The speaking industry has similarities and differences in every country. Here is another great speakers bureau interview with J.J. Jackson of Performing Artistes, located in London:

1. Can you give us some info on your background and how Performing Artistes got started?
We started in 1992, initially putting on sporting dinners (where people buy tables and there are former sportsmen and women giving speeches after dinner). We quickly got asked to supply people for their own events, often non sport, and it went from there. That original experience of having put on events ourselves is incredibly useful when dealing with planners. We can honestly say we’ve been there!
2. How is the speaking industry different in Europe than the U.S.?
Bureaux in the States seems to be much more talent led. They are set up to push talent exclusive to them, while the European model is client/organiser led – most of us have a few exclusives, but the majority of our business is booking people independent of the bureau. We are answerable to the clients.
3. When should a speaker start approaching speakers bureaus and how would you like to be approached?
In theory, as soon as they like, however unless they have a TV profile they really need to have done a good few speeches (20 plus) to be taken seriously. Decent video footage of them speaking is also a must – it doesn’t need to be a full production, but more than a hand held camera at the back of a church hall.
4. What is the one thing you wish speakers knew about working with a speakers bureau?
That our job is to come up with ideas for speakers in the first place. Rarely do clients ring up asking for a specific person, they normally ask for a list of people who would be appropriate and take it from there, so by the time they end up booking the speaker we’ve already done a lot of work getting them to that stage. Same goes for agents, they often say “why did the company not come to us directly” to which the response is of course “because they didn’t know they wanted you until we explained why you/your client was ideal”.
5. Who is your perfect speaker client?
In terms of the talent, someone who engages with the client beforehand on a briefing call, turns up on time and is modest in their demands re staging, transport etc (accepting they want to deliver a good presentation and do require certain things). In terms of bookers/planners, someone you can develop a relationship with and starts to trust you…occasionally taking a leftfield choice because they know you haven’t let them down in the past. I always say I have never knowingly supplied a bad speaker, although that’s not to say we haven’t had to odd issue over the years!
6. Is there one book you would recommend all speakers read?
Now there is a question! It’s been around a while, but one of the original business books, How to Win Friends and Influence People takes some beating!
7. What do you see changing for speakers, meeting planners and speakers bureaus and how would you use innovation to improve the speaking industry?
The level of interactivity of audiences. The days of the passive audience are long gone, now a days the audience will be tweeting about the speech as it is happening, asking questions in real time etc. In terms of improving the industry, transparency is key. If a speaker has had a number of enquiries from rival bureaux for the same job, they should say; similarly meeting planners shouldn’t try and play us off against each other. By all means compare costs, but once you’ve decided which bureau to use, stick with them.

JJ Jackson
Performing Artistes – London
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Here at Speaker Sponsor we want speakers to have every opportunity possible to get out and get paid to speak, whether you’re getting a paycheck from a meeting planner or getting paid by a sponsor for a free speaking engagement. Another big part of your speaking career will be your relationship with a speakers bureau. Between the Speaker Sponsor podcast and this blog, we’re interviewing speakers bureaus from around the world. We want to learn how each one operates and how they like to work with speakers.

Here is an interview with Nick Gold, MD of Speakers Corner and Chairman of the EASB (European Association of Speaker Bureaux)

1. Can you give us some info on your background?
 I have been working at Speakers Corner since my path crossed with our founder Cheryl Goldhill, just as I was looking for an opportunity to grow my own company and create something new. Coming from a corporate background, I found the challenge of serving the corporate sector exciting, and the prospect of meeting inspirational people every day was something I relished.

2. How is the speaking industry different in Europe than the U.S.? 
 There are many differences in the speaking industry between the US and the UK, primarily the fees paid to speakers are far higher in the US, but on a more interesting note, the really traditional motivational speakers are more popular in the States, whilst European audiences have historically been more interested in booking speakers with high profile brands behind them and tangible business experience.

3. When should a speaker start approaching speaker’s bureaus and how would you like to be approached? 
 We love meeting speakers at any stage of their careers, whether they are established speakers looking to branch out and meet new clients, or whether they are embarking on their speaking career and are just at the beginning of the road, and we can mentor and nurture them in the best methods of preparation, marketing etc.

4. What is the one thing you wish speakers should know about working with a speaker’s bureau? That we are their best advocates and that as a speaker bureau, we are working with their best interests at the heart of what we do, and will only place them in a job or brief that fits their area and skills – and that we know best what those jobs are!

5. Who is your perfect speaker client? Our most exciting challenges come when clients don’t know who they want and we are tasked with finding them the perfect speaker, at which time we can start selling amazing people who are not household names but have inspiring and unique stories and messages to share.

6. Is there one book you would recommend all speakers read? Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences, by Nancy Duarte

7. What do you see changing for speakers, meeting planners and speaker’s bureaus and how would you use innovation to improve the speaking industry?
 At Speakers Corner we value complete honesty and transparency above all else. As soon as the industry cracks down on undercutting, and all bureaux begin to work together, the marketplace will become a venerated industry, and will move forward in a way that will benefit clients, speakers, bureaux and audiences.

Nick, thanks for your time and for your industry insight! Speakers Corner speaker’s bureau has a skilled team with over 40 years of industry experience and an expansive knowledge of the best international motivational speakers, after dinner speakers, conference facilitators, keynote speakers and awards hosts.

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!



The speaking industry is similar to Hollywood. Too many people chasing too few jobs. But, just like Hollywood, there’s a reason why you have no competition as a speaker.

After looking at a list of several speakers bureaus, I found that the average number of motivational speakers each one had was between 100-200 for that category alone. And I counted over 100 speaker’s bureaus in the U.S. That sounds like a lot of speakers. But when you consider that there are thousands of meetings and conferences that go on each year, suddenly the odds get a little better. There are still not enough decent paid speaking jobs to go around, but you can increase your odds as a public speaker.

Competition as a speaker

Pick a niche no one owns

Speaker Dr. Brene Brown has spent 12 years studying and researching the topic of vulnerability. Her list of speaking topics all reflect variations of that topic. I can’t say that I have ever heard of another speaker who speaks on vulnerability. She found a niche no one else was pursuing and she is definitely an expert. She stands out by going down a different path from everyone else. Sally Hogshead did a 3 year study on the topic of fascination. She not only wrote a book about it, but she has a slew of products, from books to a fascination advantage test. When her name comes up you know exactly what she speaks about and no one else can claim that.

Use your background

No one on the planet has exactly the same background you do. That includes your nationality, education, resume, family history, job skills, personality, and style. How can you use all of these or a combination of them to stand out in a crowd of speakers who are all speaking on the same topic?

Know more about your niche than anyone

Would you rather hear a speaker who has read some books on leadership or one who lead a disability group to the Mt. Everest base camp (then went on to be the first person with one arm to reach the summit) like Gary Guller? A speaker who has taken some leadership seminars or someone like Sir Richard Branson, a true leader who now has over 400 businesses under his control? Though most people can’t compete with Richard Branson or climb to the top of Mt. Everest, you can dominate your niche and know more about it than anyone.

So, the next time you fret about keeping up with your competition as a speaker, take a deep breath and realize there is only one “you”. Challenge yourself, not to compete with all the other speakers in the world, but to compete with yourself.