Discussion: Do you need a speaking agent, and how do you find one?
How do you find a good speaker agent?
What are the qualities you should look for?
What are the red flags that should send you running in the other direction?
Our community of experienced professional speakers weigh in.
Speaker Agents: “We’ll find you”
The people who have agents don’t need them and the people who need them can’t get them.
“Speakers’ bureaus and agents have the attitude: “We’ll find you.” If you’ve delivered an outstanding presentation and a meeting planner or fellow speaker gives you a shout out to a bureau or agent, you may get your foot in the door.”
“Good speaking agents say “Don’t find us, we will find you.” If you are a very well established speaker the agents will come looking for you. If not, the agents simply are not interested. I read about one agency which will review your materials if you pay them $500, but clearly states this review should not be viewed as a way to get them to represent you. That is one reason why groups such as SpeakerHub exist. I have always found that speaking is very easy compared to getting speaking engagements.”
Actually, you don’t find them…they will find you! Do a few great talks and invite some speaker agents on your “targeted” list to come and listen to you speaking, and they will definitely find you.
Do you really need one?
“My experience over 30 years as a full-time keynote speaker is that if you can’t book yourself, no agent will help you, and if you are booking yourself successfully, you don’t need an agent. Think of it this way, why would any agent want to book you INSTEAD OF another speaker? You may want to hire a person to market and sell your services — but, unless you have a highly unique story, no bureau or agent who works there would or should be willing to devote their time on someone who doesn’t have a track record of high profile engagements.”
“My experience has been that if you don’t sing, you don’t dance and you don’t play professional sports you can forget about an agent.”
“There is a distinction that needs to be made that will help you in your search. Working with an agent (dedicated to promoting you and representing you) vs working with an agency (which is really a speakers bureau). In my experience, very few true “speaker agents” exist and if they do they work with high-end speakers who can afford to pay them to be a representative, in a similar role as a publicist.”
Speaking agents/speaker bureau have a money making choice. Should they try to get you “bookings”, an unknown person to the world or should they try to book an x-president, famous movie/tv star, news anchor/commentator or famous author? Who do you think will bring them the most money? It is all about money. Your best bet — learn how to market yourself as a speaker to your niche market and go get them yourself. Also, never pay anyone money that says “I can get you bookings.” They can’t.
Up your marketing game and speaking skills
“This is the $64,000 question! Agents are great if you can find the right one…but they are very hard to find and costly. Getting your message clear and then sharing it with everyone will help you get more speaking opportunities. Listing yourself on speakers websites will help you get your word out. Lastly, when you do speak, making sure that you’ve shared your contact info and a feedback form with the audience, so they can follow up with you, whether this is by being on your email list, for a follow up consultation or if they know an organization who would be interested in your presentation.”
“As a speaking coach, I recommend that you get clear on your message and make it easy for your audience to “get it.” Start with an opener that gets your audience’s attention. Give them your BIG promise (i.e., what is it they will receive from your talk?). Know your speech so well it flows from your lips. Omit the filler words, e.g., um, ah, etc. Provide eye contact that speaks to all.”
“This is a question I’ve been asking myself for years. I recently honed my message which has enabled to target conferences and events better.”
“Have a professional camera team shoot your next speaking gig, cut it into a teaser only take the best of for instance when the audience is laughing or smiling , or clapping the teaser should only be a maximum of three minutes, send it out to numerous agency’s and invite them to come hear you live. The proof is in the pudding.”
“Make a video of your recent speaking engagement, and post on YouTube. Put your message up in clear terms. Good keynotes will spread on social media platforms.”
“A speaker reel definitely conveys how you interact with your audience. Speakers make sure you have your one-sheet and are correctly interacting on your social media platforms. (Spamming your feeds about you speaking is not correctly using social media.) When applying for speaking events, the coordinator will Google your name before responding to the proposal. If your online presence is not up to standards, don’t expect a response.”
Work your network
Referrals! Get referrals.
“What I find works best for me is just picking up the phone and calling the event planners. If you have call reluctance, that would be a hurdle one would have to overcome, you are your best agent, can answer questions and exude enthusiasm for whatever you speak about. You have to look at yourself as, ‘I am a product that has to be marketed.”
“Check in with the National Speakers Association. Having a book published is usually a pre-requisite for an agent to consider taking you on.”
“What you need is someone to research and call on your behalf. This person should be able to be consistent and persistent. This can take anywhere from 8 -15 hrs/wk. It is possible to find someone on UpWork.com to perform this task for you. It is also important to have a good website, tons of videos, and materials that can be mailed. These items help sell you to meeting planners.”
Do you need an agent, or not?
While a speaking agency might seem like a quick fix to getting new bookings, many novice and mid-level speakers have found their benefits are patchy at best- you may want to consider investing more time and energy in marketing yourself.
This being said, many advanced speakers find that having an agent helps them manager their already booming speaking business, by helping with the arrangements of speaking at events, such as making sure contracts are taken care off and payments are made in a timely manner.
Are you looking for more speaking opportunities? See our Marketplace.
What has been your experience speaker agencies and bureaus? Have you have success or was it a waste of time and money? We’d like to hear your story. Contact us.
This was originally posted on the SpeakerHub blog.