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At what point will a speaker bureau or agent start to actively promote you to their clients and/or prospects? by Graeme Codrington


Typically, a speaker agent will be approached with a specific request. The reason the client has gone to an agent is because (1) they don't know who would be best (if they had a specific speaker in mind, they'd probably go direct), and (2) they want protection if something goes wrong (many clients see the agents as providing this protection, such as the ability to provide a substitute speaker if their first choice pulls out at late notice).

So, they come with a request. Often it's vague. "We need someone to speak at our annual staff conference on leadership. They need to be funny, it's the after lunch session on the 3rd day. Who would you recommend?". Agents typically give three recommendations, most often in order.

The agents select these choices based on at least the following:
* vague fit with client brief (this means the agent has to know what you do, how you do it, and how it connects to the request from the client)
* your fee and fit with client budget (there's no use promoting a £ 10,000 speaker to a client with a £ 2,000 budget. But equally, there's no value in it for them to promote a £ 2,000 speaker to a client they know is prepared to pay £ 10,000. After all, the agent gets a %).
* how impressive you will be for the client. If the agent gives a client a dud speaker, they will probably lose the relationship. The agent is only as good as you are, so they need to be sure you're good. And that means good on stage AND off stage. How well do you do with client briefings? How professional are you? Do you adapt yourself to client needs and requests? Do you handle stress well?
* how easy you are to work with. If they send a request to you for availability, how quickly will you respond? This is vital - they want to get three speakers who are available, and get back to the client TODAY! If you consistently take a few days to respond, they'll stop asking.
* how good are you. If they get good reviews when you do work, and if clients rebook you, then that's all you need.

So, how do you get in with an agent?

Invite them to come and see you present at a client. Say it like this, "I am speaking for a client in your area soon. They do a lot of conferences and regularly book speakers, and I'd like to introduce you to them. Please come along to a presentation I am doing with them - you can see my in action, and I'll connect you with their conference organiser."

If you're not prepared to "give away" a client in order to create a speaker agent relationship, then probably look elsewhere to build your business. It's a partnership of give and take, and you have to do both if you're going to be successful in the long term.

By the way, the easiest way to ensure they STOP booking you is to "steal" a client from them. If an agent gets you a booking at a client, that client and any work that flows from that booking belongs to that agent. At minimum, you should be paying them commission, even if you handle subsequent bookings. But better is to keep the relationship flowing through the agent. Keep detailed records of how a client came to you, and be faithful to the agents for future bookings. (You may ask how long you do this for - is it for a year, or two? I'd say: forever. But that's just me).