The Truth About Speaker Bureaus | Blog | Geoff Ramm | MFL Global

The Truth About Speaker Bureaus

When I say truth…I mean my truth.

Seven years ago I made the decision that would change the rest of my life/career.   I decided to break away from my Mercury Marketing consultancy business by launching a speaking brand to talk on the topics I love so dear, customer service and marketing.

At this time I met with, spoke to and sat in many audiences of speakers and invariably the conversation about gaining bookings, getting out there and becoming known, would be the liveliest conversation for debate.  Ideas included; websites, books, blogs, pr, showcases and a little area called speaker bureaus…

But when it came to speaker bureaus this is what I invariably heard;

1. You can’t build your speaking business by relying on bureaus.

2. Be careful they will take a whopping percentage from you.

3. If you haven’t won a medal, climbed a mountain or lead a well-known brand, forget it – they don’t want to know you.

Going the opposite way to everyone else is nothing short of my trademark so I started my quest to dispel these popular speaker myths.  It didn’t start well.  I emailed bureaus and got no response.  I rang them up and they never returned my calls, I sent them DVD’s, links to showreels, and still nothing. Maybe speakers were right?  But with a long-range rear-view mirror I can now look back 7 years and if I was completely honest I would probably have ignored my communications too!

Seven years on and I’ve come to work with some of the very best bureaus in the business and I am currently multi-represented in Europe, Australia, North America and Africa.  And yet I’ve not lead a global brand, gained a medal, nor have I any intention of climbing a block of flats never mind a mountain.  But this is what I’ve learnt about bureaus along the way.

FACT: Speaker Bureaus and Agents have the HARDEST job of all. 

Match Maker: They receive requests from clients for speakers or topics and they frantically contact the best options on their books.  Quickly finding out availability, suitability and timings.  But of course the clients can change the goalposts and the topics are changed, the dates are changed and even the venue is changed.  And the researching and connecting start again from scratch.  And how many choices will they reject next time around?

The Negotiator: They also have to negotiate a deal… one where the client and speaker are happy to proceed.  This alone is not easy, but enter into the equation the time it can take via committees and eventual sign off it can be a very long drawn out process.

Speaker Liaison: They also have to await the call back with the information from the speakers on their shortlist, briefing calls etc.  Believe me, I’ve also been in this position of requesting information and awaiting bios, pics, titles, times etc and it can be an excruciating time at best!

Trust:  Please don’t give out your business cards to any clients?  This is something I’ve come across on many occasion.  I have no problem keeping my cards close to my chest, but I am a little disappointed I can’t give anyone interested in booking me a card as mine is sexier than most 😉  But this begs the question…Why? Well, its simple isn’t it.  Speakers will try and cut the bureau out of a future deal!  As my grandma always used to say ‘never bite the hand…’

I’ve been fortunate that I am represented by many bureaus these days, this has come from recommendations from other speakers which I am eternally grateful for and of course myself upping my communication game of show reels, client reviews and publications.  However, this is and always will be a person to person industry, based on trust, integrity, ethics, flexibility and of course speed of response.

To all professional speakers: the bureaus have the hardest job of all – please help them to make it easier.  Remember the bureau puts their entire reputation on the line every time you take to the stage and open your mouth.  As speakers, we must honour that trust and deliver both on and off stage better than anyone else out there.

To speaker bureaus: I tip my hat off to you all – thanks for the opportunity to work with your clients, thanks for thinking of me and my topics, and thanks for giving me the opportunity to see the world.

Geoff Ramm, Customer Service & Marketing Speaker

NB: No speakers or bureaus were harmed in the making of this blog.