We’re happy to welcome Sue Falcone of Simply Sue Speaks to Speaker Sponsor. Sue knows both sides of the speaking industry and will be giving us some insight into what she looks for in a speaker to represent.

Here is the transcription:


Julie Austin: Hi, Sue.

Sue Falcone: Hi, Julie!

Julie Austin: Welcome to Speaker Sponsor.

Sue Falcone: Thank you so much for inviting me. Happy Tuesday!

Julie Austin: Same to you. We’re going to talk a little bit about your speaker bureau, “Simply” Sue Speaks. First of all, can you just give us a little bit of information about your background?

Sue Falcone: I’ll be glad to, Julie. My name is Sue Falcone, and I come from a varied background into what I do now. I’m a former AT&T executive, small business owner, published author and professional speaker, who then found out speakers out there needed some help. So this is why I established a different and unique form of a company for speakers, because I’m not your normal speakers bureau. I’m a global booking agency, which is a little different. We’ll get into that, but that’s where I’ve come from.I have over 40 years experience, and I love what I do and who I get to do it with.

Julie Austin: How has the speaking industry — how is it different today than when you first started?

Sue Falcone: Well, of course, I started in corporate America, but I was always this entrepreneur person. AT&T let me be that, but I remember what we really thought back then, even on serving our customers as a company, not just in the speaking realm, that we thought we knew what they needed, so that’s what we provided. Overally, generally, that’s how speakers and trainers and all did. We decided what you needed and how you needed to hear it, and we did it.
But today, that is certainly not the case.

Julie Austin: How is it different today? I mean, what’s different?

Sue Falcone: Our audiences today are not willing for us to decide for them what they need. They are telling us what they need and expecting us to meet it.

Julie Austin: Ah, ha!

Sue Falcone: That means they don’t want lectures. That means they don’t want this. There’s a list, you know, that they put together that we need to pay attention to, because that’s how speakers and trainers and coaches and authors are going to be able to address their audiences and get paid for it. So that’s pretty key. You have to know your audiences of today.

Julie Austin: Very important. Just wondering. When a speaker — when should a speaker start approaching a speakers bureau? How would you like to be approached?

Sue Falcone: Well, I’ve been part of speaker bureaus for a lot of times, myself, so when I started creating my company, I said, “What does it take to be something different?” Because most speaker bureaus want you to have everything in place and that you pay them up front for listing or whatever, and then they will do their best whatever to find you some bookings. Of course, they expect you to still be doing your business. They’re only a part of your marketing plan, which, myself, that’s all I am. Part of your marketing plan.

So a speaker needs to have in place, before they ever think that they would need an agency or a speakers bureau to help them, they need to have a package in place and they need to be speaking. They need to have already been exposed and they already need to have some things in place, which makes it easier for your agent or your speakers bureau to get bookings for you. If you don’t have that in place, it’s very difficult, because then we have to sell it without people knowing it.

Julie Austin: Do you think a speaker should be at a certain fee range before they approach you?

Sue Falcone: They should certainly be getting paid before you even think, I think, that you would need a speakers bureau or an agent, because that shows then you’re in business to make this full time. It’s really hard to represent a part time speaker, one that may be doing something else, but wants to speak on the side as well. You really need to have the total package together, so that people know who you are, and that you’re not one thing one day and speaking tomorrow night. They’ve got to see what it is that would attract them to want to have you at their event. That means you need certain things in place to be able to do that. You need to have a business plan that shows that clearly. All your social media needs to show that. So I need that in place before you get to me.

Julie Austin: You need all the tools necessary for you to be able to pitch them.

Sue Falcone: Correct, correct.

Julie Austin: What’s the one thing you wish speakers knew about working with a speakers bureau? We’re kind of in the dark about it. We don’t know exactly what goes on. What do you wish we knew about working with you?

Sue Falcone: Well, number one, I think you need to know who you are. And have it very clear and very directed as to what you expect your agent, your agency, your speakers bureau to do for you. Because it’s very difficult sometimes for me to understand what you really want if you don’t know. That’s a lot of speakers come to me that have an idea and plan and they want to be out there speaking and all, but they haven’t made it a career. They haven’t determined where their expertise lies, because they say, “Well, I can do a lot of things.” Well, really? Okay! You know, how do we market this?

I’ve developed — I had to do this, because I had a lot of people contacting me wanting to be a part of my professionals here at “Simply” Sue Speaks. So I’ve got to have some criteria to be able to do that. And I have an executive team that’s in place — that we now have a questionnaire on our website, that if you’re thinking that you might need a booking agency or our services at all, you have to fill out this questionnaire, and it’s pretty detailed. I kind of get the whole picture of who you are.

Julie Austin: Do you want a speaker to have their own niche that they fit into? That they speak on?

Sue Falcone: Well, they can speak on a variety of things or they can have a lot of services. They can be a speaker and an author and a coach and even a trainer. Some are that gifted that they have that whole package, but somehow it has to tie together so that they know who they are and who they want their audience — who they really want to go after as their audiences. And so that I’ll know what is there best audience to match them to. Because my goal here at “Simply” Sue Speaks is to match perfectly the speaker with the event. And to do that, I have to really, really know how that fits together. You really have to be able to share that pretty quickly.

Julie Austin: If you could pick any perfect speaking client, who would that be? I mean, not a particular person, but who would be the total package if they showed up and said, “Here I am. This is what I have to offer.” Who would be that perfect speaking client for you?

Sue Falcone: Okay. Thanks for asking that, because a lot of people say, “Well, how do you determine that, Sue, when you say I’m probably not the right fit for your company?” First of all, you need to have had at least — at least — three paid speaking engagements in the last three months. I mean, if you don’t have any paid going on, it’s very difficult for me to create that for you, because you’re not used to it. You’re not used to doing that. You’re not used to marketing yourself. Because even though you sign on with my company, you still have to be doing what you do best. I am just part of your marketing tool that can get you into maybe avenues that you don’t have time to go research on or to get you with some connections that I think you would be a great fit for.

My perfect speaker would be, yeah, oh wow! Let’s take a look at this. Where have you been? Who knows you? What does your social media look like? What is your following? Because see, I just add on to that. So I have to have the things in place that will make you successful on your own to begin with, and now you’re asking for help to get you more successful.

Julie Austin: Ah, ha. I’m just curious, being on the other side, being a speaker yourself, has that helped you in running a speakers bureau to see both sides of it?

Sue Falcone: I think tremendously, because my tag for our company is “We bring the ‘WOW’ factor to any and your next event.” And to do that, I have to know what that is. If I can’t bring it, then it would be very hard for me to expect others to. Then I have to really do some research on each person that I put on my professional list to make sure that they can fulfill that, because that’s the extra. We want to bring that extra that others are not providing, because that’s what’s going to make us unique and it’s going to make a speaker more successful. I figured if I was doing well, successfully, I could help others do well successfully, too.

Julie Austin: I notice that some speakers bureaus specialize in a particular industry. Do you think your speakers bureau specializes in any particular industry?

Sue Falcone: Well, I took a cross section of what I thought my contacts were and where I felt the best connection that I could do. Then we’ve done some things that created markets, so when I looked at that, then that goes into my pattern of we can provide just about anything, which we can. And we’ve got a variety of skills and topics and expertise. To me, the more marketable you are as a company is determined by how wide of audience you can reach. I went after — when my executive team, when we looked through these people that come to us and all, we look at it in a way that will broaden where they’re at as well as broaden where we’re at. And does that make a match and can we successfully do that? Some I can, and some I take on and I’ve not been as successful as I’d like. I have to realize then there may not be a match.

Julie Austin: As much as you would like to.

Sue Falcone: Yes. As much as I would love to, some — because a lot of speakers, they do get tied up into, “I only do this.” And when you only do “this,” I have to match where you can only do this at. And sometimes that’s very difficult.

Julie Austin: Is there one book that you would recommend that all speakers read?

Sue Falcone: Glad you asked that question, because I’m a lifelong reader, as I think every person that writes is a lifelong reader and also a lifelong learner. I always want to be learning something. So when I was thinking about what could I recommend, I’m going to recommend an old time favorite, but it really works. I tell speakers. I said, “If you will get this pattern down of this book,” I said, “You can be successful. And then if you want me to help you be more successful, we can certainly be on that journey together.” But Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ is a lifelong favorite, simply because it makes sense. It still does, even though it was written many years ago.

And then I looked — there was one that really helped me as a speaker — I just think this guy is really, really right on — is ‘Book Yourself Solid’ by Michael Port. He really has some great, great ideas. He’s still writing. I still love his newer material, but this one was really key, because he taught you really, really how to get out there and make money at it, so that then, when you got to the point where you wanted a speakers bureau and an agency and be a part of that, too, you can just transition right into that. That was another one. And then there’s a current one. I know you asked me for only one, but I gave you three. Is that okay?

Julie Austin: That’s fine.

Sue Falcone: A current one that I dearly love and I would recommend to anyone, even though I do represent him, but it’s a number one Amazon best seller. It’s called ‘Work Positive in a Negative World,’ by Doctor Joey Faucette.

Julie Austin: I need to read that.

Sue Falcone: That book changed my life. I can honestly tell you that. Even before I was representing him. When we first started communicating, I got a copy of it and it is for any small business owner, entrepreneur, speaker or any business owner it’s great for. But for speakers, it is definitely what we all need. We need as a country to get back in that positive mode. I chose this year for our company, our word for the year is “positive.” We have got to stay that way. This book just really — I refer back to it daily. I mean, that’s how key it is to what I feel like is part of who I am.

Julie Austin: That touches on different aspects. First, there’s the speech, the speaking, you have to get the craft down. You have to have a good attitude, the right attitude. And also the totally different side of that is the marketing. You have to know how to market yourself.

Sue Falcone: Exactly. All three of these books really help you with that. So I think in combination, they can really — but like I said, I really am still always thinking others, because there’s lots out there. But these are the three that I found that really have changed the directions I’ve gone in.

Julie Austin: Now I happen to know that you are very keen on innovation. What do you see changing for speakers, meeting planners, and speakers bureaus? And how would you use innovation to improve the speaking industry?

Sue Falcone: Wow! That’s a big question, but you’re right. When we connected, Julie, I saw in looking at what you do — just a great bond there. Because to be successful today as a speaker, a trainer, a coach, an author, has changed so much. The industry has changed so much that you’re going to have to be innovative, creative, and you’re going to have to — like you invented a product, you’re going to have to invent probably some products and some services that maybe you hadn’t thought you would have to do. Because that’s just the way it works, because people want to see, whether in writing or product or whatever as well as you speaking, they want something to take home with them or something they can see later on.

Julie Austin: Like a souvenir?

Sue Falcone: Yeah. Right, right. They want to know that you’re on top of things, though. It’s not the same canned presentation that you’re just going to go from place to place to present. They want custom designed. They want to be engaged. They want to be interacted with. They want your social media to be right top class. It has to be. Because that’s where they’re hanging out at.

So you’ve got to look at this whole picture. So to me, what I want to do, though, because what our industry — Julie, we have talked about this at some length. Our industry seems to think that exposure is the same as paid money. And when you get in that mindset, you’re going to have to be unique and give an experience to override anyone’s event planner or anyone saying, “Oh, by the way. No, there’s no fee for you. We offer you exposure.” But you have to provide something that’s going to set you apart so that they would want to find the funds or, like you, have innovated and invented going into getting sponsors or whatever it’s going to take, you need to be paid. That’s what we’re up against right now in our industry, because I don’t book free events. Do you, Julie?

Julie Austin: No. Unless I could get a sponsor. The whole thing about exposure. I’m just wondering if that’s become a sore spot with speakers, because anyone who says, “Oh, you’ll get exposure by speaking at this conference,” I’m starting to hear a little bit of backlash from speakers going, “Yeah, right. Isn’t that something that killed people back —?” You know? [laughs] Exposure — so it’s kind of becoming a joke. Are you seeing the same thing?

Sue Falcone: Definitely. But it’s not ever going to stop until speakers quit going.

Julie Austin: Yes.

Sue Falcone: Because that’s the whole key here. I look at it very simply. I mean, I don’t have to “rocket science” this thing. I’m not off key. I’m not off base with any speaker, because if you’re a good speaker, a good trainer, a good coach, you’ve got a published book. You can get free events. If you can’t on your own, then probably maybe you’re not as great as you think you are. But you can get a free event.

Julie Austin: It’s not that difficult.

Sue Falcone: If you want to make this a profession and a career and a business, the IRS does not recognize exposure and free events. They just don’t. That is not the way a business model operates, because you have to put gas in the car. You have to be able to create what you do best and all those things that go into it.

So to me, it’s very plain and simple, cut and dry. If you think that my speakers that I represent or myself, that you think that I’m good enough to come to an audience where they pay to come see me, and they pay a fee, then I expect to be paid. And I expect my speakers to be paid.

I think that’s just the bottom line of it, because I think people that pay to go to events, people that pay for training, people that attend after they have paid, I think they would expect some of that money that they pay, their hard earned money, would be going to the speaker. Because to me, if not, then how is the speaker able to be there? What is going to be the advantage for them, because they had to — and often now, you’re being asked to pay your own way, like all your expenses.

Julie Austin: Oh, I’ve heard even worse.

Sue Falcone: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. If you want to have table and sell any products, you got to give a percentage back of that, too. I’m like, “Oh, what else do you want us to give? Okay!”

Julie Austin: Do you want us to sweep the floor? [laughs] I’ve heard a few things of you have to have a customized speech. You have to pay your own way. You can’t give out a business card. You can’t promote anything. You can’t have a sponsor. And I thought it was a joke. But, you know? Honestly, I’ve heard even worse. And that I would have to draw the line and speakers have to draw the line.

Sue Falcone: That’s the key.

Julie Austin: It’s not only that. I don’t it’s good for the meeting planner if the audience doesn’t get something out of it. What I’m hearing you say is the audience — it’s not just speakers and the speakers bureaus and the industry have changed, the audience has changed.

Sue Falcone: Exactly. Exactly.

Julie Austin: They expect more.

Sue Falcone: Yes. And for that — then to me, as an event planner or the one that’s putting on the event, I would want to have the best I could have so that the audience would be pleased with what I chose. And would think that they spent their money wisely by coming. Because if they don’t and you get a speaker that’s not being paid, it is very hard for a speaker to face an audience, whether it’s 50 people or 100 people or a 1000 people that paid a ticket price, a registration fee to get in there, and they’re already knowing, “Well, I haven’t gotten anything out of this so far. I don’t really know if I am. So what am I going to do to be able to generate and have it a benefit for me for being here?”

So consequently, I think, then the content is lost, because their focus is not on the content. It’s focused on, “How can I make this a paid event for me? What do I have to do?” So to me, that’s a hard, hard position for speakers to be in. That they have to be able to almost be a salesperson and a really, really good marketing, networking right on the spot, because otherwise they don’t get anything out of it.

Julie Austin: And neither does the audience.

Sue Falcone: Yes.

Julie Austin: I’m trying to figure out ways that it can work for everyone. Not just the audience and the speaker, but also for the meeting planner, because they’re in the middle of this, and they want a good conference. So how can we all work together to make it a good experience for everyone?

Sue Falcone: I think that has to start with the event planners, of them knowing if they’re going to make it successful, but right now, I think a lot — even though there’s a lot of professional event planners out there, I think a lot of companies and a lot of organizations and a lot of community groups and a lot of nonprofits are not using as much professional event planning and they’re using someone in house that may not even have those skills at all, so they won’t even know that what they should be providing– and they’re given and said, “Well, you got to go find them and make sure we don’t have to pay for them. That’s your next job, too.”

I’m like, well, I know. If someone’s paying to come to a conference and all, someone has to be making money to begin with, and the budget has to be right and met. I understand that, too. But there has to be room to pay for the speaker. Because without the speaker, the trainer, whatever, there wouldn’t be a need for that conference. People come for something. That’s the kind of key I think we’re looking at is to how do we make that match for everybody?

Julie Austin: Yes.

Sue Falcone: I want to make sure that my company — we cherish the people that come to us and want our speakers, because we want to make them look like rock stars for choosing us.

Julie Austin: Well, this is a silly question, but before we wrap up — if you had a time machine, how far back would you go and why? This has nothing to do with speaking. Just a silly wrap up question.

Sue Falcone: [laughter]

Julie Austin: How far would you go back in time and why?

Sue Falcone: Well, personally, I’m a very go forward person. I do have a past, as we all do, right? And we all have great things in our past. We all had other things that are not quite so great either, right?

But I want to live in that positive present and be going forward, so that I don’t have to get caught up and wanting to go back or thinking I’m going to impact this and let’s go back. I want to move forward and say, “Okay, what can I do to impact my present right now? And as a lifelong learner, how can I help people see the need for our industry? The advancement of it? Us changing?” Just like us today here on a conference call. Who would have ever thought of that a long time ago?

But I think that we’ve got to keep focused, especially now when we’ve got five generations of people in the workplace. They all bring a different dynamic. We’ve got to make sure that we keep that positive present. Because our audience and our event planners, our audiences and the sponsors and all that pay for this, they’re of all those five different generations. So I think it is a bigger task than it used to be. And we can’t use the things of the past as much. We’re going to have to — that’s where —

Julie Austin: Look towards the future. A positive future.

Sue Falcone: Yes. And we’re going to have to come in and innovate it.

Julie Austin: Yes.

Sue Falcone: You know? And create it.

Julie Austin: Well, Sue, I really appreciate you being on Speaker Sponsor today. That was very insightful. If anyone wants to get in touch with you, how do they do that?

Sue Falcone: All right, Julie. Thank you for having me. It was great. I cannot wait to meet you in person one day, and I know we will, even though we live on opposite sides of the country right now.

Julie Austin: Well, thank you so much, Sue.

Sue Falcone: And you can reach me at www.simplysuespeaks.com or I’ve got a toll-free number, 888-766-3155. My email and all is on our website.

Julie Austin: Thank you so much for being with us today, Sue.

Sue Falcone: Thank you for having me.

Julie Austin: Okay. Bye-bye.


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