The speakers bureau can sometimes be an enigma, especially for the beginning speaker. Just like an actor seeking out an agent, speakers bureaus can be great partners for a speaker, but only when the time is right. Speaker Sponsor will be bringing you a series of interviews with some of the best speakers bureaus in the business.

This interview is with Mike Cullingford, Managing Director of Catalyst World Class Speakers in the U.K. Mike was nice enough to give us the inside scoop on how his speakers bureau operates and how the U.S. speakers market is different from the ones in Europe.

Welcome, Mike. Can you give us some info on your background?

Sure, after getting an honours degree from the University of London, I spent a number of years gaining international experience by working overseas, especially Japan and Spain. For the last two decades I have been involved with events and speakers. I’m a keen skier and a big fan of American motorcycles having owned a string of Harley Davidsons & Buells. Today my young son is my main source of inspiration!

How is the speaking industry different in Europe than the U.S.?

It’s important to understand that the speaking industry in the States is much longer established, large and more organized. Things are chaining in Europe, particularly the UK, where the industry is seeing encouraging growth. More and more people now appreciate the tremendous power of world-class speakers and leaders to motivate, to inspire and act as catalysts for invaluable change.

When should a speaker start approaching speakers bureaus and how would you like to be approached?

Ideally after he or she has handled some significant audiences and has received some impressive testimonials. Clearly we can only recommend those in whom we have total confidence. When approaching a bureau, speakers should keep it simple. We ask that they provide a concise biography, current speaking topics, host’s comments, high quality images, and video footage of them in action.

What is the one thing you wish speakers knew about working with a speakers bureau?

It’s important that speakers are very cooperative with our clients and their event teams. There may have been months of discussions before a decision is reached and whilst a speaker may have delivered a similar message many times before, it’s essential they regard each project as unique. After all, booking a professional speaker represents a substantial investment for the client.

Who is your perfect client?

Perfect clients should expect perfection, or service very close to it. They appreciate our understanding of their objectives, our advice, experience and recommendations based on that experience. The perfect client values real return on investment, not making small savings by booking the cheapest option.

Is there one book you would recommend all speakers read?

The Exceptional Speaker” by Alan Stevens, former President of the Global Speakers Federation.

What do you see changing for speakers, meeting planners and speakers bureaus and how would you use innovation to improve the speaking industry?

Technology is providing some wonderful opportunities for speakers. If speakers can be flexible then audio conferencing  and webcasts provide budgets options, but clearly make it easier for the professional speaker to be in two places at once. Catalyst has introduced a number of innovations in recent months. I could tell you more… but then I’d have to kill you!

Thanks, Mike, for taking the time to join us on Speaker Sponsor!