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How can you get represented by a speaker bureau?

I have delivered over 50 keynote speeches. About 30 of these engagements were through a previous company I worked for, and about 20 of them were paid gigs booked by me through my startup. I love public speaking and I'm good at it! I even taught it at the college level, so I understand the mechanics behind delivering an entertaining presentation.

I have a speaking packet with some testimonials, but I don't have any video clips. All of my keynote inquiries have found me from my website (http://GovernmentSocialMedia.com) or heard about me from someone else. I took a break from speaking to have a baby, but she's 3 months old now and I'm ready to get back in the game!

I've never had anyone market me. How do you get represented by a speaker's bureau or company that will market you for a cut of the booked earnings? My goal is to establish higher speaking fees and to book 2 engagements per month.

13 Replies

Mike Wittenstein
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International conference speaker and corporate consultant. Expert experience designer in retail, hospitality, and B2B.
  1. https://shop.soloshot.com/?gclid=COySt8eb7MwCFcQjgQodIs0HYA
  2. www.nsaspeaker.org
Izzy Gesell
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Izzy Gesell Advisor
Author-"Leading w/ Applied Improv "​&"Humor in the Workplace" lynda.com,Humorologist, Facilitator, Keynote Speaker
Hi Kristy, Most speaker bureaus want a video, both to see you themselves and to let their clients see you. I have been a professional speaker for 20 years. I'm happy to have a phone chat with you to see if I can help. Izzy Sent from my iPhone
Dan Seidman
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Dan Seidman Advisor
2013 International Sales Training Leader of the Year (Stevie Awards)
First you should know that the speaker bureau business is changing significantly and they can be a good resource for you, but costly when you give up fees. So they should be one way to expand your keynoting business.

National Speakers Association (Mike referred to previously, nsaspeaker.org) has many bureaus coming to check out keynoters and breakout presenters. You'll learn tons of things of high value, beyond your skills. For example, many speakers and trainers leave money on the table when just keynoting. And I'm not referring to selling product, in back. I'm talking about how to present so that the audience asks you for help, consulting, coaching, etc.

Get videos of your presentations, even if the event isn't recording, find someone to video you. If you can convince the meeting planner to videotape you, you'll get a nice pro video for free. I offer to let some organizations use my video (I suggest just clips/ highlights) as samples of their event offerings.

If you have to pay for this on your own, this might be an odd resource, but I've found that many churches (the bigger the better), local to an event, have media professionals who volunteer and can be an inexpensive resource for getting high-quality videos done - regardless of where you're presenting.

I'll mirror Izzy's offer, as well. Give a shout and we can talk.

Find mentors, coaches and associations, and model excellence. I've even paid for professional coaching for keynoting. Victoria Labalme of Rock the Room is a masterful actor's coach and completely transformed how I tell stories.http://www.victorialabalme.com/

Good luck on your hunt.
Shel Horowitz: Shel AT GreenAndProfitable com
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I help organizations thrive by building social transformation into your products, your services, and your marketing
Good to see Izzy and Dan jumping in here. I've known Izzy in person for 30+ years and Dan online for probably at least 15. They both know what they're talking about.

Video is essential. I did three live events in April in conjunction with the launch of my latest book Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World, and had all of them recorded. None of the recordings were by professionals, but I was able to go in and identify the exact segments I thought were good enough to include (both on content and on video quality), plus some older clips that were professionally done.

Then I made a key that listed my shorthand name for each event video plus the file name, and then a table giving several columns--here are the column heads and one row of answers--it doesn't format very well here, but you'll get the idea:

Recording Start time/ words End time/ words Total Secs Notes Sustainable Foods Summit Keynote 2:26 1:37 Include audience laugh but not my giggle 11 Was that a sustainable system? haven't had their coffee?

This is all in a Word document that will be sent to the video producer with the original video files and a small PowerPoint deck with some slides I want to include.

The ideal length is 3 to 4 minutes. Don't forget to include your contact information at the end.
Peter Strohkorb  MAICD
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Peter Strohkorb | Helping you boost Sales through Smarketing® | International Speaker | Author | Executive Mentor
Hi Kristy,

I'll echo the sentiments of some of my colleagues here by saying that a speaker bureau is often not the road to riches and fame that people imagine. You need to be very careful about how they will represent you and whether they will actively promote you or just keep you on the books in case somebody asks for a speaker like you.
A video show reel with you speaking and the audience's reaction is important. Include your social media links at the end.

All the best wishes for your future career,

Peter Strohkorb
Bobbie Carlton
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Bobbie Carlton Entrepreneur
Founder, Innovation Nights, Innovation Women & Carlton PR & Marketing
Hi Kristy,

I'll start off by saying that our research concurs - event managers want to see a video and people with a video on our site see many more invitations than those without. A professional quality video is best but SOME event managers are OK with anything that shows you speaking. Another thing event managers want is a substantial social media presence to help them promote their event.

Traditionally speaker bureaus represent speakers who get paid to speak - and well. They take a percentage of your fee for their compensation. We created a slightly different model with our company, Innovation Women. We're a speaker database that offers both women who get paid to speak and women who speak primarily for visibility and to generate business. We charge speakers $100 year and you keep all your fees. We market the overall site to event managers.

There are a lot of speaking engagements available, both featured speakers and panelist options with things like Meetups (500,000+ per month), Eventbrite (2+ million last year) and professional organizations (92,000 organizations in the US). Often these don't have a budget for speakers - our research says about half. But they could have other things -- a Big Data Meetup group with 3000 members and 400+ monthly attendees is a gold mine for someone selling a Big Data product. You might find that you make far more consulting with people who have heard you speak than you could through speaking fees.
Frank Gomez
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Frank Gomez Entrepreneur
Greater New York City Area, Strategic Communications
A life-long public affairs profesional, I have been giving speeches since my college days. In fact, I am going to give a workshop on platform skills in NYC next month. But I have never charged for a speech, never approached a bureau. I have used bureaus to get speakers. My advice is to do some checking on line. I have many friends who are supported by bureaus and none has ever complained.
Debra Hunter
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Debra Hunter Advisor
Leader, CEO with Strong Track Record in Educational and Workplace Technology and Content.
In general, speakers bureaus don't do a lot of marketing...they expect you to do most of that. They are great at handling logistics, and a bigger help for those who already have a lot of speaking engagements and demands for their time.

Kristy Dalton
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Kristy Dalton Entrepreneur
CEO of Government Social Media & GovGirl.com Host
I'm honored to receive so many responses! Thank you all for your insight. Izzy and Dan - I'll definitely take you up on your gracious offers to chat. I know enough to try to absorb everything I can from experts who have being doing this for a long time.

Another fact to add to the mix is that my topics and audiences are pretty specific at this point (my topics are related to government social media and audiences are either government agencies/organizations, or technology companies selling to government). Should I work on broadening my audience? Drop the government aspect and just speak on social media topics? Thing is, my specific area of expertise is government...

Debra, I'm not sure if a speakers bureau is right for me then, as I already have someone to handle travel and logistics.

Thank you all for your comments about the importance of video. I'm working on editing various clips together - I only have a few to work with at this point, but I'll post it on this thread for your thoughts when done. Thank you!

Shel Horowitz: Shel AT GreenAndProfitable com
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I help organizations thrive by building social transformation into your products, your services, and your marketing
Actually, focusing on government will give you a leg up on presenting social media to gov audiences. You might add a second niche of nonprofits/NGOs, but the issues are going to be very different if you try to go into the corporate world. Having a niche is usually a plus, at least if it's a large enough niche (and yours most certainly is). I could see some very gov-specific presentation points, such as what a regulator can/cannot say, how to build public support for new laws, etc.

You still need a demo reel, but probably not bureaus at the moment, since you've got someone on the logistics already. If you want a sample, here's the one I've been using for a couple of years (and am about to replace, as my focus has shifted from just green business profitability toward businesses that actively turn hunger and poverty into sufficiency, war into peace, and catastrophic climate change into planetary balance):https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DByWN4Feaj0
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