How to increase speaker bureau business

5 Reasons Speaker Bureaus (and agents) Lose Business

by Mike Humphrey, CEO of Nextup Speaker Management

I have been around the speaking world since the mid-80s and have seen a radical transformation in the industry; Catalogs gave way to websites…VHS cassettes gave way to YouTube videos…faxes and mail gave way to email and Dropbox.  The digital era continues to change the rules, yet many bureaus and agents are missing how important some of these rules have become. These “blindspots” are costing them lost sales and marketshare. And all of these can be fixed.

I have listed the blindspots that are losing bookings, and quick remedies to fix them:

BLINDSPOT #1: Outdated Speaker Materials – Can you imagine a major car dealership only providing information on last year’s models? Not only do many bureaus provide antiquated information on some of the speakers they list, but this error is compounded by the 50 other websites that have more accurate speaker information that is easily and surely accessed by customers. Part of building a relationship with clients is your knowledge of your speakers. How is customer trust affected by out-of-date information on the speaker materials? What if you don’t know about the stuff not found in the marketing materials, such as the speaker’s ability to customize speeches, their style on stage, their ability to emcee, etc.? Not having correct information at the time of the sales pitch is one of the most common ways that agents lose the faith of a buyer, especially if they are a new prospect.

  • FIX (part 1):  Set a “6/12” policy…Send an automatic email asking for any changes from speakers: every six months for speakers you recommend frequently, and 12 months for the rest of your website speakers. And don’t just update your website…make sure you also distribute updates to all of your agents.
  • FIX (part 2):  Test your agents every six months on their speaker knowledge, based on the updated materials you received thru your 6/12 policy.
  • FIX (part 3): If you are listing too many speakers on your website to keep current on all of them, REDUCE YOUR LIST!

BLINDSPOT #2: Treating Speakers with Indifference – This is closely related to the first blindspot.  Speakers are our partners. They are the very tools we use to create our income. With that said, how much time do you spend getting to know the speakers you book? From my experience, the answer is very little. You may be surprised to learn that regardless of exclusivity/non-exclusivity, speakers (or their management teams) are willing and able to help you, such as partnering on marketing efforts, getting on the phone with your clients to help you close a sale, collecting names of potential clients onsite as leads for you, and much more. In my discussions with speakers, they are shocked by how infrequently agents call upon them to help and to partner on sales and marketing efforts.

  • FIX: Have your team pick a short list of speakers to partner with, and set up a conference call or and in-person meeting. Focus not only on getting to know the speaker better, but to share sales and marketing ideas which you can do together (such as sending out an email and social media communication utilizing both the bureau’s contacts and the speaker’s).

BLINDSPOT #3: Unprofessional Sales Proposals – I know how hard that agents hustle to pull in every opportunity they can. But one glaringly bad habit that is all too common is the half-hazard sales proposals and follow up correspondence to sales calls. You want to rush on to your next call…that is understandable. Yet if you consider that most customers have to present their speaker options to others (usually either their boss or to a committee of peers), why would you intentionally make your proposal look worse than those submitted by your competition. Don’t just submit a hurriedly assembled list of names/fees/website links. Take the time to also highlight things that make this speaker a perfect choice…things that might make the difference between winning or losing a booking.

  • FIX: Either buy proposal-making software, or utilize the “Auto-Text/Quick Parts” function in MS Word. These tools allow you to build templates and use them to build quick, in-depth proposals that can then be customized based on the needs of each customer.

BLINDSPOT #4:  Not Knowing Your Clients – I am struck by the number of agents who have little clue about the organizations they work with. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen agents lose business because they did not know important customer details, such as the fact that a company’s main competitor already booked the speaker the agent is now recommending, or the failure to highlight to an industry association client an important relationship your recommended speaker has to that industry.

  • FIX: Use websites like Hoovers or LinkedIn to do some simple background on your client, and ask questions to fill in the rest…clients love talking about themselves once you get them started. Keep lists of who their competitors are and who they booked as speakers. Keep up on industry jargon and specific issues affecting that industry. And learn the name of the CEO or Executive Director of the organization.

BLINDSPOT #5:  Failure to be a Social-Cheerleader – If clients realize that you don’t care about them, they will not care about you. In the age of Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc., is so easy to gleefully share links about your client’s events. Yet so many agents see this as a waste of time. However, your customers might appreciate it, and that builds more trust. What agencies got wrong about social media is that they tried to use it to find new business (which it is not built for). Instead, use it to build better relationships with clients. In fact, you should consider social-cheerleading for anyone that you want to work with…it costs you nothing and the more you do it, the more chances it will make a difference regarding their next event.

  • FIX:  Ask your clients for the Twitter address or hashtag, Facebook page, etc. for the event. Make sure to include your company in the message. Subscribe to Hootsuite or other similar programs, where you can post to multiple social media sites with a single message.  Hootsuite event allows you to set a future date for your message to be posted. Work hard to build connections with your customers on LinkedIn, and both follow and asked to be followed on Twitter.

Michael Humphrey has 30 years’ experience in the speaking industry as an agent, manager, trainer, speech coach, and event organizer. He is currently the CEO of Nextup Speaker Management

Leadership Speaker Robert Safian

Robert Safian Urged Audience to Focus on ‘Missions’ in Business

By Jamie Wilson

To wrap up the 2018 VM Summit, Robert Safian, founder of Flux Group and former editor-in-chief of Fast Company engaged the audience through four lessons and seven questions. His aim was to showcase the kind of tactics that define the modern company. These lessons and questions that Safian went through explored office and organization culture and the need for businesses to focus on “missions.” 

Keynote Speaker Robert SafianHis first lesson, speed matters, showcased the importance of building a culture of change within an organization. This was followed by an emphasis on youth. He said that Facebook represents what generational shifts can do. In fact, technology is moving so fast it’s creating “micro-generations” which define them. 

“Digital natives do signal a completely different way with interacting with the world,” he said. 

He then elaborated on the importance of human contact. “We all need each other. Human contact is what drives creativity. The answers to these challenges is human contact,” he said. “Creativity and innovation happens in the gaps between silos.”

Safian then used Microsoft to illustrate his lesson of having a learning culture in business. He showed how Satya Nadella, the current CEO of Microsoft turned the company from a know-it-all into a learn-it-all culture. He went on to explain that in this time of rapid change, having and defining a mission is important—mission beats marketing. 

“I’m obsessed with the idea of mission in business. It started with me looking at a particular data insight stating that workers at companies are less engaged with their work than they have been in the past. At those places where engagement is higher performance is higher.” 

Audience listening to Motivating Business Speaker Robert SafianSafian then posed seven questions to the audience:

  • Is this Day 1?
  • Am I continually learning?
  • Is what I’m doing relevant to the next generation?
  • What do we know for certain?
  • What can we control?
  • What do you stand for?
  • Are you comfortable with being uncomfortable

All of these questions sought to get the audience thinking critically about their position in the workplace and further expanding the concept of focusing on the “mission” within a business in this age of fast-moving change. 

“This is just the way the world is. You can lean into it and have fun with it,” he concluded.


Robert Safian motivates business audiences around the world as a premiere keynote speaker and interviewer/moderator.

The Customization Myth: Why Most Speakers Can’t Make Changes To Their Speeches

By Mike Humphrey (originally published on LinkedIn)

There is a familiar frustration with organizations regarding speakers. You pay them good money to deliver a speech that really means something to your audience, and in turn, your organization. You conduct pre-event phone calls and send packets of info with the speaker. Yet they walk on stage with relatively the same speech they always deliver. It is a good speech, but might have been so much better…it could have spoken directly to the audience and made the impact that you had hoped for.

Why do so many speakers struggle with customizing their speeches?

This starts with how most speakers construct their presentations.  They see it as a 10k road race, with a starting line, a race course, and a finish line. It is a set path, memorized and practiced to fit a fixed time frame and for maximum effectiveness for the speaker.  Have you ever tried to memorize 30 minutes of dialogue for a play? It is hard, and takes tens of hours to work out the physical and vocal aspects of the delivery. Any deviation throws off this linear path from start to finish. So most speakers choose to minimize deviations and stay on their proven course to the finish.

There is a better way, one which speakers should adopt and planners should make a priority in speaker selection. It is the concept of Modules and Bridges (M&B).

Modules are stories that a speaker can tell by heart…the type of stories you tell over a dinner table or over the water cooler. These stories are usually 1-6 minutes long, and can be about data, case studies, jokes, videos…practically anything. Speakers build up their own library of these modules, and can pick and choose which modules to use in a speech based upon what the organization needs.

Bridges tie the modules together. A good bridge provides audiences with an explanation as to why they just heard a module…what they should take away, why that module matters to them, etc.

Now here is what makes M&B special: The modules belong to the speaker; the bridges belong to the audience. What I mean is that the modules contain the key content and delivery that makes that speaker special and unique. But the bridges address why the audience should take the modules to heart and why they should listen to the next module.

By using modules and bridges, it makes it much easier to adjust the focus of the speech, the length of the speech, the tenor of the speech, and the key takeaways. New modules can be created for a particular audience and inserted in the most effective spot, without negatively effecting the other modules.

M&B is a powerful methodology for planners too, as it helps assist speakers in building the bridges that key-in on the vital messages that are relevant to that audience.

If you have any questions on M&B, please feel free to contact me at 973-792-8200 and at


Mike Humphrey is the CEO of Nextup Speaker Management. He has been an event producer, speaker agent, speaking coach, and a manager for more than 30 years, working with the hundreds of the world’s top keynote speakers and thousands of amazing event producers.

How We Do It: Creating a Culture of Innovation

from Deborah Perry Piscione‘s popular book The People Equation: Why Innovation Is People, Not Products

One of the key differences between being a manager and being a leader is the focus from what you do in business to how you get things done. How do you enable employees who have good ideas to build upon them in a safe environment and make them great, free from the burden of bureaucracy? How do you start from a place of trust and measure results, not just in increments of time, but also by creative pursuits, productivity, and overall outcome?

Corporate culture, by definition, is the set of operating principles that people within the organization adopt, whether it is consistent with their value systems or not. People within the organization become indoctrinated into that culture, inevitably learn how best to function within it. Oddly enough, this assimilation makes them resistant to change, usually because of a lack of trust or fear whenever something new or different is introduced. By human nature, people are more comfortable falling back into old habits. Therefore, creating cultural change is just plain difficult, often so problematic that it can be accomplished only in the context of another, larger disruption to the organization.

But there is hope. A simple discipline can radically change your culture to a more open, creative, impassioned environment. It starts with Yes, and…..”

Humans are predisposed to respond negatively to new ideas, as it causes a heightened level of neurological and physiological reaction. This is heightened further when people putting forward those ideas are vulnerable and can be damaged by rejection. The emotion of denial — which often leads to “no” — can feel harsh to someone who has willingly just put an idea on the table. The function of the cerebrum is shifted quickly from “hope” to “anger”, blocking out rational problem solving and creativity.
At this point, compromise can often be perceived as watering down a vigorous idea. Responses of “No” or “Yes, but…..” are most often used: “No, we can’t pursue this idea,” or “Yes, but we can’t do this right now. Maybe in the next quarter.”

Cultures of How avoid the dampening of spirits and the atrophying of our innovation muscles by instead responding with “Yes and…..”. In the language of “Yes and…..” when you are greeted with a new idea, you respond in the affirmative and then try to redirect or build on the idea in a way that makes it more productive for everyone involved, especially the organization. This does two things:

  • It helps integrate the idea into your own thinking. The notion of Yes and….. is a useful device to force you to consider fully how you can make use of the idea. It doesn’t eliminate the possibility of eventual rejection…it simply suspends any rejection until all ideas have been played out and the initial premise has been more fully developed into something better and more useful.
  • It encourages the suggestor to come up with a further, richer, more deeply held idea that can enable further progress.

This practice was in plain sight at the Hacker Dojo in Mountain View, California, where a group of robotics hobbyists gathered to build robots on the weekend.  This all-volunteer group met on Saturdays and included a variety of interesting people: a former NASA scientist, a pioneering senior computer engineer, a precocious software engineer who was an entrepreneur in his teens, and a retired Lockheed-Martin satellite guidance systems engineer, among many others.  The team was trying to solve the problem that robots, without a good guidance system, don’t know where they are. The retired Lockheed engineer had an idea for how to solve this problem.  Satellites solve a similar problem by looking at patterns of stars. He reasoned that in the same way, the robot could look at lights on the ceiling and thereby figure out its location.

After a couple of weeks of effort, the Lockheed engineer came back with a light sensor mounted on a piece of wood.  Another engineer looked at the handiwork, saw the flaws, and used “Yes, and …..”  to suggest ideas to immediately improve the design. So instead of being rejected or limited, the engineer was inspired.  He  quickly came up with a system based on off-the-shelf cameras. A few weeks later the robotic navigation system could provide centimeter-accurate feedback based on ceiling lights.

The beauty of “Yes, and…”  is that it discards judgement, focusing only on boundless expansion of ideas…don’t worry, the judgements will come later. A set of next steps should be planned out to enable the idea to move as far forward as it genuinely has legs to do so.

Innovating is a vulnerable activity because it intrinsically deals with uncertainties. Human biology is built label uncertainties as threats, engaging our “fight or flight” response. Heck, if you knew what the outcome would be, it wouldn’t be innovation. So permitting people to fail is critically important. Providing allowing for failure, you build the psychological safety it takes to free the mind to imagine and be creative.

“For an idea that does not at first seem insane, there is no hope.” — Albert Einstein

Innovation always requires exploring new and unproven territory. By its very definition, innovation implies driving into a space beyond which all previous innovators have gone. If a person is innovative, they are always trying for something that has never been done — or trying something that others have attempted but failed. Frequently, the initial attempt of an idea is flawed. Yet in the act of trying, one might stimulate others to have ideas that are sometimes slightly better than the last.

These ideas may give rise to still other, better ideas, and so on. It is only through the vigorous pursuit of many flawed ideas that a good idea is found. In addition, if the idea is truly innovative and truly reaches for areas that are uncharted, how do we know for certain if it will work or not? This is where risk-taking skills, the collaborative nature of “Yes, and…..” and the primary focus on how things get done drive innovative ideas into remarkable improvements…and sometimes something truly game-changing.

The alternative, which is all too common today, is to limit new ideas from all corners of an organization and instead pay premium prices for great innovative ideas from outside the company.


Deborah Perry Piscione is an entrepreneur, innovation author and keynote speaker. Her latest book, The People Equation, explores the human side of making innovation happen.

Your Happiness Was Hacked – an interview with Vivek Wadhwa

by Wouter van Noort June 8, 2018

First he was a well-known optimist in Silicon Valley, now Vivek Wadhwa warns against the downsides of technology. “Social media is used as a weapon against ourselves and we are unhappy about it.”

Vivek Wadhwa has made a huge turn in recent years. The legendary entrepreneur, writer and keynote speaker originally made his name as one of the most prominent ‘cheerleaders’ of Silicon Valley. He was closely involved with Singularity University, an almost evangelistic club that has been hammering on the huge promises of the technological revolution in recent years. He taught at Stanford University, the Silicon Valley nursery school, and wrote optimistic books and columns about the future.

Book called Your Happiness Was Hacked

Your Happiness Was Hacked: Why Tech Is Winning the Battle to Control Your Brain–and How to Fight Back

But his new book has a completely different tone. Your Happiness Was Hacked, which will appear later this month, is a warning for the shadows of our dependence on smartphones and social media.

“I was too optimistic,” he says from San Francisco on the phone. “Technology would solve all problems of humanity. I left Singularity University because I was disappointed with the Kool-Aid they drank. They believe that technology can do no harm. We are at a crossroads: we now have a choice between a great or a dark future. “

You choose a pretty offensive tone in your book.

“The technology industry has taken over all sorts of techniques from the gambling industry. Gambling machines are designed to lure users back every time by giving nice rewards at the right moments. Even if you lose, you think you win. The methods that tech companies use to make us so addicted are based on decades of psychological research in Las Vegas. We continue to check our Facebook, we want to be rewarded, we keep coming back more and more.

“And in the meantime they are harvesting our data. They want to keep us hooked. And the result is that we are becoming more unhappy. People are no longer coming together. The promise of social media was that people would come together en masse. Instead, we now have Trump. Polarization. All kinds of demons have been released through social media that cleave society. “

Apparently, people also have something to do with those social media: they do not come back for nothing, right?

“Facebook uses our own psychology against us. This is comparable with cigarette companies, drug dealers who feed on our weaknesses. Now companies like Facebook also use advanced techniques such as artificial intelligence, to map our weaknesses even better and to exploit them. It goes way too far what they do. “

Heroin is rather useless and almost exclusively harmful, social media and smartphones are not.

“Of course they are useful if they are only used in moderation. I am not against technology, I am a huge fan of tech. But compare it to marijuana rather than with heroin. A little marijuana can have all kinds of positive effects, on your mood, on your health. But if you use too much of it, it can destroy you. People check their smartphone hundreds of times a day. Many spend entire days on social media in search of social confirmation. Social media are now used as a weapon against ourselves, and we become measurably unhappy. “

Are you not focusing too much on the negative aspect? Think of all the beautiful new interactions between people who emerge through social media.

“That’s my whole point. If you use technology well, if you know its boundaries, then it brings beautiful new things. You do not have to throw all your technology out of the window. But we have to learn to deal with it better. “

Google and Apple recently launched initiatives against smartphone addiction. Facebook also takes measures after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. How do you look at that?

“They only respond to public pressure. There is not suddenly a greater awareness among these companies. I know the people behind it, these are PR maneuvers. They are not serious about it, while the problem is deadly serious.

“Much more is needed than what is happening now. Sometimes Google also shows a perplexing lack of awareness about the problems. Take the demonstration last from Google Duplex, a program that can call independent restaurants and barber shops based on artificial intelligence to make appointments. Just scary. At his presentation, Google proudly showed conversations that could not really be distinguished. The person on the other side did not seem to talk to a computer. This can be used in many very bad ways to deceive people. Google did not even seem aware of this risk at the presentation, that says enough. “

What can people do themselves?

“It starts with understanding how these technologies respond to our psychology, and then take steps to reduce our use. You can turn off push messages, make sure that you switch off your smartphone at set times, do not use smartphones before going to bed. There are all sorts of tricks that vary per person, but they can help to become less dependent. “

It is not just an individual problem, is regulation a solution?

“Yes. We cannot let tech companies determine all the rules themselves, because in the end they mainly want to maximize their profits. Should Apple and Google not be required to install a function so that you cannot access your smartphone while you are driving? Should Google, Facebook and Apple no longer do anything to prevent young children becoming addicted to their products? I think it is inevitable that we make good agreements about this through stricter regulation. We are not doing well enough yet. “

Is There Any Priority Higher Than Leadership?

In a conversation I had recently with a prospective coaching client, they explained that they were not yet ready to move forward because “of other priorities”. 

Are there any priorities higher than effective and inspiring leadership?

The way I see things, every problem we are suffering from in the world is a leadership problem. And every triumph and success we are achieving in the world is a triumph for excellent leadership. The bigger the challenges, the larger the dreams, and the greater the scale of influence—then the greater the importance of outstanding leadership.

Therefore, are there any priorities higher than becoming a better, more successful and more inspiring leader?

Robert Safian Delivers Fascinating Speech to Business Leaders

By Kim Mikus, originally posted on the Daily Herald

Speed matters, as does a willingness to embrace new tactics and change in the workplace in order to grow as a company, award-winning national journalist Robert Safian told more than 500 business leaders Friday.

Safian has interviewed the most innovative CEOs in the country and shared what he has learned from stories he has written about them for Fast Company, Fortune, Time and other magazines. He was the keynote speaker at the annual Big Event breakfast at Marriott Lincolnshire held by Lake County Partners, celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Safian told participants the speed of change in a company is important. “Building a cadence of change” is key, he said, pointing to companies that have succeeded in this area, including Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon. “These companies are completely and continually redefining who they are. It’s not just an online seller of books or a place for college kids to meet each other,” he said. ” These companies are pushing themselves and they’re pushing each other in that process to continue to be more ambitious.”

Safian recently started The Flux Group, a media, insights and strategic advisory firm, after overseeing Fast Company’s print, digital and live-events content for the past decade.

Keynote Speaker Robert Safian

Safian said innovation is key and people in the workplace must work together to make changes happen. “Innovation often happens in the gap between silos,” he said. “We have to break down silos between the different parts of our business to be able to unlock those things” and find creativity and survive, he said.

Speaking of survival, Safian pointed to the father of evolution himself, “Charles Darwin noted that it’s not the strongest of the species that survives. It’s not the most intelligent that survives. It’s the one that’s most adaptable to change.”

Participants at the event said they were inspired by the speakers. “The key note was wonderful. One thing I picked up is that you have to be adaptable,” said Cheri Richardson of Gorter Family Foundation.

General Electric Large logo on Stage

Robert Safian onstage interview with GE Chairman and CEO, John Flannery



RS interview YT

GE’s Chairman and CEO, John Flannery, and Flux Group founder and former Editor-in-Chief of Fast Company, Robert Safian, discuss the future of additive manufacturing and its potential to transform the world of industrial manufacturing at Industry in 3D.