputation over years and for it to send in an unknown entity is a risk. If that speaker blows it, it directly affects the credibility (and income) of the bureau. At the very least, a speakers bureau needs to see a new speaker in action before ever considering placing him or her.
- I suppose the best way to describe speakers bureaus is that they are like banks. A bank will only loan you money when you have money (for collateral). Speakers bureaus will generally only place you if you are a known, trusted, well-established and (relatively famous) expert.
If you can’t get onto a speakers bureau’s books, see it as an opportunity:
- I’ll share a secret with you. Speakers bureaus (in South Africa at least) generally only account for 2 – 10% of a speakers business. Yup, they’re not the Holy Grail, sweet spot marketing magnet you thought they were. So, you have an opportunity to become a great marketer and hone your speaking skills in the meantime.
- Go and give your speech 100 times for free until you’ve polished it into something magnificent. Work your craft all the time.
- You can take the pressure off yourself and work out a timeline for your speaking career by following Jane Atkinson’s focus list.
Ok, so you think you’ve still got that special something and that this article is a load of nonsense and doesn’t apply to you. Well then come prepared. At the very least this is what a speakers agency wants to see: