Speakers, Should You Pay to Play?

Over the years several speaker bureaus approached clients to pay for “advertising”. The advertising is in the form of any of the following:

  • Pay to be in a catalog we are printing and distributing to our clients
  • Pay to be on our website
  • Pay to be featured on the homepage of our website

Notice; all above begin with the words “Pay to, pay to, pay to.”  Don’t bureaus earn their money by charging a commission on speaker fees you ask? Why yes, they do!

I’m not a fan of paying for the things I have listed above. This was all the rage in the ’90s. When speakers started putting up websites, many bureaus lost money. They lost money because their clients could easily find a speaker on the internet. To make up for lost revenue, bureaus started charging for extra services. “Advertising,” they said. I’m not a fan. I’m not a fan at all.

Catalog requests are mostly gone. They ended doing those years ago. But, the plea to have a special place on the website, or be “a specially selected, endorsed speaker” is still happening. I am puzzled by this option.

If a bureau feels that you are the best fit for the job, THE best fit for the client, why should it matter whether or not you have paid for a special ad on their website? I’ve asked a few who work in bureaus this very question. I never get an answer.  Of course, I think the answer should be, “It doesn’t affect choice”.

If you are approached to do this and are tempted to do it, here is what I suggest you do. Ask the bureau to take the fee for this extra service out of the first booking they get for you! (They won’t like this suggestion, trust me.)

Please understand, I don’t have anything against bureaus! I love them! And you should too. Many times they open doors you would never be able to open yourself. You should joyfully offer a percentage for business brought to you, paperwork and details handled. Full disclosure: I have worked with a few speaker bureaus. They have hired me to work with their agents to sell you. I think they play an important role in our industry.

My sense is that the percentage of the fee paid to a bureau, now typically 25-30%, is a fair price to pay for their services. Extras such as advertising should be the cost of doing business in my opinion.

Lois works with professional speakers who want to book more business, make more money and avoid costly mistakes! She can be reached in the following ways:

Phone: 314.822.8225
Twitter: @loiscreamer
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/loiscreamer
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/loiscreamer
For more information on Lois’ business check out http://www.bookmorebusiness.com as well as http://www.bookmorebusiness.tv!
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