How Can a Speaker’s Fee Vary from One Speaker Bureau to Another?

Posted: August 12, 2014 in Be In The Know
Have you ever called three different speaker bureaus regarding the same speaker, only to receive a different quote from each bureau? It happens more often than you would think; here’s why:

1. Net vs. Gross Speaker Fee
There are two types of speaker fee structures, net and gross:

        • Gross : The speaker pays the bureau a commission based on the gross speaking fee. This commission can vary from 10% to 33%, and sometimes higher depending on the speaker and the bureau’s “production” for that speaker. (If you ever wonder why a bureau might be “pushing” a particular speaker, their commission can be a factor; a post for another day). A speaker may offer a higher commission to a bureau as they hit “target” levels throughout the year.
        • Net : The speaker has a “net” fee that he/she requires per speech, and asks that a bureau add their commission on top of that net fee.  With a net fee, you can see a wide variety in fee quotes from bureau to bureau.   On a $10,000 net fee speaker, the bureau “mark-up” can be as little as 10%, or as high as 50%.

The difference between “net” and “gross” pricing is the number one factor that causes speaker fees to vary. Some bureaus have a consistent 20% commission, some mark-up depending on the amount of labor it will take to execute the contract, and, frankly, others mark-up based on the competitiveness of the selling situation.  This move allows a bureau to undercut another bureau’s price or even increase the fee.

2. Bureau-Speaker Relationship : No secret here – some bureaus have better relationships with certain speakers. If a bureau books Speaker A 50 times a year, and has done so for years and years, they are going to be in a position to potentially negotiate better terms for the client hoping to book Speaker A than a bureau that only books Speaker A once or twice a year. On that same line, it is safe to say that the bureau with the close relationship may have insider knowledge that permits them to offer the speaker at a lower fee; here are some examples:

        • The speaker is booked in your meeting city or close to it during you meeting
        • The speaker is trying to break into your industry and sees your audience as a showcase opportunity

Bottom line, a speaker with a gross honorarium understands the importance of fee integrity to maintain bureau relationships. On that same thought, a bureau with a close relationship to a speaker is more likely to understand when particular deals might make more sense.

3. An Agent’s Experience and Professionalism Within the Bureau : Speaker fees can vary depending on the following

        • location (east coast, west Coast, domestic, international)
        • length of presentation
        • type of speech

If the agent quotes a fee without having an understanding of these key points, you may be receiving inaccurate information. Speaker bureaus maintain a database on thousands of speakers.  Even the best, most detail-oriented bureaus can have inaccurate fee information on speakers they have not worked with recently.  An experienced agent within an IASB-member bureau will recognize potentially inaccurate fee information and take steps to obtain the proper data.

The fee for the same speaker can vary from bureau to bureau, along with the services and professionalism of the company and its agents. The speaker bureau industry is similar to most in that you can almost always find a lower price if you shop around. Of course you often get what you pay for when purchasing based on price. The Speaker Experts offer no judgment as to your organization’s best options. We do feel it is important for you, as the consumer, to understand how speaker fees work when determining where to identify and secure professional speakers. Bottom line, if you are working with a bureau you trust, The Speaker Experts suggest you stay the course.

Gary McManis & Jay Conklin

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