Are you an aspiring speaker or thought leader looking for an agent? Five things you need to know!

Ahh…so nice to be back on the keyboard and sharing some thoughts with you all! I don’t know about you or if this is pregnancy related however with the birth of my first child now less than 8 weeks away this year seems to be slipping through my fingers like sand!

One of my intentions for 2018 was to contribute more value to an incredible marketplace of inspired and motivated thought leaders so I thought I better get cracking before our little bundle arrives. Today's food for thought....tips to consider before seeking out an agent or representation from a speakers bureau. 

I received an email from an aspiring speaker this week that again reiterated to me that general public knowledge about how to gain entry into the world of professional and paid speaking is rather limited...in addition to understanding what it means to be 'professional' in the first place. Truthfully this is not the first email that has prompted me the write this blog, so I thought it was time to shed some light on the subject in order to assist aspiring speakers, and also to be a collective voice for agents and bureau consultants everywhere! 

We all know that first impressions count, so without further delay here are five tips to consider before seeking out an agent or speakers bureau to represent you. 

A BEGINNERS MINDSET

Shoshin (初心) is a word from Zen Buddhism meaning "beginner's mind." I first heard of this term in a prenatal yoga class I attended and I think it is a philosophy that is wise regardless of whether we are mastering a sun salutation or looking to take our speaking career to the next level. A beginner’s mindset enables us to be in an open space of learning, and also enables us to clear our mind of ego. What has that got to do with finding an agent?

As agents, we are constantly filtering out speakers driven by ego versus speakers driven by contribution and we are trained at sniffing out those who are serious (and have done the work) versus those who are attention seekers over email or in person. If you are approaching an agent please do so with humility and a deep respect for what they offer. Don't make assumptions or have expectations. Be grateful for the time they have given you in their busy schedule. 

If you get a meeting or phone call use that time as a learning experience and do not make assumptions with regards to what they are looking for in talent. Ask questions and be curious about the individuals who have given you their time. Learn from their experience and ask for their guidance. Do not be attached to outcomes and focus on building long-term relationships rather than coming on too strong and burning your bridges before they have begun. 

I AM AN EXPERT...I HAVE BEEN SPEAKING FOR YEARS!

There is experience speaking and then there is the art of being a 'professional' speaker. An agent or speakers bureau is there to work with professionals so while practice makes perfect and I would never disregard or discount a person who is putting themselves out there and doing the work...there is still a difference between a hobby speaker and a master of the craft. You need to be aiming for mastery if you are aiming for representation. 

Let me put it to you this way: Margot Robbie didn’t just miraculously end up a Hollywood golden girl and an Oscar nominee. She would have never have made it out of the Australian market had she not spent the entire time she was on Neighbours working with a dialogue coach to perfect her American accent. She knew what she wanted but she was aiming for mastery. This is a ‘professional’ actor. 

Prince began playing piano at 6, guitar at 13, bass soon after that, and had mastered drums at about 14. This is the background of a man who claimed mastery a musician.

I can personally attest to the fact that in the time I worked at Ode Management who are one of the Asia Pacifics most successful speaker management companies that the top talent was often speaking anywhere between 2 - 4 times a week, and in between would be rehearsing, writing new content, blogging, writing books, talking with clients and or working on PR and media campaigns. That is the life of a 'professional' speaker. 

I am unsure why the term ‘professional’ at times seems to be misunderstood by aspiring talent. If you are going to approach an agent claiming to be a professional make sure you have invested time and money into mastery. Like anything 'the harder you work the luckier you get'. 

YES…YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE MATTERS

Digital. It has changed everything. It is everywhere and we can not avoid the way in which it has transformed and is transforming every aspect of the world as we know it. My friend, colleague and influence expert Julie Masters describes this as The New Age of Influence. An age dictated by a new digital landscape where the opportunity for thought leadership and influence presents more opportunity for business than ever before. Why? Because the data is in....and people buy from people more than people buy from brands. 

What does this mean for the world of speaking? As a speaker you are in the game of Influence and never before has there been a bigger opportunity to make your mark and claim your authority...but you need a home in the digital landscape to make that opportunity count. From an agents perspective if you have not created an online profile and footprint then we don't have a product to take to market. In the new age of influence, an onstage brand must have an online twin. 

YES…YOU DO NEED A SPEAKING DEMO/SHOWREEL

I am wiping the sweat from my brow right now. You have no idea how many times I have been asked do I really need a speaking demo to get work. YES. YES AND YES. 

If you were applying for a new job would you need a resume that shows your experience and qualifications? YES. If you are model do you need a portfolio of previous photos? YES. If you are an acrobat on a circus do you need to be able to prove that you can, in fact, do a backflip before breaking your neck in front of a live audience? YES. 

YES. You need to prove that you are in fact a great speaker, with credibility, experience, and relevant content before trying to get a meeting with an agent or expecting that agent to ask a client to pay money to hear you speak. Providing a speaking demo showcases all of those things to not only an agent but also the client.

Before moving on I also feel that it is important to clarify the following: A speaking demo is not a shotty piece of footage shot on an iPhone when your best mate asked you to speak at a local Rotary meeting. Sorry. A professional demo is designed to showcase your brand, content, credibility and is the one marketing tool that builds a case for you to earn money from your message. 

YOU ARE IN PARTNERSHIP WITH AN AGENT

Okay...so the next questions you need to mark in any shade of fluorescent high lighter and answer in more than ten ways before even considering representation. Have you taken responsibility for the success of your own speaking career before approaching an agent or a bureau? 

Bureaus, agents, and consultants have not come into the world to line your back pocket. That would be lovely if that was true, but in truth like you we have our own agenda, and our focus is more often than not on our clients rather than on the product. A good agent, of course, wants to grow a successful business in partnership with you but it is not their responsibility to turn you into a product that sells. That my friend is all on you. 

So what does create a winning partnership? In order for you to have a successful relationship with a bureau or agent, you must have an established speaking business in the first place. That means investing in your clients, managing a pipeline, creating valuable content, staying relevant in your messaging and actively being a voice of authority in your space. 

To clarify the role of the agent is simple. They have access to a network of people who book speakers for events and conferences. These are relationships they have nurtured in some cases over several decades. These are the people that determine the revenue and success of an agency or bureau. If your brand is genuinely 'professional' and the timing is right this network will amplify your message and take your speaking business to the next level. Your agent is responsible for this network, but you are responsible for your input into creating a world-class speaking brand with influence, authority, and impact in the market.