A speakers bureau can be a great source of new speaking engagements. However, most reputable bureaus tend to only work with popular authors, celebrities, and business leaders. If you’re new to the speaking profession and relatively unknown, you will find it hard to get on their roster. These organizations tend to gravitate towards bestselling authors, well-known athletes, celebrities, and active politicians.
The best way to get the attention of a particular bureau is by showing how your message is different from any other speaker they represent. If you know a speaker who is already on their roster, ask that person to make an introduction for you. Schedule a meet-and-greet by phone or in-person and give several examples of the results you’ve produced for audiences in the past. Be prepared to provide a top-notch video demo and several testimonials from nationally-known leaders.
Some people mistakenly believe that speakers bureaus do the marketing legwork for you and magically setup a ton of new engagements. This is a big misconception, because bureaus usually promote just their top-tier speakers and let the lower level speakers fend for themselves. If you’re not a big-time personality, you will be lucky to get a promotional spot in their annual catalog mailing and a mention on their company website.
The benefit of speakers bureaus is that they can provide access to high-profile events due to their behind-the-scenes connections. Bureau agents work hard to build relationships with event planners and trade show directors. These relationships pay off as the event director contracts their speaker needs with the bureau. When the bureau receives a request, they will recommend you if you’re considered the right fit for the event.
The payment for working with a speakers bureau is typically a 15% – 20% commission taken from your speaking fee. Therefore, I don’t recommend working with bureaus unless you’re so popular and busy that you need someone for administrative help. If you do go with a bureau, avoid signing an exclusive arrangement. Keep your options open to leave if dissatisfied and be represented by several bureaus at the same time.
For more information on how to land paid speaking engagements on your own, see Chapter 12 in Sell Your Book Like Wildfire.