How To Work With Speaker Bureaus
We have a phenomenal guest today we have a very, very, very special guest today, her name is Maria Franzoni. You may have heard of her because the day we’re talking about speaker bureaus, and when it comes to this topic of speaker bureaus working with Speaker bureaus, there are no finer experts to bring in than Maria. So as a speaker, at some point, you’re going to consider working with Speaker bureaus just to help you grow your fees, and your business. Speaker bureaus can not only get you higher fees, but they can also get you booked by the right type of clients and take all that horrible admin stuff off of your shoulders. When the relationship works, your business is going to fly to the stars. Sounds great. How do we make it happen? Today’s guest has spent 23 years amazing working in running international speaker bureaus. She’ll be sharing some insights into what it takes to get listed and work with bureaus. Yes, Maria Franzoni is in the hot seat this week.
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How To Work With Speaker Bureaus
Maria Franzoni 1:15
Be gentle with me, James. Oh, well, I
James Taylor 1:19
will. Absolutely. So bureaus is one of my favorite topics. I know some speakers blow hot and cold on the topic. So for those that don’t know too much about bureaus maybe don’t currently have a bureau that they work with, what is the benefit of being represented by a speaker bureau.
Benefit Of Speaker Bureaus
Maria Franzoni 1:37
There are lots but let me give you two or three to start off with. So bureaus as you know, because you weren’t very successful with yours, tend to attract more qualified clients. And the clients that they attract tend to stay with them and work with them regularly. So they have a great relationship with their clients. And what do I mean by qualified, I mean, clients that actually have decent budgets, and are prepared to pay for the value that speakers bring, which is really important? Speak of your staff, spend their time booking speakers, that’s what they do. So they are really skilled at it, it’s what they do all day long, they are booking speakers there may be dealing with the briefing calls, they’re dealing with the follow-up, they’re doing the prospecting, sending proposals, this is all they do. They’re not distracted by having to go and deliver any speeches, they’re focused, totally focused on that one thing. And as you know, the more you do one thing, the better you get at it, right. And then another one, which I think is really important to speakers is they collect the money in advance, which is you know, you want to be sure that you’re going to be paid bureaus get paid before you speak and they hold on to the money for you on your behalf. They deal with all those horrible contract negotiations, you know, things like withholding taxes, that with all the different VTS, suppliers getting set up as a supplier, arguing with those long scale payment schedules. So there’s a lot of advantages, and there’s much, much more, but those are three that immediately come to mind.
James Taylor 3:07
Now, I know whenever I talk with another speaker, other speakers, and they see that I’m represented by some bureaus, one of the very common follow-up questions they asked me is, how much are you paying commissions to these bureaus? How much are they taking? So is there a rule of thumb that we can be thinking of as speakers in terms of what a bureau should be taking? It might be useful at this point, also to think about, because there are some bureaus that obviously disclose the total fee of what they’re what the client is paying. And there are other bureaus that work in slightly different ways. So what about Commission’s where should we be thinking there?
Maria Franzoni 3:39
So the Commission’s do vary, there isn’t a blanket figure, but there is sort of like an industry norm if you like, or an average and the industry norm is around 25%. Now, the reason you can’t dictate that every Bureau works in that way is that you have no idea what the Bureau’s overheads are, and what their costs are. But most bureaus, if you ask them, What is your commission, what’s your percentage, they will tell you, you know, they were working with and they should be transparent about it. And there’s no reason why they wouldn’t be transparent. There are times when that percentage will change is that if you are so let’s say, for example, your fee is 1000 pounds 25% on 1000 pounds isn’t worth getting out of bed for many bureaus, if most bureaus won’t touch that, because 250 pounds, won’t cover the cost of the logistics, let alone anything else, that’s alone pay that the salesperson. So it does depend. So if it’s in those cases, you might find that the fees doubled, because the markup needs to be higher in order to cover the overheads. Then when you get to the other end, and the fees 500,000 or 200,000 is going to be a much, much smaller percentage, much tinier. So it’s very difficult to say it’s a blanket figure because of the different fee levels because of the different overhead levels, but if you’re working with the Bureau, I don’t think it’s you know, inappropriate to ask why not?
James Taylor 5:01
And I do something I don’t know how many other speakers do this, most of the speakers think I’m totally insane to do this, so, so I’m fine about being a bit crazy, but I actually is, you know, inquiries come in, I will often give it to Speaker bureaus. And sometimes is because I know that they’re going to be able to negotiate a higher fee than I would possibly negotiate myself. But other times, you can work with those bureaus, if you have a really strong like close relationship, I find that I can work with them. And we can come to an agreement, they say like, if you bring in inquiry, it’s this and we have a slightly different arrangement if if we’re doing it. And for me, to be able to take some of that stuff away. You mentioned all the admin or the contracting or the invoicing, all the other stuff. I’m kind of happy to be a bit of money for that. But I know not everyone is in the same situation there.
Maria Franzoni 5:48
Yeah, and some speakers I know, in the past, you know, when I’ve worked with speakers, I’ve said to them, Look, if you’re passing me the inquiry, I’ll take 20% rather than 25%. And speakers are happy with that. And that 20%, it takes so much rubbish off your shoulders, because I mean, if you had to get listed, you know, as a supplier, and if you’ve had to deal with, you know, taxes and visas, and whatever, it just, it saves you so much hassle, it really does.
James Taylor 6:13
Now, I’m going to make a list here, because I’ve done pretty much all these what are the biggest mistakes speakers make when it comes to working with Speaker bureaus, I’m gonna tick them off as I heal these mistakes I’ve made.
Giving Inquiries To Speaker Bureaus
Maria Franzoni 6:24
But you know, I don’t think you’ve made any of these mistakes. Actually, James, because obviously, we’ve worked together when I was running over. So I know exactly how you work very well with yours. So first of all, I think the biggest mistake that speakers make, and it’s the same mistake they make if they’re working directly with clients or prospects. So please don’t do this. But you assume that every Bureau is the same and that they have exactly the same interest, exactly the same end client exactly the same fee ranges, and you treat them all the same. And you can’t, you cannot do that. That’s the biggest mistake. I would say that the second one is assuming that once you’re listed, that’s it, you’re going to get inundated with bookings it doesn’t happen that way. So sometimes it’s unrealistic expectations as well of the Bureaus. So I think those are the biggest mistakes. If you haven’t done any of those don’t think
James Taylor 7:17
don’t bag avoid the other mistakes I’ve made instead, a different set of mistakes.
Maria Franzoni 7:22
List I’ve got a long list. Short show.
James Taylor 7:27
So I started, I knew that when I started getting into the reason I was talked to really kind of get into working with bureaus is my friend Josh Lincoln, who was a great speaker said to me, you have to realize that 75% of the higher-paying, speaking gigs come via bureaus in one way or the other. So that was the kind of the reason I wanted to speak on certain types of stages. And that made sense for me to kind of work with bureaus. But I kind of had to build I think I know what with 30 different bureaus, but we’ve got a new one just started working. They called Epic keynotes, great Bureau base, all that Massachusetts. Yeah, so So you got 30. Let’s say my case, I’ve got 30 bureaus, other speakers might have 10, bureaus, or even a couple of bureaus. Should you work with lots of bureaus or just limit who you work with to maybe to one or two,
Working With Multiple Speaker Bureaus
Maria Franzoni 8:16
it depends, it’s very difficult to give a black and white answer, it depends. If you are looking to work internationally, you are better off having bureaus that represent you in the various territories that you want to be working, because they have a knowledge of that territory, they’re in that place, they can meet with the clients, they know what’s going on for the clients, they have better knowledge or an International Bureau that has offices in different areas. So then you would need more than one bureau. When you’re starting out as well, you don’t know which Bureau is going to be the one that’s or the two or the three that are going to book you regularly. So you say you work with 30 bureaus, I guarantee they’re not all 30 of them are booking you a lot and suddenly book you just once it’s exactly the same as clients, you’re going to have 80% of your turnover is going to come from 20% of the bureaus that represent you. So probably six of your bureaus give you the majority of your business, you’re nodding at me, you see
James Taylor 9:12
if the Pareto Principle,
Maria Franzoni 9:14
yeah, but the thing is, you don’t know what percentage it’s going to be. And so depending on how much you need in terms of business, and how many bookings you need per year, that will dictate how many viewers you need to be listed with. And then as you work with them, you’ll see, but you have to check with bureaus. If you’re listed with the Bureau and you’re on their roster, you do have to check is it okay if I’m listed with other bureaus? And if they’ll normally say yes, that’s fine, because they’re not going to necessarily give you as much business as you are expecting from them. But then check who’s your direct competitor so that I don’t worry, you know, have that question because there are certain bureaus that don’t want to have the same people because they’re approaching the same clients. And most people don’t even ask that question. It’s a good question added to your list,
James Taylor 9:59
but it’s interesting as well, I’ve gone with a couple of beers listed on a couple of Bureau sites. And I was very excited to work with these bureaus because even the famous bureaus that you would know of, and I’ve had, like, can count on one hand, how many bookings I’ve had from those bureaus, and it can disappoint me, I thought, Is it be what I’m doing wrong. But then just having conversations with them, I suddenly realized that, where I sit on my, where my topic is, I’m probably the lowest priced in my field, they’re putting me up against maybe 50 to $100,000 speakers, I’m not quite in, in that in that range. And so they were saying to me, it’s just because you’re, you’re almost being discounted at the start, because we’re placing you because your topic you speak on alongside these other ones, and they almost instantly if it’s a company, that almost instantly discount you because you’re the lowest price. So it’s kind of like knowing where you are in the pack. And then I’ve worked with other BF, I’m just thinking I’m about to do a call after this with a prospective client and the bureau that I’m working with on this. It’s a very small bureau. There’s one, one person, she’s the owner, and she is the agent. And we have done so much business together this year. It’s incredible. But chances are, she’s not going to one of the big famous bureaus that you would know of, but there’s a relationship there. And she, she’s going out to kill for me as an agent as well. And she believes in what I do. And she really understands what I do as a service.
Maria Franzoni 11:27
Oh, that’s interesting. So there are three people that for me match that criterion. I’m not going to guess who it is. But I think it’s going to be one of three people. So that’s interesting. I know I think I know is going to which bureau that will be absolutely true. And I remember we saw London speaker Bureau originally represented Bear Grylls exclusively. And they had an arm that was the management company. And they took bear on when he was 21. And unknown built him up, you know, in fact, they were involved in the TV career, etc. And he has his fees went up, they were always finding people to go slotting underneath. So when his fee went very high, I won’t reveal his fee, because it’s not appropriate here, then you’d have to have several people at different levels. So that’s what they’ve done with you, James is they put you in, and as your fee goes up, somebody else will come in and fill that slot because you need to when somebody says this is the topic, this is the result? Well, these are the different levels. So you have different levels of speakers, which is actually a really good way of finding is there a gap on someone’s roster because that person said that we should talk about putting your price up, James,
James Taylor 12:28
that there you go, that’s, we’re going to cut, we’re going to come to a seminar that you’re going to do, I think I’m going to come out and come along to this as well. So I’m James Taylor, keynote speaker, and speaker business coach, and this is the speakers you podcast. If you enjoy listening to conversations that will help you launch and grow your speaking business fast new thought possible, then you’ve come to the right place. Each week we discuss marketing strategies, sales techniques, as well as ideas to increase the profitability of your speaking business and develop your craft. You’ll find show notes for today’s episode as well as free speaker business training at speakers you.com. This week’s episode is sponsored by speakers, you the online community for international speakers, speakers, you helps you launch, grow and monetize your speaking business faster than you thought possible. If you want to share your message as a highly paid speaker, then speakers will teach you how just go to speakers you.com to access their free speaker business training, the speaker Bureau your let’s say your weather speaker bureau. And when we talk about speaker bureaus, I kind of feel it’s like when you say you work with a client, a corporate client, you don’t really work with a client, you work with those individuals that are there you have it as a person as a relationship. So how do you let’s say you’ve got a bureau relationship, it could be with the owner, Agent of that company, it could be with an individual agent, a territorial agent, for example. How do you get them to book you more?
How do you get booked more
Maria Franzoni 13:51
Well, they do. That’s the $64 million question. I don’t know why it’s 64 or not 84 or 90. But it is the same, isn’t it? That’s the big question. How do you get booked more? And there’s a lot around this that you can do. But let me give you a couple of tips. The thing for me is, once a speaker is on the roster, that speaker needs to be easy to work with. So I need you as a speaker, I needed you when I was in my bureau, I needed to be responsive, really fast. So you know this because you have a lot of direct inquiries as well you know that when a client comes to you looking for a speaker or when they go to Bureau looking for a speaker, they might come at 10 o’clock in the morning. And by midday, they want all the suggestions. They want to know what their fees are, and they want to know if they’re available and how they’re going to tackle the topic. You don’t necessarily have access to all the speakers, diaries, and calendars. And you don’t necessarily have access to all of the speaker topic descriptions, etc. If it’s slightly different from the norm. So you’re now relying on these speakers to come back to you super-fast. And what happens is you’ll go out they probably want four or five suggestions. You probably go out to 10 people in the hope that four or five will come back to you in time. And those are the ones who will include. So often in a bureau, in fact, I know that speakers corner, for example, Speaker Bureau will play the game of saying a speaker’s name and say that person’s not available, who were the other 20 that you could put in. So often we would have 20 or 30 names for one particular topic that you can put in so that for those occasions where you got to really fast, get the answers, you know, who can go to straight away, and the ones that will get booked again, and again. And again, it’s the ones who’ve got some kind of process or system to come back to you super-fast, whether they’re able to do it, or whether they have some kind of support. That gets difficult, the busier you get, you do have to have that kind of support. But so that makes it really easy, really easy for viewers
James Taylor 15:44
that line tight time kills deals because happen with. I’ve actually, I’ve taken work from other speakers in the past, because we’ve got, like you said, like systems, we’ve got other members of the team is not just me, that I’m on WhatsApp with everyone, in addition to emails and those six bureaus I work with intensely. We’re messaging with each other pretty much every day. So so there’s that speed. And that’s it. That’s pretty much all the top professional speakers versus the celebrity speakers. Then there’s that speed, they’ve got that system, or they’ve got a team or even if it’s just them, they just have a way of kind of dealing with that.
Maria Franzoni 16:25
It’s interesting, actually, James, you mentioned celebrity speakers, because the celebrities, the big names, clients will wait for their availability. And in some cases, those celebrities, as big-name speakers actually expect the client to sign a contract beforehand and pay a deposit. Before they even say yes, I’m interested, yes, I’m available or not, because they are inundated with time wasters. As you can imagine, so I’ve had more than one occasion where I’ve taken a very substantial deposit usually 50% of a celebrity’s fee or a big name fee and held it in the account while I’m waiting for that speaker then to say yes, I’ll do or no, I won’t. And if they say no, I then got to give them my money back. So that’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes for a client that perhaps people don’t know. And I think that’s another thing about viewers who can always work really hard. I’ve got I’ve digressed. But I just want to make this
James Taylor 17:16
so that there’s this idea of being responsible, being reliable being quick to respond. So that Bureau can get back to that client to put you forward know, you’re available for that. I know some bureaus will put you forward, even if they don’t know you’re available for some work, obviously in slightly different ways as well. But one of the things I certainly find, and I don’t know, if you find the same thing, just talking to other speakers, if we’re maybe coaching other speakers, is that they say listen, I’ve got this speech, Mike and a signature speech. And I’m just not getting booked from bureaus. So now you’ve got an event coming up really soon a seminar really soon. So maybe talk about that, because I think often when we find it’s not necessarily that the speaker isn’t a great speaker, but there’s just there’s a lack of probably called product-market fit in the startup world. And it’s not quite hitting. And I think it’s actually one of your USPS, Maria, is that you’re very, very good because you know the market very well. But you’re also good at knowing us quirky speakers very well that we have a passion for this topic, but you kind of got to find out. So tell us a little bit about the seminar. Tell us about maybe how it can help speakers who have maybe the core of a really good speech, but it’s just not connecting with their buyers.
Maria Franzoni 18:33
Okay, well, this seminar you’re talking about is actually very much focused on, you know, working with and getting booked more by Speaker bureaus. And one of the criteria for that is of course, that you have to have a current bookable topic, because if you haven’t, then what happens is and in fact, Andrew Davis says this in the book that he co-authored with Michael Porter, which is absolutely correct. The less famous you are, what happens is that the client will book your speech, and then book you or buy your speech and then buy you but the more famous you are, if you’re a celebrity, they’ll buy the celebrity and then say, What would you like to talk about? So the topic Yeah, it’s great. And in fact, the book is a great referral speaker if anybody hasn’t read it, but that point is so valid, isn’t it that the more known you are, the less you have to worry about your topics, but the less known you are, you have to get you got to get your topics, right. You got your topic, right, you made it unique as well. You gave it a unique spin, and you chose a topic that was hot in the top 10. So that helps as well, that makes it a lot easier at the top five.
James Taylor 19:43
But also on that, you know, it was nice to feel okay, my topic I’m kind of hitting a couple of different things. I’m hitting basically creativity, which is a growing trend, obviously a trend that was in that top five but also hitting kind of future work adapting to change intersection, but it’s entering a bureau sent me the other day, his latest list of the top 10 things that they’re getting booked for. And it made me I was talking to my wife just this morning about like, do I need to tweak this a little bit to be a bit more with not so much where we are now, but maybe where we’re going to go in the next year, two years. So, so take us through like if someone’s coming to your seminar that you’re running, take us through what that seminar actually looks like, and maybe ticket, how it can help those established speakers who have been speaking for a while, who are known for something who maybe feel the need to do a little bit of repositioning, so they’re still relevant for the market with bureaus.
Maria Franzoni 20:42
Okay, well, there are lots of things that I think speakers will find useful. But the one that the one thing that a lot of speakers have an aha moment about, and I didn’t realize it speakers didn’t know this. But obviously, I’ve worked with speakers for a long time. And when I was running my bureau, I invited 15 speakers to come to a session, this was brought back in 2018, so that I could talk to them about how speaker bureaus work, so to help them get more business. And most of these speakers had been working for years, and had been successful and actually had no idea of the inner workings of a bureau. And once they did, so you could see the light bulbs going off. Because I think now I understand that now I know how I need to relate to Bureau people, I know how I need to speak to them, I know how I need to help them and how I can support them. And I’m glad to say that many of them have sort of put that into action and had great success. But that I think that’s the big lightbulb moment for people who are already successful. But we’re covering four areas, we’re going to look at the different types of bureaus, including managers, agents, and bureaus, which are all different. So that you can identify, you know which bureaus you should be going for who should you be working with who your partners, how the speaker bureaus work, which I’ve already mentioned, which is a revelation, if you haven’t worked in the bureau, you would not believe it, it’s just incredible. And then, of course, how to get listed with bureaus, whether you’re listed already, or whether you want to get listed with more, it’s important to know how to go about that, because the mistakes made by people by speakers approach and bureaus. Oh, my goodness, I could write an entire book on that. In fact, I might have to do that at some point. And then, of course, you’re on the roster. Now what you know, the questions that all speakers have had I say connected without pestering, how do I get booked more once I’m booked? How do I get books more often? How do I create a partnership with a bureau? So all of those good things are what we’re covering, and people will come away also where they are you speak of you’re already checklist, which I think will make life a lot easier, because you can literally tick the boxes and say, No, I need that I need this, I need to do that.
How to get listed and booked (more often) by Speaker Bureaus Nov 26, 2021
James Taylor 22:44
Now I’ve attended your seminars before in-person ones, this is going to be a virtual seminar. So it means it’s open to anyone anywhere in the world. They’re watching this just now. How do they get registered? How do they do it? Is anything that needed to know? Is there an application process they have to go through? What’s the process of registering for this event?
Maria Franzoni 23:02
Well, what we’ll do is we’ll put a link on speaking business TV if that’s okay with you, James. Otherwise, you can go to the speakingbusinessacademy.com website and go to the events page. And it’s called How to get listed and booked more often with bureaus. And I’d love to see you there because you will come away with some aha moments you really well. I’m hoping you’ve had a few aha moments today. I don’t know did you learn anything, James
James Taylor 23:24
I’ve learned loads of things. I’ve also learned things I probably shouldn’t have done. But what’s nice about it is I think it’s been very challenging. We shouldn’t be too late, but it’s been a very challenging 18 months for bureaus. And but pretty much every Bureau I speak to now you can feel the confidence in their voice. They’re, they’re a bit overworked. Just now because what many of the Bureau’s had to do is they have to let a lot of people go in the individual agents. So they’re doing double the amount of work now with half as many people and now you’re seeing this tsunami of bookings and I think this is going to continue into next year very much so into next year for it now in persons and so the feeling a little bit stressful probably the thing that is not at the top of their mind is adding new speakers to the roster, but they always do need to add new speakers so you want to ensure that you are one of those speakers are getting added to these rosters. So that’s why you want to go to Maria’s seminar and kind of learn exactly how to do it just takes away a lot of the nonsense because I had to learn all this stuff just from asking other speakers making mistakes. So this event the seminar you’re doing didn’t exist when I got started so I wish it had because I would be signing up for it. If I had existed then
Maria Franzoni 24:43
you’re very kind and you’re very kind Thank you, James. But yes it is you can make a lot of mistakes and come back to the fact that bureaus are very busy. This month is ridiculously busy. For bureaus it really is crazy and it’s not a great idea to approach bureaus at this time and that’s another thing we’ll definitely be covering is you know when should you approach a bureau? Because they’re just this just varied November Busy, busy. Yeah.
James Taylor 25:08
Yeah, exactly. Timing is everything on this. Maria thank you so much. I would just say coming on the show sure war by saying
Maria Franzoni 25:17
thank you for being kind. Thank you for being here.
James Taylor 25:20
I really want you to go if you’re watching this just now, if you are a speaker, doesn’t matter whether you’re just getting started as a speaker, you’re an aspiring speaker, or you’ve been doing it for many years. Just sign up Gordon Gordon, the seminar you are going to learn tons of things it’s going to be to make you a better speaker, a more bookable speaker, which is kind of as we go into 2022 what we all want now.
Maria Franzoni 25:41
Absolutely brilliant. Well, James, I know you’re going to rush off because you’re
James Taylor 25:45
you can subscribe to the SpeakersU podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts while you’re there. Leave us a review. I really appreciate it. I’m James Taylor, and you’ve been listening to the speakers you podcast.