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From questions about booking speakers, presenters and performers, to the contractual process and what you can expect on the day; with 20 years experience and standing at the forefront of our industry we've hopefully thought of, and answered, most common queries. But if not, please call us and one of our experienced agents will be very happy to help you.
How can I become a professional speaker and join a speaker agency?
On stage, trendspotter and futurologist, Magnus Lindkvist
How can I become a paid speaker?
One of the most frequently asked questions.
For some, speaking opportunities come to them and a speaking career evolves organically, for others, there needs to be a strategy. Where to start?
As a starting point, let’s look at what the most-booked speakers on bureau rosters do and what they have in common.
They have relevant content
The most successful speakers have content that is of value to a paying market and their audiences. A market and an audience are two very different things. A market will pay for your expertise and content, an audience will applaud, like it, share it and maybe take some action as a result. To be successful you need to appeal to both the market and the audience.
They are known
This is the biggest challenge – if no one knows about you and how brilliant you are how will they book you?
So, you must not only be a great speaker but a great publicist. However, you don’t have to reach celebrity status to be successful. You just need to be known by the target market you want to be booked by - the market you help. To do that, you need to be totally clear on what you want to be known for.
When starting out, keep things simple and focus on being known for just one thing.
They are memorable
There are so many speakers on “the circuit” (that’s what bureaus call speakers who accept paid speaking engagements). In fact, most established bureaus have thousands of speakers on their roster, not necessarily all of whom will be featured on their websites.
How do those who get booked regularly stay front of mind? They stand out and have something unique – either to say, or about them. They are memorable.
They are easy to work with
This is so important and can make or break a speaking career. It’s rare that bureaus don’t have a choice when making recommendations to their clients about suitable speakers for an event. So to always be top of that recommended shortlist, speakers need to be super easy to work with for the bureau, their client, and the audience. Don’t underestimate the importance of being accommodating, flexible, easy to find, easy to book and easy to listen to.
How do I become a keynote speaker?
The short and simple answer is to be a good speaker. But that alone won’t get you bookings. Let’s talk a little more about what defines a keynote speech.
Traditionally a keynote speech played a specific role at a conference, summit or seminar. This has changed over the years and the term ‘keynote’ is used to describe a variety of different speeches. However, what they all have in common is that they are main stage speeches with the full audience in attendance, and both the audience and client will have high expectations of strong delivery and strong content.
How long is a keynote speech?
The duration of a keynote speech is usually around 45 minutes, but over the years we’ve booked keynotes for 15, 30 and 60 minutes too. Often a keynote will be followed immediately with a Q&A session, but not always. And in many cases, an audience Q&A session can dramatically dilute the power and impact of a keynote’s close.
Whether your presentation is suitable for Q&A afterwards will be determined by several factors – including the content, the aims and objectives of the event, the schedule for the day and pace of the event, to name just a few considerations.
When should I deliver my keynote?
Most often, a keynote speaker will be booked to either open or close a conference.
An opening keynote sets the main underlying theme and tone for the event. It prepares the audience for what’s about to come and gets people seated on time. Some clients will book a well-known name or respected industry figure as a ‘hook’ to attract people to the event.
A great opening keynote sets expectations and gets the audience in the right mindset for what’s going to be happening for the rest of the event.
A closing keynote, on the other hand, can have one of two objectives for the event organiser. The first is to keep the attendees at the conference until the very end. That may mean a special guest or something that lightens the mood prior to a final dinner or party. The second objective is to summarise the event and inspire the audience to take next steps. If this is the case, the speaker may choose to attend earlier in the day so they can refer to previous sessions and bring everything together in one motivating summary.
But as I said earlier, the role of the keynote has morphed over the years. What has not changed, however, is that clients are willing to pay good fees for strong speakers who achieve their event objectives and deliver a memorable experience.
Founding UK editor-in-chief of WIRED magazine, David Rowan
Should you use slides or video in a keynote speech?
Some speakers do and some don’t. What’s the right thing to do? It’s all about the audience experience; will the audience have a better experience and take more from your speech if you use video and slides to support the content? Will elements of your speech be easier to understand or more memorable if they can be visualised? If the answer is yes, then use video or slides.
The other consideration when thinking about supporting aides is what the client wants. There are clients who will say that they prefer a speech without any form of visual aids. Speakers who can deliver either way are at a distinct advantage. So it’s worth considering.
Slides and video should only ever be considered aides to support and enhance your presentation. In case of any unforeseen tech failure on the day, ALWAYS be prepared to deliver your speech without the supporting AV. Have a backup plan.
How much are keynote speakers paid?
Keynote speaker fees range hugely from a few thousand pounds to half-a-million plus for some world-famous A-list celebrity names.
On top of their fee, speakers usually charge clients for their travel, accommodation and subsistence expenses too. Speakers generally travel business or first class and accommodation should be 4 or 5 stars. In addition, clients are expected to provide all staging, sound production, appropriate lighting and any necessary technical equipment.
Let’s look at speaker fees a bit more closely.
Up to £5k
There are some great speakers in this fee range. The £5k figure is often a break-point or budget upper limit for smaller events, so speakers in this fee range are generally working a lot. There are also more speakers in this group than any other. So whilst it is easier to get booked, because there are many more smaller events than larger events, there is a lot of competition at this fee level.
£6k to £10k
Speakers charging from 6k to 10k are likely to have specialist expertise in their given field and enhanced stage experience. They are also more likely to have media exposure and broader name recognition, so will often bring a slight celebrity element to the event, albeit a more minor one.
£11k to £25k
Most clients booking a speaker in this fee range will be expecting a ‘name’ or brand recognition here. You'll find former and current business figures (such as some entrepreneurs and CEOs of household name brands), top academics, TV presenters and known sports stars charging fees in this range.
£25k to £50k
These are popular in-demand speakers; speakers who are ‘of the moment’ and relevant right now. They may be thought-leaders or game changers in their industry, possibly talking on highly current and relevant topics or may be seen as the go-to expert in a particular area. There will be more celebrities and more name recognition here.
These are the A-list speakers that really do put bums on seats. They are the speakers audiences will pay to come and see. The one you’ll get up early for on the first conference day, or the one you stay until the very end to hear them in person. These are the rock stars of the speaker world. The headliners.
Oh and those half-a-million plus speakers? Get in touch and we’ll tell you on the QT.
TV presenter and customer service expert, Fred Sirieix
How do speaker bureaus and agencies choose the speakers they put on their roster?
The ultimate question. The reason you’ve read this far… how do I join a speaker agency and get professional representation?
These questions are top of mind for any speaker really wanting to break into the world of professional speaking. If you can get representation you can focus on delivering great content and leave all the heavy lifting to your agent.
But how do you go about getting representation?
It's probably helpful to understand how speaker bureaus and agents choose the speakers they add to their rosters; what they look for.
If a speaker fits any of the following criteria, they will be of interest to a bureau:
- The speaker’s topic is relevant, current and of interest to the bureau’s clients
- They fill a gap on the roster (fee level, expertise, nationality, diversity)
- They have a new approach or fresh ideas on an established topic
- They have done something noteworthy (new book/research/world record, etc)
- They walk the talk (adventurer still exploring, CEO or politician still in post, etc)
- They are different, have unique content, a unique view, use humour
If you can say ‘yes’ to one or more of the above, you will likely be of interest to a speaker bureau (if they are taking on new speakers).
However, notwithstanding the above, not all speakers are “match-ready” or as I call it “speaker bureau ready”. What that means, is that you have everything needed by an agent or bureau to promote you to the market and get you those bookings.
Being speaker bureau ready means you have all the following in place, as a minimum:
- A great speech
- A well-written bio
- Good quality video
- A clear USP
For a full list of what it means to be ‘Speaker Bureau Ready’ download a copy of my free checklist and see how you get on: https://www.mariafranzoni.me/speaker-bureau-checklist
How many talks should I prepare?
There are many speakers who have made a very good living from one speech that they have tailored to each audience/event. That works if you can keep finding new audiences to deliver to. However, if you are looking to do a lot of speaking engagements that’s going to need some effort to achieve and maintain.
There are other speakers who like to offer a choice of two, three or more speech topics to a client. So rather than being a case of “book me for the speech for which I am known, or don’t” it becomes “which of my speeches would you like to book?” As well as giving the client a choice, it means the speaker can return to that same client in the future and offer other topics.
There is no set rule regarding how many speeches you can offer, but when given too much choice often a booker won’t decide and might become overwhelmed. The power of three is a good number, five is also a good number. As soon as you reach double figures you risk giving too much choice.
However many speech topics you offer, they must all fit under one broad category so that you don’t confuse the client. Your topics need to make sense when considered together. A speaker who talks on team building can absolutely speak about communication, performance, and leading teams, but it would be odd to have a topic such as politics and current affairs in the list unless the topic can be related to the main theme of team building.
About the author, Maria Franzoni
With 20+ years in the speaking industry, Maria Franzoni is an experienced booker of speakers. She held senior positions with two of Europe’s leading speaker bureaus, founded her own multi-million-pound international bureau and has worked with the good and the great of the speaking world, including first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong; Body Shop founder and environmentalist Anita Roddick; singer-songwriter and political activist Bob Geldof; business magnate Richard Branson and F1 and NASCAR racing champion Jacques Villeneuve.
Maria hosts the Speaking Business podcast, founded the Speaking Business Academy, and now works with speakers, agents, and bureau teams to help them grow their speaking businesses, get more bookings, charge higher fees and create profitable businesses. To find out more, visit https://www.mariafranzoni.me