10 Things to Know About Speakers Bureaus

Rachelle Gardner

Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

If you’re a speaker or trying to become one, then your most immediate challenge will be, “How do I get speaking engagements?” In your quest to get bookings, you’ll probably want to know whether you need to consider joining a speakers’ bureau. Here are a few things to know before you get started:

1. It can be helpful to be part of a speakers’ bureau since it’s one way to get potential speaking engagements, but its usefulness will depend on who you are, how “in demand” you are as a speaker, and who your speakers’ bureau is.

2. Speakers bureaus are NOT a magic ticket to lots of speaking engagements. Most of them are not proactive, i.e. there is nobody out there “pitching you” as a speaker. Most are basically a listing service.


3. If you’re gaining a reputation as a great speaker, AND if you have an effective, dynamic website with plenty of information about your speaking topics, a speakers bureau can be valuable for getting more traffic and increasing your bookings.

4. Speakers bureaus used to be more necessary and effective before the days of the Internet. Nowadays it’s more common for speakers to do most of their bookings on their own through their websites.

5. Many speakers feel the best thing a bureau does for them is manage the billing and the event contract, which can be valuable and save a lot of headache.

6. A speakers bureau is probably worthless if you’re not yet an accomplished speaker, or if you don’t have a compelling website.

7. You could be rejected as a potential client by a bureau. Most won’t take you on if you’re not already commanding $3,000 to $5,000 per booking.

8. It’s usually not a good idea to sign an exclusive agreement with a bureau, which would mean they’re the only ones allowed to book you. Maintain the freedom to book your own engagements independently, and to sign with more than one speakers’ bureau.

9. Whether or not you’re with a bureau, always have a “speakers packet” ready to send upon request. Have an electronic version available that you can email, and a print version to mail if they want a hard copy. Some speakers have their complete “speakers packet” available on their website.

10. Getting to know other speakers and networking with them, both in person at conferences and online, is much more effective than waiting for a speakers bureau to book engagements for you.

If you want to know more, I recommend you ask as many friends as possible: What speakers bureaus are you with? Are you happy with them?

Are you a speaker, or planning to be? How are you getting bookings? Any experience with bureaus you’d like to share?



Agent @RachelleGardner shares ten tips about speakers bureaus. Click to Tweet.

If you’re an author/speaker, read this before signing with a speakers bureau. Click to Tweet.

A speakers bureau is worthless unless you’re an accomplished speaker and have a compelling website. Click to Tweet.



36 Responses

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  1. I’m a very, very reserved individual, and public speaking is…

    …one of my favorite things in the whole world!

    I’ve gotten bookings by talking with pastors and PTSD professionals, and indicating my availability. It’s strictly word-of-mouth, and I intend to keep it that way. (I have been knocked back by health issues, and so have stayed off the stage for a bit, but I’m hoping that I can resume. “Hoping” means “gonna if I have to crawl”.)

    I looked into a speakers’ bureau, but when I talked with them I had this image of gigs in which I outnumbered the audience. They didn’t understand that the venues in which I could be most effective were specialized, and that you didn’t bring in someone to talk about combat trauma on a Caribbean cruise.

    I’b be curious about anyone else who does speaking having superstitions that they follow. I have a special pair of black jeans and a special belt. Wouldn’t think of taking the podium without them.

    Or my lucky $2 bill.

    Or my blue suede shoes. Yes, really.

  2. I am always willing to speak. I have no experience with bureaus … never heard of them. My engagements have come from church … word of mouth. And I speak on surviving hardships. An old acquaintance saw an article of mine … she was giving an overview of the article to her WMU group … and when she saw the writer’s name, she said she shouted, “I know her!” She contacted me immediately, and I told her I speak on hardships … she is trying to get me at her church this fall. I haven’t charged a fee … but I ask for help with hotel/ fuel expenses.

    I have had a love/hate relationship with speaking since high school. I get sweaty palms just praying out loud or speaking up in Sunday school. But I have seen God work so amazingly, and I remind myself. I know what God is capable of doing.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Sounds like you’re letting your speaking develop naturally, which is perfect if you don’t have a burning desire to build a speaking ministry right away. Kudos for doing something that doesn’t always come easy!

    • Shelli, I don’t know if this will help you with the “sweaty palms” thing, but it helped me –

      I always start a talk the same way.

      “Hi, I’m Andrew Budek-Schmeisser, and I appreciate your having me here today. I’ll be talking about (subject).

      “But first, I’d like to dedicate this talk to my wife, without whose help I would literally not be here, because in 2002 she saved my life.”

      At this point I bring up a slide of Barbara, with a brief verbal dedication in the text box.

      In 2002 I was bleeding out internally after a surgery, and she was the only one who realized it. So it’s true.

      Point being, a quick (and short) change of focus to Barbara gives me a little bit of a breather, and reminds me (in something that’s built into the talk) that I am part of a lareger whole. It lends perspective.

      And yes, I did this while we were divorced. Loyalty trumps legality.

  3. I have no experience with speaking bureaus. I cover my own costs, and trust God to lead me to the correct audience; it is only right, when spreading the Gospel.

  4. The only public speaking I’ve done has been through our church. And in my master’s degree classes. Giving a presentation was a requirement for almost all my classes.

    I’m curious, if I don’t currently have a speaking platform, and I’m unpublished, how important is it for me to begin developing one?

    I didn’t know about speakers bureaus. Thanks for sharing this, Rachelle!

  5. I enjoy public speaking. I think I’m good at it…yet no one offers me a live microphone. Huh.

    But public speaking is not something I’m going after. Yet.

  6. Unless I’m missing God’s assignment for me by miles,I don’t see myself speaking in venues that use speakers bureaus. I’m more the church-women’s-retreat kind of gal. And like Jeanne, I had oral presentations in grad school. The nicest compliment I ever got was overheard from a fellow student: “she made a speech on long-term care insurance interesting.” I’d much rather talk about eternal life!

  7. Billie says:

    Could you give me more information on the “speakers packet”. I have spoken in a few different venues and would love to pursue it more now that I am one year away from the ‘EMPTY NEST’ (said in a far away echoing voice)!

  8. Always start a speech with a joke:

    If Moses were alive today he’d come down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments and spend the next five years trying to get them published. (After he got an agent – of course)

  9. Great points Rachelle.
    I’ve been speaking ever since an essay I wrote appeared in my local paper. I rarely send out speaker’s packets now since the info is on my website. But, Billie — a packet would include info a potential organizer would want to see is:
    a bio sheet (can be bulleted points),
    a “What are people saying” page,
    a one sheet (this has your photo and small blurbs on your topics
    an introduction — from a paragraph to a page that would be read by the person introducing you — double space, write challenging names out phonetically unless you don’t mind having them butchered!
    Two copies of a Speaker’s Agreement (or contract) One signed and returned, one kept for their records, a postage paid envelope.
    I also have a questionaire (mine is 3 pages) which I have at my desk for when people call. I use this as a guide, so I don’t forget to go over important details about an event.
    One final note – a speaker’s listing might charge an annual fee for you to be included on their website. A speaker’s bureau will charge a % of your speaking fee (usually 25 – 30 %) and they get their pay from the deposit which is probably 50% of the full speaking fee.
    Church events can be much less formal in the arrangements. Hope this helps.

  10. May I give a little pitch for Christian Communicators conferences? Vonda Skelton and Carolyn Knefely run Christian Communicators. They not only have conferences each year, they also maintain an email loop for conferees that is helpful for anyone who wants to speak–mostly, maybe, for those wanting to speak in women’s ministries.

    Check them out.

    Also if you want to see a nicely done speaker’s site, check out Vonda Skelton’s site. It’s nicely done because it has all the info that people need to help them decide if Vonda is the right speaker for them.

    No she’s not one of my clients and I don’t get a kickback for talking about her. I just think she’s really sharp.

  11. Amy Baggett says:

    I’m a small-potatoes author and speaker in DFW. The best advice for getting engagements I have is to have clips of you giving a presentation on your website, so potential groups can see you in action and have the assurance you’ve done this before. Also know your target groups’ meeting planning cycle – if you send your marketing materials a month after they’ve planned their year, you won’t be considered, no matter how good of a fit you would be.