By Dr. Thomas Lisk, LHD,CSE, President, Professional Speakers
After 27 years
in the business of professional speaking, I still find the BIGGEST objection
to marketing and booking speakers, and that includes booking myself
to speak, goes something like this: "I have never heard speaker
xyz before—can you prove to me he (she) is the perfect speaker
for this situation?"
How do you prove
to others you are the best choice, yes, and the perfect speaker? In
1977 when I was marketing and booking only one speaker initially, Carl
Stevens, CPAE, videotapes were not yet the rage. But even then, people
wanted a preview audiotape unless we had a very strong referral from
someone the prospect respected and trusted.
When I previewed myself as a speaker in 1980 at a Speakers' Showcase
for a large bureau (owned by Dr. Jordan Dupree) in 1980 in Atlanta,
I realized that this was a great venue for the meeting planner who was
searching for a speaker. Meeting planners have too much at risk by hiring
the wrong or a bad speaker.
Later on, as I expanded our own bureau and we looked for ways to proactively
market speakers for bookings, I went back to the showcasing idea with
a BIG improvement. I had seen some of the NSA chapters offer video showcases
for their speaker members, so I thought why not combine both a video
shoot with a showcase for meeting planners, and thus was born our unique
Speakers Success Showcase.
Success because the speakers who participate are marketed collectively
to up to 5-10,000 meeting planners at our Showcases—many meeting
planners attend and purchase speakers. At our Showcases since 1976 we
have combined the events with the videotaping option. So, in a worst-case
scenario speakers can still go away with a great demo video tape (or
footage, or DVD, or CD, etc.) that they can use to promote themselves
and we can use to promote them ongoing.
Ideally we have meeting planners in the audience who want to book you—the
individual speaker; however, we cannot guarantee that. Since we as a
full-service national speakers' bureau work on commission when we book
speakers, we want to book participating speakers just as much as they
want to be booked.
Showcases, when combined with a video shoot sponsored by a large bureau,
are a different animal than when an NSA or MPI chapter sponsors such
an event. The bureau has a vested interest in the success of the showcase—we
invest the small participation fee the speaker pays to market and host
the event. We do all possible to generate attendance and to market each
speaker after the event—some of the speakers we are previewing
"live"' for the first time, too.
At our showcases we invite other bureaus to attend, and many have attended.
Talk to any legitimate speakers' bureau and you will find they all will
ask you, even in 2004, for a preview tape. We help speakers solve that
problem—and much more. Speakers with quality tapes can often find
more booking on their own, and justify higher fees. We have had over
600 different speakers speak at our showcases since 1996—three
to five events a year—and many of these speakers have written
us letters of rave review, not just about the event itself, but about
how they have secured more bookings with their tape or directly due
to the showcase.
Think about it! Even on a speakers' web site you are encouraged to showcase
yourself with some footage of yourself in action. Meeting planners realize
you will only show the best of yourself on your web site. At a showcase
they not only can hear you "live," they can meet you and talk
with you over breaks or at lunch. We suggest that serious speakers,
and this includes veterans, budget for at least one showcase per year.
I have noticed that many speakers get better the more showcases they
give. Keep showcasing.
And, if you showcase with a bureau and they don't instantly book you,
don't get mad at the bureau. The bureau wants to book you. Look objectively
at yourself and determine how you can improve, so the next time you
showcase you will be sellable. And, continue to upgrade your tape and
provide copies to all your bureau partners. Too many speakers get a
tape and don't send out enough to do a fair market test. Turn to the
experts at showcasing and creating tapes to market and book more programs.
We are one source.
A. Lisk, President, Professional Speakers Bureau