You have a big event coming up and you’ve been tasked with lining up a mix of speakers that are educational, motivational and inspirational.
Most importantly, they have to know your industry.
Where do you start? You may want to consider contacting a speakers’ bureau.
A speakers’ bureau connects clients with the right speaker, just as a site selection company connects clients with the right venues for their meetings. They both make recommendations to their clients based on the clients’ goals, objectives, budget, profile of the attendee and branding/message of the event.
A speakers’ bureau organizes its roster of speakers by expertise. They facilitate the transaction from the introduction to through setting the speaker’s fee.
They can even take care of travel logistics.
Speakers’ bureaus come in a variety of formats. A few online platforms will allow you to contact the speaker directly, while traditional bureaus act as an intermediary and handle the entire booking process. A speakers’ bureau can save you time and money by working with you to define the goals and objectives for your keynote and other sessions.
As a planner, this service is complimentary; the speaker commissions the bureau. A speakers’ bureau will help you get the right speaker, for the right event, at the right price.
Starting out in the industry, I knew many great speakers and loved previewing videos.
I thought I had the skill set to accomplish the task: I was wrong. I quickly discovered an overwhelming array of speakers, topics and ancillary products to choose from.
And let’s not forget travel and expenses.
The learning curve involved in vetting all those details was steep.
Then, I met Andrea H. Gold, president and co-founder of Gold Stars Speakers Bureau. She also co-authored a book titled The Business of Successful Speaking: Proven Secrets to Becoming a Million Dollar Speaker.
I asked Andrea what she wished she knew when she was starting out.
She wished that she had known more about the meetings industry.
“I’d worked in other industries, had a journalism degree, no sales training, no clue how a speakers’ bureau operated, and no competitors willing to talk to me,” Andrea said. “There was no manual on working with speakers.”
Andrea also wished she had more experience making long distance sales calls.
“I had to teach myself by the seat of my pants,” Andrea said. “However, looking back, that forced me to gain confidence in myself, try different approaches, be pleasantly persistent and kept me straightforward and concise in my questions on the phone, as well.
"I didn’t compromise my ethical values to play games to ‘sell’ something to someone to make a buck," she added. "The in-depth selling that I was often doing is called consultative selling, the hardest type. It takes the most patience, effort and time. However, it also can be the most rewarding type of sales.
“I learned that the combo of concise, clear communication on the phone, authenticity, the ability to ask the right questions, and the desire to truly help a group [works].”
Andrea shared some of her experiences running a speakers’ bureau. One time she negotiated with and booked a $50,000-dollar celebrity speaker for a client. The contract came with a surprise: if the speaker’s baseball team played a game to go to the World Series, his appearance would be canceled.
“As it was my job to protect the client, I ran this by the group,” Andrea said. “The speaker was canceled and I worked hard and fast to find another who was able [to commit].”
One problem occurred in the days after 9/11, a rough time for the meetings industry.
All flights and almost all meetings and events were canceled.
However, Andrea had a client in North Dakota that didn’t cancel because their attendees were driving in from all over the state.
Andrea contacted the speaker, who then drove from California to North Dakota. She called him along the way both to keep him awake and to make sure there were no problems. She also had a replacement speaker ready, if they were needed.
While Andrea did not need to use a replacement speaker then, she did need to use one at the last minute, for another client, when a hurricane canceled the original speaker’s flight.
In all three if these examples, there were last minute problems with the speaker that the meeting planner did not need to handle because they used a speakers’ bureau. Using a speakers’ bureau is like adding an experienced member to your team: they come already trained and cost you nothing [assuming you're using a reputable speakers' bureau!].
Curious about new business models for speakers’ bureaus? If you just want to dip your toe it the water, check-out E-Speakers. With a database of over 10,000 speakers, you can filter to find what you need, based on the needs of your audience.
Please share your personal experiences with speakers’ bureaus, or tracking down a speaker on your own, below. Include what you learned and what you wish you knew when you started out. Share your story and we can learn from each other!
Editors' Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.
Posted by Lynne Wellish
Lynne Wellish is an award-winning hospitality industry trainer and speaker.