I had the privilege of meeting Norma this weekend at the Speakers Summit in Los Angeles. She is the Founder and President of Black Speakers Online, a speakers bureau that represents African American speakers. Norma will be presenting her workshop “Speak With Ease and Confidence,” in her FREE Microsoft sponsored web conference on March 14. All you need to participate in this great workshop is a computer.
I absolutely love this business. What other business provides the opportunity to meet so many positive people with powerful messages? As a bureau owner I meet more speakers than I can remember. Since my company not only represents speakers but also trains them, speakers flock to me with their stories, hopes, products, ambitions and joint venture opportunities. I love it when speakers come to me prepared. This means they have a brand, a clear message, a well-thought out presentation and professional marketing materials that appropriately represent them. Whether the speaker is a beginner or a long-term professional, when they come to me focused on what they are trying to accomplish as a speaker it is music to my ears.
However, in the past 10 years of coaching speakers I have found that less than 10% complete the process that will take them to the professional speaker level. Those entering the profession are stunned when they realize that becoming a professional speaker is not just about standing in front of a crowd and sharing what you know. It is also about crafting an entertaining presentation, spending money for professional marketing materials, taking the time to know the industry and being realistic with expectations of a bureau. I have two pet peeves regarding how speakers view bureaus.
First, speakers should not expect the bureau to work miracles for them. A bureau can only position a speaker based on the quality of the materials that are sent to the bureau. If the quality of what you send paints you as a $5,000 speaker, don’t expect the bureau to book you for $10,000. It’s not going to happen. The bureau’s responsibility is to send to the client all of the speakers who are appropriate for a booking. When this is done the client is the one who makes the decision. There are no guarantees. So don’t expect the bureau to over-represent you and don’t expect guarantees.
Secondly, speakers should research the bureau before contacting them. Many bureaus have a niche market. When you intend to approach a bureau, make sure it is a bureau that supports what you have to offer. It is clear that some speakers merely print labels from Dottie’s list of bureaus and blindly send them out. If you are a speaker who has done this, ask yourself – how many bureaus called you back? Chances are if a bureau did call you back, it is a bureau that is just starting or is a bureau that fits your niche market. Those of us in the business a few years generally do not have time to call back on unsolicited speaker material. This is very obvious to us at Black Speakers Online when we receive unsolicited materials from a non-black speaker with no cover letter to explain why they have sent their materials to us. So if you are a speaker moving forward in the business, do your homework. You will find that the time you spend understanding the industry, how bureaus work and the bureaus most appropriate for you will pay off handsomely in the long run. Good luck!
Norma Thompson Hollis is Founder and President of Black Speakers Online, a speakers bureau that represents African American speakers from various fees, topics and geographic areas. Black Speakers Online is a division of Speakers Etcetera, a training company that assists speakers in all areas of development. Norma can be reached at 310/671-7136, by email at [email protected]. Meet Norma and many other top speakers bureau at the 2006 Magnificent Marketing Symposium.