Ann Dunagan asked a question in the comments about whether or not having a speaking bureau representing you is a good idea. She writes:
I have a specific question for you. Do you think it’s important, or beneficial, to have a speaker management service to secure a broader or wider range of future speaking engagements? Do you know if the majority of Christian speaker services operate on a commission basis, and do you think a speaker management service could help to “get the word out” regarding a particular speaker to a broader audience?
So let’s deal with this piece by piece. First:
Do you think it’s important, or beneficial, to have a speaker management service to secure a broader or wider range of future speaking engagements?
Just because a speaker bureau represents you doesn’t mean it will actually get YOU engagements. Chances are they represent many speakers, and there are some that they will tout more than others simply because of personal relationships, or because they already know this speaker is good and delivers a quality program.
In addition, the biggest speaker bureaus won’t take you on unless you already have some established credibility. They don’t like being thought of a “training grounds”. They’re there to connect the best speakers with the right audiences. So it’s unlikely that a bureau will take you until you’ve already achieved professional status.
Some bureaus, though, are organized by speaker trainers to begin with. CLASS, Carol Kent, and Proverbs 31 Ministries come to mind here. You go through their training, and they select those candidates that they think showed the most professionalism and giftedness to represent. This may not be a bad route to go, because you can often develop a personal relationship with the bureau since you attend their training anyway.
Remember, though, that most speakers (myself included) get along without a bureau just fine. Agencies can lend credibility and bump you up to the next fee level, but you also have to prove yourself worthy of these engagements before they’ll book you for them. It’s sort of a chicken and egg conundrum.
In short, if you want to try it, look carefully at what they offer and what the terms are. Talk to other people who are represented by them. And then by all means, send a demo tape. But do I think it’s necessary? Absolutely not.
Next part of the question: Do you know if the majority of Christian speaker services operate on a commission basis?
Yep. They sure do. I think the industry standard is about 15%, but it could be higher than that. You also need to be very sure about competition clauses, because some bureaus refuse you the right to book yourself. If you sign on with them, they have to do all bookings. So if you get a request that comes through you personally, you are obligated under contract to put it through them, and give them the commission.
Last part: Do you think a speaker management service could help to “get the word out” regarding a particular speaker to a broader audience?
Not really. I think a speaker management service can get the word out to those who come to their site already. But they don’t tend to advertise for particular speakers.
On the other hand, it is not really hard to market yourself, especially on the internet. Start a blog on women’s ministries, with lots of tips, and women’s ministry leaders will come to your site. Start an ezine and start collecting names of women’s ministry leaders. Participate in blogs and forums about women’s ministry. Twitter. Join Facebook groups about women’s ministry. The possibilities are endless.
I get about 25 new email addresses added to my lists everyday from the internet marketing I do, and that’s something I’ve only really started in the last few weeks. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s already been growing exponentially. And if you think about it, that’s 750 new email addresses a month. That’s a lot of people I can send quality information to, who then keep hearing my name and are reminded about me.
Can a speaker’s bureau replicate that? I don’t think so.
The other thing to realize is that speaker’s bureaus are very good at getting national engagements. Few are regional, though you may be able to search for regional speakers. But it’s very likely that if you go through a bureau, and you’re successful (which is no guarantee), you will spend your life on planes. I’m not really willing to do that yet, since my children are still at home. I prefer to speak within a five hour drive of home. But that’s okay, because there’s millions of people in that radius, and lots of possible venues. It is easier for me to market myself deeply in this region than it is for a national speakers’ bureau to do this.
If you want a national audience, it may be the way to go. If you want to build your name regionally first, you’re probably better going alone.
I hope that helps! What do the rest of you think? Are any of you with a speakers’ bureau?