Hiring That Elusive Speaker’s Agent

The irony of the speaking world is that although speakers want gigs, most don’t feel comfortable selling themselves. They would rather hand that particular part of the business to someone else by hiring a speaker’s agent. My first exposure to this aspect of the speaking business came at the age of 25 when I got my first job as a speaker’s agent. Today, I still receive calls and emails each week from speakers who want me to represent them. Although I understand the need for this service, it is not something I am pursuing at this point.

However, I do understand that there is a great need for speaker’s agents in this business. The reasons why someone may want to hire one include:

  • I’m not great at selling myself.
  • I’d like to come off as more professional by having someone else approach clients.
  • I’m losing business because I can’t keep up with the leads.

If you can’t keep up with your current leads, you’re in the perfect position to hire a speaker’s agent. To help you in your quest, I’m sharing these tips and best practices.

No One Can Sell You Better Than You

A speaker’s agent can help you with many aspects of finding, securing, and planning speaking gigs. That said, I recommend that you keep the closing of sales as your own personal duty.

In our recent podcast, “Sharpen Your Sales Game,” Colleen Francis and I discussed the fact that no one should be able to sell you as well as you. Therefore, keep this important task for yourself and hire a speaker’s agent who can help you with lower paycheck items like booking travel, sourcing leads, sending out email queries, and other tasks on your to-do list. Your speaker’s agent should be someone who can take things off your plate to free you up to concentrate on building relationships, developing content, and closing new business.

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Finding a Speaker’s Agent

There are several speaker’s agencies out there, for example, SpeakersOffice and CMI Speaker Management. However, you should know that most will only be interested in you when your business is booming. Many are looking to represent speakers with fees of $10-15 thousand or more, and those with lower fees, (like Kate Holgate of Alliance for Success Speaker Management), have long wait lists.

As an alternative, I think the best place to find a speaker’s agent is your audience. Keep your eyes peeled when you are out speaking and ask your inner circle of friends, neighbors, church members, networking groups, former employers, etc. If you do advertise, be prepared to sift through a lot of paper and dead ends.

Qualities to Look for in an Agent

If you do find a potential speaker’s agent among your audience or inner circle, remember that you can train in job duties, but there are still important qualities to look for. Here are some qualities you’ll want in a person representing you:

  • Sales background
  • Good with people
  • Understands your industry
  • Understands the speaking world, or at least the business world and meetings
  • Organized and disciplined
  • Isn’t going to starve if things move slowly

Tips for Developing Your Agent

Many new speaker’s agents don’t work out because it tends to be a part time job without much training, so things can fizzle out quickly if they don’t have success early on. I recommend:

  • Set Expectations – In my early career as a speaker’s agent, I worked in my basement office on straight commission for three years. It worked out because I didn’t have a lot of bills to worry about at the time. We doubled business every year and by year three I was able to support myself with the job. The speaker’s agent you hire should understand the reality of the job. If you are a busy speaker there will be plenty of business coming in, but if you want someone who will help launch your speaking career, it will take 1-3 years and will require a solid support system in place.
  • Provide Training – It’s important to spend a lot of time and energy on the front end to get your new agent familiar with your business. Have them come to see you speak live and also stand next to you afterward as you talk to people. Let them shadow you on client calls and meetings. Really make them a part of your team.
  • Set a Trial Period – With expectations set and proper training in place, your speaker’s agent should be able to grow into the role. However, just in case things don’t work out, you should begin the arrangement with a six month trial period, so you are not locked in long term.

A good speaker’s agent is not the easiest thing to find, so don’t rush things. Take your time, hire slow, give them solid training, and try to secure a few wins for them early on so they feel like they are onto something special.

See you soon Wealthy Speakers!

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PS:  In Chapter 7 of my book The Wealthy Speaker 2.0, I spend a good amount of time walking through the process of hiring a speaker’s agent.  For more tips, make sure to get your copy today.