In a relationship based on trust and reciprocal recognition of reputation, guest speaker agencies keep in close touch with their clients to engage the ideal speaker with respect to theme or activity. There is a move away from the theoretical and purely motivational, towards topics related to the speakers’ actual experience.
SELECTING THE RIGHT PERSON
The National Speakers Bureau was the first of its kind in Chicago. They represent a variety of speakers divided per sectors so as to match the right speaker to each event: Jim Abbott, famed Major League baseball player, Robert Ballard ocean explorer and Howard Putnam formerly CEO Southwest Airlines. Talking about how their clients choose a guest speaker, Brian Palmer, the NSB’s President reports “These companies usually have a name. We ask lots of questions to help them refine what they’re looking for and provide a basis for a decision”. Among the speakers who attract most interest, he lists Sully Sullenberger, the pilot who made that safe landing on the Hudson River in New York City, “He is asked about a good deal”.
WHO ENGAGES SPEAKERS
Carlton S. Sedgeley, President of Royce Carlton, a NY-based speaker agency, says that their clients are “Those producing events for various companies, colleges and universities, forums and clubs, regional non-profit groups and hospitals”. Then, he goes on to explain what they do “Usually the clients don’t need advice because they already have a speaker in mind. What we do is give a series of suggested topics related to that speaker”. As to how clients decide on a particular speaker, he says that what counts most is “the visibility of the person that clients know we represent” and, when he’s asked how far clients go to get the speaker they want, expands on visibility.
At Eagles Talent (NJ), the speakers are allocated to three categories. There are Key speakers – as in the case of the international best-selling author and expert in competitive business communication Beau Toskich. Then there are Sports Stars (such as the NBA Legend Larry Bird and World No. 1 Tennis Icon André Agassi). The third category are the Entertainers (including the Queen of Swing Holli Carroll). There are also other subcategories based on the talent or specialty of each speaker. This breakdown helps clients navigate the portfolio. The fees range from US$5k for Ed Hearn, the former New York Mets catcher to US$100k and above.
THE MOST REQUESTED SPEAKERS
Bill Lee, Vice President of Eagles Talent, continues “My sense is the trend is moving away from purely motivational speakers and towards leadership speakers, business thought leaders, and inspirational speakers who inspire people through what they have accomplished whether it is a mountain climber or very successful entrepreneur.”
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AGENCY AND CUSTOMERS
Michael Frick, President and Founder of Speakers Platform “We send our clients a pre-event questionnaire to help us determine the best fit for their particular event needs.” As an example, he explains “One of the nation’s leading credit card companies called Speakers Platform wanting speakers for a leadership event. They needed three speakers to do two presentations each, within a tight budget. So, all three speakers needed to reside within the event location’s state and negotiations where needed. Their agent tracked down three ideal candidates: Nikki Stone, Mike Schlappi and Henry Marsh. The event was postponed for over a year, but their Speakers Platform agent periodically kept the client updated on the speakers’ availability. Once the client was able to hold their event, he facilitated a smooth booking process.”
Published in the hard-copy of Work Style Magazine, Spring 2010