Before the end of the year, I wanted to help you set the record straight on a very commonly-held (and mistaken) assumption about the speaking industry.
I often hear a lot of new speakers say, “I want to find a speakers’ bureau to represent me.”
That’s not what speakers’ bureaus do.
Bureaus represent clients, not speakers. They focus on building relationships with end-buyers.
Think of it this way:
A speakers’ bureau is like a library.
If a person wants to find a book on any given subject, they might go to the librarian to get some guidance, and then they will probably use the library’s search catalogue to find out which books are the most popular ones on the topic they want to learn more about.
Lastly, if they want to check out a book, then they’ll go back to the librarian to do that.
(And if they really like what they see, they might skip the librarian altogether and head for a bookstore to purchase the book themselves.)
The person working at the bureau is the librarian, and you, dear speaker, are one of many books they have in their catalogue.
And most bureaus have hundreds or even thousands of speakers in their catalogue.
Most importantly, the librarian does NOT want that person to leave the library to go out and buy the book for themselves — otherwise, the librarian is out of a job.
(Google is the equivalent of the bookstore, where clients can find your website and book you directly.)
The bureau’s entire focus is on giving that client what they want, not on advancing your career.
They’re going to spend the bulk of their time getting inside the head of the client to find out what will make them the happiest, the most successful, and to feel like the bureau has taken good care of them so they come back again next year.
So, in fact, you shouldn’t be focused on finding a bureau to represent you.
Not yet. Maybe not ever.
Because the bureau isn’t invested in building YOUR business. They’re invested in building THEIRS.
Even seasoned speakers only get a very small portion of their business from bureau relationships. Maybe 2 or 3 gigs a year, if they’re lucky.
So it’s good to have the relationships; but it’s not good to put all your eggs into one basket, expecting that your calendar will blow up with opportunities because you’re listed on a bureau’s site.
So where does the rest of your speaking business come from?
Some speakers train up their staff to do the prospecting for them. Some hire an external marketing person.
[One more note: as a rule, Publicists don’t do that. They handle media pitches (TV, radio, etc.) but not speaking engagements. So don’t go knocking on the wrong door for that, either.]
And if a speaker is well-established enough, they might be able to find an Agent.
But Agents don’t work with new speakers; they’re in the business of brokering established speakers, commercially-viable folks who are basically guaranteed money in the bank.
It takes a LOT of time, effort and money to launch a new speaker, and frankly, most Agents aren’t interested in that at all when they could turn a better profit by representing someone who’s already “good to go,” has built a solid reputation and has plenty of inquiries coming in already.
To draw a comparison from the Real Estate world, would you rather spend your time trying to sell a fixer-upper for $100,000 or a mansion for $25 million? Easy answer, right?
Agents who work with speakers think the same way. If your whole business is built on commission, you’re going to invest your time in pitching the people who can make you more money.
Agents are not in business to teach people how to become a professional speaker. Agents are in the business of booking people who are already a professional speaker, for as much money as they can get.
But if you’re just not THERE yet, you could work with a Manager to handle lead generation as well as contracting and logistics for deals that do come through.
When looking for a Manager, focus on finding the right person who has a foundation of industry knowledge as well as a good rapport with you personally, so you feel like they could get on board with your message and your mission, and help you get it out there into the world in a bigger way.
And then be prepared to invest both time and money and effort with them, working together to accomplish your big dreams and goals, as you “learn the ropes” and as they help you reach more people.
It’s never a good idea to look to speaking to be your sole bread & butter right away. Most people don’t want to be full-time speakers anymore, anyway, and those who do need to know that it can take 8-10 years to reach a point where full-time speaking can give you the level of income and the lifestyle that you want.
It’s a much smarter business plan to develop it as another arm of your business services, and make sure that your business can support you financially as this speaking aspect grows, giving it enough time to get off the ground and grow wings so it can soar.
So now you can put all your energy in 2016 toward THAT, not waste it all on trying to find a bureau to represent you.
After all, if energy is the most precious resource you have, shouldn’t you be exerting it toward the right things, not the wrong ones?
You’re such a smart cookie!