Posts Tagged ‘Washington Speakers Bureau’

The term “co-broker” is often used in the real estate industry, but did you know it also comes into play in the speaking industry as well? “Co-brokering” in the speaker bureau world refers to one speaker bureau going to a second speaker bureau in order to buy, or “co-broker,” a speaker for a customer. Most of the time this occurs when the speaker in question has an “exclusive” relationship with the speaker bureau. The Speaker Experts have been involved in 100s of co-brokered events on both the “selling” and “buying” side of the equation. Based on our experiences in this area, we present “The Four Myths of the Speaker Bureau Co-Broker”:

  1.  It does not cost you more to work with a bureau that co-brokers an exclusive speaker from another bureau. 
        A common misconception here is that all speaker bureaus split commissions in a co-broker situation so that the price will be the same regardless of speaker exclusivity. While this is indeed true in many cases, it is not always the case. Some co-brokering bureaus do not split commissions and require that the “buying” bureau add their commission to the standard speaking rate. This practice is frowned upon by the IASB but it does take place on a regular basis.
  2. The level of service provided is improved in a co-broker scenario.
        Remember the “Telephone” communication exercise? A group of people sit in a circle, one person thinks of a sentence and then whispers that sentence to the  person sitting next to them, etc. The funny part is that something like “The Red Fish Sails at Dawn” comes back at the end as “ The Dead Fish Snails at Prawn.” This perfectly illustrates the communication outcome you often have in co-broker situations.  No matter how good, professional and well-intended the participants, communication does not improve with additional variables. Chart One shows you the standard flow of communication when working directly with a bureau. Chart Two is an example of a co-broker communication chart. We do not want to get too deep into the co-broker weeds, but most speaker bureaus have a specific position to handle the bureau relations (the internal speaker representative, as shown in the chart), further complicating the communication chain.

        Tough to imagine a situation where Chart Two improves the service process. This process bogs down even more when a West Coast bureau is co-brokering a speaker with an East Coast bureau for an East Coast based client. A time change working against the process is never a help.
  3. Any speaker bureau can secure any speaker. 
        A speaker bureau that represents a speaker on an exclusive basis does not have to co-broker all of their speakers. As a general rule, larger bureaus like Harry Walker and Washington Speakers Bureau will not co-broker their top tier speakers for two reasons. First, the demand for speakers like President Clinton, President Bush, Secretary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice and others is higher than the supply. Why split commission with the competition when they can make a full commission? Second, and probably most important, is the communication issue outlined above. There are a lot of moving parts when scheduling speakers of this stature. The expectations from both the speaker and client sides are equally high.  Communication and execution needs to be perfect; there is no room for error.
  4. Co-Brokering never makes sense. 
        There are times when co-brokering might make sense for you as a buyer of speaker:
        If you are scheduling multiple speakers for an event and do not want to be working with multiple agencies.
        If you are working with an agent that you have worked with for years, who understands you, your process and your desired outcome.

Co-brokering can work, but when it happens, you should understand it is taking place.  Asking the following questions to your speaker bureau when scheduling a speaker will help you understand and decide how best to move forward:

      • Are you co-brokering this speaker with another party? ( If the answer is no, we are done and thank you for reading this blog…if the answer is “yes,” read on)
      • Are you splitting commission or “adding on”? There may be times when value is there to pay a higher fee….the agent maybe attending the event, giving you books, etc.
      • Have you ever worked with this bureau before?  Speaker bureau contracts, processes, and cultures differ. Your bureau should have experience working with the other bureau.
      • Have you ever worked with this speaker before?

Co-brokering speakers is not rocket science but there are many layers and nuances to the practice that can make a transaction of this nature challenging.  The Speaker Experts are always available to answer questions ranging from finding the direct source of a speaker, to how the co-brokering process works.

Here is our list of the five most influential people in the world of commercial, corporate and association speaking, all of whom influence the economics and politics of the professional speaking industry. While they also may influence speaking style and content, that is entirely different list that we will save for another day.


5.  John Graham, President & CEO at ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership : Somewhat of a symbolic pick here, but Mr. Graham leads the American Society of Association Executives that represents over 21,000 Association Executives.   The Association community spends millions of dollars a year on speaking fees, but if you factor in the number of corporate groups who schedule a speaker after seeing a speech at an Association event, that number goes into the billions.  Associations are a force multiplier for the speaking industry, and John Graham leads that force.


4. Chris Anderson, Entrepreneur and Curator of TED Talks : Under  his leadership and stewardship, TED has transformed the way we in the meeting industry view the impact and potential of a session.  Who knew a relevant, impactful and entertaining message could be delivered in 20 minutes?  Prior to the emergence of TED, speakers were just getting “warmed” up at the 20 minute mark.  While the long form keynote session will always play an important role in the meeting world, the innovative approach taken by Chris Anderson to the short form presentation makes him one of the top 5 influencers. Of course, we cannot forget the man with the original vision of TED, founder Richard Saul Wurman.


3. Harry Rhoads Jr. and Christine Farrell, Founder and President of the Washington Speakers Bureau : No explanations needed here.  Washington Speakers Bureau is the largest speaker bureau with the most prominent roster of professional speakers in the world.  WSB has been a leader in the speaking world for over three decades and they continue that trend today.  Rhoads and Farrell are the chief influencers and architects at the top speaker bureau.  They make the list.


2. Robert B. Barnett, Partner Williams & Connolly LLP : Mr. Barnett is the premier lawyer in the world representing authors, broadcasters, and former government officials.  His clients include Presidents Clinton and Bush, Secretary Clinton, Alan Greenspan, Queen Noor, George Will and dozens more high-profile celebrity speakers.  When a high-profile government official leaves office, chances are their first stop will be a visit to the law offices of Willams & Connolly.  This may be the case when President Obama leaves office in 2017 as well.  Mr. Barnett’s roster of current clients and potential future clients make him  not only a high-powered Washington lawyer but a top 5 influential person in the speaker world.

Berners Lee

1. Tim Berners-Lee, Director of the World Wide Web Consortium : Another symbolic pick here, but the man who invented the World Wide Web created a paradigm shift in the way we research, view, promote, evaluate, negotiate and contract with speakers.   While Tim Berners-Lee was at the leading edge of this wave, Mark  Zuckerberg/Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook),  Dick Costolo/Biz Stone ( Twitter) and  Jeff Weiner (LinkedIn) all play major roles in influencing the world of professional speaking.

Of course the real “influencer” is the meeting industry as an aggregate – armed with the tools given to us by the aforementioned internet pioneers, meeting leaders drive market demand, price and the business of professional speaking.  We are a diverse mosaic of meeting influencers, but putting us all on the list would take too long so we have settled on these five!

Please let the Speaker Experts know who would be on your list.

Gary McManis & Jay Conklin