Published Podcast Ep. 29 | How Speakers Bureaus Work With Authors with Ken Sterling

In this episode we'll talk with Ken Sterling of BigSpeak about the ways authors can enhance their books and brands through speaking.

1:30 – Can you tell us a little about BigSpeak and what your role is there?

  • Originally BigSpeak was a small company called Consciousness Unlimited, focusing on corporate consciousness, or integrity and treating people well.
  • Since transitioning to BigSpeak in the early 2000s, we’ve become the leading speakers bureau for business topics. We’ll have about 1,600 events this year, most in businesses and dealing with leadership, innovation, change, HR, marketing, etc.
  • I’m the Executive Vice President, so the President and I are running the company, and I’m very involved with the authors and in marketing. We’re very intentional about the connections we make with who we’re onboarding.

5:10 – Do you see a concentration of speakers who come out of a certain genre, maybe business?

  • Of the events we’ll do this year, about 75% will be business topics
  • The other couple hundred events will be an open canvas, possibly leaning towards softer skills like mindfulness, emotional intelligence, or health and wellness.

6:50 – What’s the benefit of working with a speakers bureau versus going it alone?

  • It’s better to have someone else brag on you, rather than brag on yourself.
  • If you’re an author who has written a great book and wants to write a great speech, who is in your corner helping you perfect that speech? A good agency won’t just be an order taker, but will help the speaker to connect their story and engage with audiences.

10:40 – What should a prospective speaker consider when vetting a bureau?

  • Typically, using an agency results in higher gross fees. They also have someone who can vet opportunities, and contract and bill for speaking engagements so that speakers don’t have to worry about the details or chasing money.
  • I start the conversation with potential speakers with questions about their lives, whether they’re married, teaching at a university, etc.
  • I ask about what they’re looking for, if they’ve worked with a bureau before, what they like and didn’t like, and what they want to do with their speaking careers.
  • How often do they want to speak during the year, and how does that tie in to their personal lives and schedules?
  • When you’re working with a bureau, consider if you want them to help market you, bring in new business, handle logistics, or get your fee up. From those expectations you can reverse engineer whether you need a speakers bureau or a management company.
  • A speakers bureau tends to be more proactive. They’re interfacing with the direct public, doing marketing, and they have a large rolodex of clients.
  • A speaker manager is much like a business manager, waiting for the leads to come in and writing checks and sending contracts. They’re not as much on the marketing side and focus more on administration.
  • Sometimes the relationship with a bureau is exclusive, sometimes it’s not.

15:20 – In your experience, how does speaking benefit the book, and vice verse?

  • The book and the speaking drive each other, but it comes down to the author/speaker.
  • The demand often comes from the speakers themselves. We market them and push them to new channels, but there’s momentum behind the person and the book helps solidify their credibility.
  • I call a book uncertainty reduction. Event managers at Fortune 1000 companies are looking for videos, books, and testimonials to determine who they want speaking for their companies.

21:25 – What challenges do you see for authors trying to translate a book into a speech?

  • The biggest thing is story. We don’t want an executive summary of your book. Start the speech with something funny that relates to the speech.
  • I recommend that a keynote should never go over forty or forty-five minutes.
  • Don’t make the keynote exactly like the book, or people can just read the book. What in the book do not know that you can share specifically in your speech?

25:30 – Do you have any parting advice for aspiring author/speakers?

  • The big thing is to get out there. We ask for video footage and books from speaking when we’re considering new speakers, so it’s best to get experience wherever you can.
  • As you’re doing it, you’ll learn what makes it better. What yourself and look for the power of story in every presentation.
  • Push through the awkward first couple of speeches, because it’s going to get better.

About Ken

Ken Sterling is the Executive Vice President and Chief Learning Officer at BigSpeak. Ken’s main focus is marketing and partnering with Fortune 1000 clients to create specialized consulting programs with effective leadership development objectives.

His background includes working with KPMG as a technology and management consultant, co-founding a technology company (cloud computing), co-founding an international, vertically integrated manufacturing company and working as Executive Vice President at a boutique asset management firm charged with operating real estate and hospitality assets. Ken is a lecturer of marketing and entrepreneurship with the Technology Management Program at University of California and participated in several research projects as an author and co-author in the areas of technology, communication, leadership, mentorship and online education.