VIA Speakerwiki: As an agent at Premiere Speakers Bureau, I spent years helping develop amazing speaking talent like Ron Clark and Keni Thomas at the early stages of their speaking career. Getting recognized (and paid!) by the top speakers bureaus can be hard work — let’s break this down.
1. Hackers, Neo-Nazis and Daddy’s Girls.
Quick survey. Do you have any experience with the following:
Did you pick D? Good, because we need to clear up a major misconception. You don’t have to be famous to get booked by speakers bureaus. On the contrary, the majority of speakers are people you’ve never probably heard of — folks like Scott Klososky and Ed Rigsbee — they may not be famous, but they have good content and most importantly they know how the bureau system works.
2. Pitching the Pitchmen
When I was at Premiere we received hundreds of “drop-ins” and slick 4-color brochures every month. The truth is that we live in a digital economy and most promotional packages go straight to the trash. While most speaking agents are not nearly as scary as Ari Gold, they’re still absurdly busy, so it’s important to engage them on their terms — and that means email. Here are a few tips:
- List your ONE biggest accomplishment and ONE target audience in the subject line. “I’ve climbed Mount Everest twice and have spoken to 143 boy scout groups.”
- Include a link to a video that includes your very best material (3 minutes max)
- Include a link to a high-resolution jpeg headshot.
- Include your specific fee schedule and commission rate (typically 20-30%).
- Include a SHORT biographical sketch. (Under 500 words)
- Include a bullet point list of notable groups you’ve spoken to.
- Be factual. (more on this below)
- Send an introductory email. Lay everything on the table right up front.
- Be long winded.
- Use superlatives. Anyone claiming to be “World’s greatest speaker on ” almost never is. Agents have a very sharp B.S. filter — you want to avoid setting it off.
- Be overly friendly. Relationships take time to build and if you force it you just sound desperate and creepy.
- Send more than one follow-up email. Take the hint. The quickest path to an agent’s SPAM box is badgering him/her with questions like, “Did you have a chance to look over my material?”
Pretty simple, eh? The best email also happens to be the simplest email. Nevertheless, as an agent I saw VERY few emails that followed these guidelines. You simply wouldn’t believe how many emails I get that don’t even include a video. How am I supposed to pitch you to event planners without a video?! Am I taking crazy pills? C’mon!
Want a sample email template that’s proven to work? Just this article and I’ll send you an email template that you can fill in with your own information and send out to speakers bureaus!
3. SHOW ME THE MONEEEEEEYYYYY
One of the biggest mistake speakers make is thinking that lowering your fee or increasing commission increases bookings — it almost never does. Let’s do a little “agency math” to learn why.
Let’s assume your fee is $5,000 — if your standard commission is 20% then you would net $4,000 while the bureau receives $1,000. The problem is that the agent that is actually pitching you might receive as little as 10% of that commission. Which means that in this scenario if you increase your commission from 20% to 30% the agent only makes $50 more — hardly enough to make it worthwhile.
What this also means is that if your fee is less than $3,000 (or even $5,000) it’s simply not worth the agencies time to work with you. Competing on price is a game you lose just by playing.
So how DO you get their attention? Well, a lot of people don’t like to talk about it, but one of the single most important things you can do is offer incentives directly to the agents. Here are tactics that haven proven to work:
- Karyn Buxman has offered agents a FREE IPAD on your next booking!
- For years Cary Mullen and Vince Poscente have hosted an annual all-expenses-paid ski trip to Banff, Canada for agents that have booked them the most in the preceding year. Bonus points for coming up an idea that relates to their speaking topic!
- Book Scott Klososky and win a sweet kindle (watch the video of the drawing)
- It doesn’t have to be expensive either. Vicki Hitzges sends out brownies after every successful speech. HITZGES BROWNIES have quite the cult following.