Speakers bureaus have significant opportunities post-COVID, if they leverage partnership, technology, and trust. That’s according to my interviews with two leaders of speakers bureaus – Nick Gold, Managing Director of Speakers Corner, and Rich Tiller, President of the Professional Speakers Network – as well as someone who works extensively with speakers bureaus, Amy Gray, Founder and In-House Speakers’ Agent at New Leaf.
Opportunities for Speaker’s Bureaus
Opportunities abound, starting with high demand for live events. Gray emphasized “the return to in-person events. People have been craving face-to-face gatherings and the pent-up demand has resulted in a tidal wave of events and associated speaker placement opportunities.” Gold agreed, noting “the influx of people joining the world of speakers, and alongside this, many experienced speakers are returning to the world of speaking with their experiences of the last three years.”
Virtual and hybrid events offer potential. According to Gold, “Speaker Bureaus have a new route to market which they can, quite rightly, consider themselves experts in…As such, speaker bureaus can become more integrated with their clients in planning the virtual event, not just booking the right speaker.” Tiller concurred, saying “At first, in the pandemic, we had a huge number of virtual events. Now, it’s a small fraction of all dates.”
For bureaus, establishing expertise in virtual and hybrid events is key, curating top talent for each client’s needs. According to Gold, “Speaker bureaus have probably been involved in as many of these types of events as anyone throughout COVID. As such, speaker bureaus can become more integrated with their clients in planning the virtual event, not just booking the right speaker.”
New book titles published during the pandemic provide fresh content. “The explosion in the publishing world of new titles coming online — authors were busy during the pandemic. Those authors are now available with fresh content to share at events,” Gray observed.
Challenges for Speaker’s Bureaus
Challenges include intensified client demands and shortened timelines. Gold noted “clients appreciate that through COVID, they were asking for additional value beyond the speech from the speakers. This has continued as the in-person events have returned.” Gray agreed, saying “Cycle times on bookings are shorter than ever — what used to be booked 6 months in advance is being booked 6 weeks (or less) in advance in many cases.”
According to Tiller, “Legal teams reviewing contracts is an issue.” Bureaus must work quickly while maintaining high quality.
More speakers now represent themselves, and aggregators dominate search results. “Many speakers, particularly those who are inflexible or tech-averse haven’t adjusted their presentation to engage with a fully virtual audience. Many still seem like a talking head or hide behind shared slides. This poses a challenge to bureaus to either work with those speakers to bring them up to speed on the virtual format or handle the disappointed hosts who feel the speaker didn’t deliver a great virtual experience,” cautioned Gray. Moreover, Gray speaks about how “bureaus that don’t have an effective, on-going, well-funded SEO and paid listing strategy, simply won’t show up at the top of a search for a specific keynote speaker.”
Tiller pointed out, “Because meeting planners are turning over more quickly, speakers bureaus have to re-establish relationships with meeting planners.” Tiller also said, “Speaker’s Bureaus spend more time educating meeting planners” and there’s also “more opportunities for Speaker Bureaus to exclusively represent speakers.”
Gold noted that “the role of the speaker bureau is more critical than ever as they provide critical thought and quality reassurance to clients and event planners to ensure the right speaker of the right standard and style is selected for their event.”
How Should Speakers Adapt
How should speakers and bureaus adapt? Gray recommended speakers “not to approach bureaus” until “event hosts start noticing the speaker’s content and want that content to feature in their upcoming event.” Focus on “reliability, delivery, professionalism, responsiveness, and on-site rapport-building with the event host” to get spin-off bookings.
Gold advises speakers to “think of it, how do I get into the consciousness and become a trusted partner of both the bureau and the individuals within it?” Tiller advised, “Having links to some videos” and identifying “which bureaus they might be working with” in outreach.
Once working together, provide value through excellence, Gray and Gold said. Understand bureaus serve event hosts first. Share relevant news, but don’t expect individual promotion. Focus on responsiveness, not where inquiries originate.
Gold concurred, noting “Speakers and speaker bureaus have an opportunity to form deep partnerships which have benefits for both sides. Taking time to form these relationships is a win-win for all sides.”
For me, the partnership with speakers bureaus has been a priority since I first started working with bureaus about a decade ago, after spending about a decade building up my credibility. As an established keynote speaker before March 2020, I had to develop much stronger virtual presentation skills, and now have both in-person and virtual presentation clips on my speaking website. At the same time, I cultivated a national brand as a future of work expert – thus, The New York Times called me an “Office Whisperer” and “Hybrid Expert,” which really appeals to keynote audiences.
The Future for Speakers Bureaus
The future is bright for speakers bureaus embracing new opportunities. Despite challenges, speakers and bureaus can gain by working strategically together in a post-COVID world hungry for the insights only they can provide. With vision and collaboration, their future is theirs to shape.
With pent-up demand for live events, a flood of new content, and mastery of virtual technology, the future remains bright for this industry if all players can shift mindsets. No longer transactions but trust-based partnerships. No longer siloed but collaborative. No longer narrow in scope but integrating expertise across a range of formats.
Speakers and bureaus, by working strategically together, can gain the most from growing opportunities in a post-COVID world hungry for the connections and insights only they can provide. Visionary, value-driven partnership is key. The future is theirs to shape through relationship, expertise, and a willingness to understand new paradigms. Though challenges remain, this pivotal moment finds an industry poised to reinvent itself in a way that serves clients, audiences and one another at a whole new level. The future remains bright for those ready to step into it.
Speakers bureaus must embrace partnerships, technology, and trust to thrive in a post-COVID world of high demand and virtual events…>Click to tweet
Image credit: Karolina Grabowska/Pexels
Originally published in Disaster Avoidance Experts on May 10, 2023
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky was lauded as “Office Whisperer” and “Hybrid Expert” by The New York Times for helping leaders use hybrid work to improve retention and productivity while cutting costs. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. Dr. Gleb wrote the first book on returning to the office and leading hybrid teams after the pandemic, his best-seller Returning to the Office and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage (Intentional Insights, 2021). He authored seven books in total, and is best know for his global bestseller, Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019). His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 650 articles and 550 interviews in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, USA Today, CBS News, Fox News, Time, Business Insider, Fortune, and elsewhere. His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, Spanish, French, and other languages. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox. It also comes from over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist, with 8 years as a lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill and 7 years as a professor at Ohio State. A proud Ukrainian American, Dr. Gleb lives in Columbus, Ohio. In his free time, he makes sure to spend abundant quality time with his wife to avoid his personal life turning into a disaster. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on LinkedIn @dr-gleb-tsipursky, Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook @DrGlebTsipursky, Medium @dr_gleb_tsipursky, YouTube, and RSS, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace by signing up for the free Wise Decision Maker Course at https://disasteravoidanceexperts.com/newsletter/.