I have been a professional speaker for a little over 20 years, with my first solid paid gig in January 2000. I have undertaken many other ventures over the years, but I have been speaking consistently throughout, with it often being my primary source of income given the frequently long payback period for startups.
I recently reached a significant threshold in my speaking career. I am now represented by Provoke Management, an elite speaker management company. I was honored to be invited by its co-founder, author and speaker Brett King, and I’m delighted to be working with the exceptionally experienced Jay Kemp and Tanja Markovic at Provoke, with my talented colleagues including the likes of Jim Marous, Dave Birch, Robert Tercek, and Jo Ann Barefoot.
The timing was perfect for me, with the commitment required by my various other ventures this year unprecedented, and definitely ready to take my speaking work to the next level.
Over the years I have been approached by numerous speaker agencies suggesting that they represent me, but it has never seemed like a compelling proposition, given I already have substantial inbound enquiries, I am highly visible to potential clients, and in my companies I already have a great team to take care of the required administration.
So what is the value to an established speaker of being represented by a speaker management agency, or more accurately, a great agency?
An agent is a true partner with their speakers, working towards long-term success. Since they represent multiple speakers they have a keen sense of the market, where demand is, and can provide valuable input into matching speakers’ expertise with where it can generate the best opportunities.
Agents are closer to the market than any individual speaker can be. They can more effectively price their speakers and, however good a speaker is at negotiation, it is always valuable to have a third party acting on their behalf.
A good agent will have a quality website and good engagement on their email newsletter and social channels with clients and event organizers. I have good reach, but of course agents can access a large and diverse network of buyers.
My first jobs were in sales and I’m more than happy to sell myself as well as my companies’ offerings. However it is been many years since this has been needed or a priority. Active sales activities, notably with existing clients, can provide a high reward on effort.
Hopefully my reputation is fairly well-established, but for those clients who have not directly experienced my work before, working through a top-level agency such as Provoke offers an imprimatur of quality and full confidence in my capabilities to deliver value.
Admin and time saving
There are always many administrative tasks in speaking, from contracts to procurement processes to coordinating briefings and through to booking travel. Moreover, clients are not always considerate of a speaker’s time, peppering them with trivial messages. A good agent will act as a buffer and take as much of the burden as possible off the speaker.
It is important to note that it usually only makes sense for a speaker to align themselves with an agency or bureau if they have already reached a significant threshold of succcess. Many early-stage speakers are keen to find someone who will get them work, but agents will focus on the best speakers in their pool who already experience significant demand, or as in the case of Provoke, limit themselves to a small number of high-performing speakers.
If you’re interested in the path of a professional speaker, also have a look at How to become a top professional speaker: 5 key insights from a leading keynote speaker.