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Bureaus are not (necessarily) your friend.

We have met speakers that seem adamant, that getting into the bureau roster is what they need to beco
Standing oration
Bureaus are not (necessarily) your friend.
By Kristian from Speakers Loft • Issue #17 • View online
We have met speakers that seem adamant, that getting into the bureau roster is what they need to become successful. When we ask why the response is usually: isn’t that the way things are done?
Is it?
We asked one speaker about his perspective.

The bureaus can only do so much for a speaker wanting to build their career.
They, too, are the victims of demand in the marketplace. If nobody is looking to hire a speaker on medieval society in Germany, there is not going to be any sales. Not through a bureau and through anywhere else. So where does that leave us?
According to Corey Perlman, from Atlanta, Georgia:
“Bureaus can be tough nuts to crack, and even if you get on their roster, that doesn’t mean you’ll get any more jobs. Even if you are on their site, you are not necessarily on their mind.”
The people working at bureaus are just human, and as such, they have precisely the same flaws as the rest of us. For one thing they can’t keep everything in their working memory. They probably have to remember hundreds of speakers.
According to science a person is able to have somewhere between 5 and 9 items in their working memory. So that is a problem - and it could lead to a lot of wasted time:
Be careful that you don’t spend years kicking in the door to a room, that only has another locked door in it. It is not the best you can do for your career. But the bureaus can do something else:
“For speakers, I think the biggest challenge is finding the clients that have the budgets to pay the higher fees. That’s why I find bureaus so valuable as they tend to bring the clients that are willing to spend 5-figures for a speaker. I would generally say the leads that we can find, tend to be more in the 4-figure range.”
Bureaus are lifebelts for clients venturing into the sea of speaker booking. Photo by Lukas Juhas.
Bureaus are lifebelts for clients venturing into the sea of speaker booking. Photo by Lukas Juhas.
An insurance policy
I think Perlman hits the nail on the head with this one. Bureaus optimize but do not create demand. For any client, the bureau is an insurance policy against mediocre speakers. The clients who can afford insurance are typically also the ones that don’t mind paying more for top talent.
It is just like cars (and other expensive items). When we make financially significant purchases (and a speaker often is), we tend to use perceived brand value as a proxy for product value. It is a simple way to safeguard our investment.
A brand needs repeat customers and can’t afford to get a bad reputation. They will suffer more from a dissatisfied customer than a single speaker will. So bureaus vet their talent more carefully (we subconsciously assume) - and that is why the clients pay them more.
Brands and bureaus put their name on the line - thus creating insurance for clients. Photo by Hannes Egler.
Brands and bureaus put their name on the line - thus creating insurance for clients. Photo by Hannes Egler.
Keep grinding
But the bureaus only work, if there is already a demand. So maybe what you need to do is, start somewhere else entirely: what is your signature story - and when you see people respond to it, improve it.
And lastly, don’t worry too much. You don’t need to get there in a year, but you do need to keep going:
“For me, it’s been almost ten years. The hardest parts are the ups and downs. I had to learn not to get too high on the wins and too low on the losses. Those swings can drive you to an early grave if not careful. When I look back, what seemed to be catastrophic losses were not, and the home runs were great… but fleeting. Keep grinding, and the wins will generally outweigh the losses.”
That’s all for now. I wish you tons of success and remember that you have tons of speaker colleagues right here.
See you with a new edition in a week. Next weeks issue will be about what a bureau employee told me speakers can do to stay top-of-mind.
Kristian
Did you enjoy this issue?
Kristian from Speakers Loft

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