At least several times each week a speaker will call with the question “Would you do my sponsorship on commission?” This is usually followed up with something like “I have the best property in the world. You’ll make lots of money on it.”

Sponsorship on commission

I can tell they already have the idea in their mind that someone will take them on for free and everyone will get rich. But then I have to explain how sponsorship really works, especially if you don’t have a property like the Olympics or the NFL. For a speaker, even an A list, top dollar speaker, I would say the odds of someone taking you on as a sponsorship broker on a commission only basis is probably zero.

It’s the same way Hollywood works. Every year tens or hundreds of thousands of actors flock to Hollywood looking for an agent who will take them on, for commission only, in the belief that they will work hard for that actor, and everyone will get rich. But that’s not the way it works most of the time. Just like sponsorship, you have to do the grunt work to get things off the ground before anyone will pay attention.

Sponsorship brokers

Once upon a time there may have been sponsorship brokers who would work on commission only, but those days are pretty much over. I tell speakers “If you find someone who is willing to do your sponsorship on commission only you should jump on it.” If you find anyone who will do anything on commission only, jump on it. But I’ve personally never found that person.

These days most agencies work on a monthly retainer, plus commission. Retainers usually range from $5,000 to $15,000 depending on the complexity of the deal. Of course, we’re talking about large events that already have established track records. Smaller properties without a track record might not even be able to get a sponsorship broker at all.

When people ask how much money you’re going to be able to bring them for that retainer you have to honestly say that there is no guarantee that you can bring them any money. (If they do give you a guarantee, that should be a red flag.) This is a hard pill to swallow, which is why, as a speaker, you have to learn how to do it yourself.

DIY speaker sponsorship

The next thing I hear from speakers is “I’m too busy. I don’t have time to do it myself”. So, if you don’t have time to form relationships with sponsors, how are you going to have time to service them after you cash their check? And how are you going to know what to do to help them get a return on their investment?

OK, now that I’ve burst your bubble, here is the good news. Once you learn how to get sponsors, you have a very valuable skill that will make you money over and over again. With around 18,000 corporate sponsors and over 25 million small business sponsors in the U.S. alone, there is no shortage of money out there for speakers willing to put some time into building up a sponsorship portfolio.

Once you learn that valuable skill, you never have to wait around for anyone to give you a speaking job. You simply create your own.

The Speaker Sponsor directory is a great place to be listed. Sponsors and meeting planners visit the site every day. That is guaranteed. Just like the monthly high dollar retainer fee paid to sponsorship brokers, there is still no guarantee a sponsor will pick you up. But at $9.00 a month it’s certainly much less than those huge retainer fees. And if a sponsor does pick you up from the site, 100% of the sponsorship funds go to you.

Just like actors in Hollywood, you have to do the groundwork to get your career started. And just like Hollywood, the speaking industry wants speakers who are already working. Sponsorship helps you jump past your competition while everyone else is waiting on the sidelines for someone to get the work for them.





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