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Pros and Cons of Speakers Bureaus
As with most things, the are pros and cons to using a Speakers Bureau to obtain your speakers.
Here are 3 benefits of using Speakers Bureaus:
Speakers Bureaus take the problem and stress out of finding a speaker. Finding the right speaker takes time and energy — and a Speakers Bureau makes the process much easier. Describe the speaker that you want, and the Bureau does the searching for you.
Finding your speaker is only the first step. Speakers vary in how easy they are to work with, but the "care and feeding" of your chosen speaker can nevertheless take time and energy. Speakers Bureau do most (but not all) of this work for you.
Your Speakers Bureau can help you when something goes wrong. Let's face it, things go wrong. Suppose your speaker can't be at your event because of some unforeseen problem (weather, health, etc.). If you're dealing with a Speakers Bureau, they can provide you with a substitute speaker on short notice. While a true professional speaker will make every effort to provide a replacement speaker if he or she can't make it to your event, if they're laid up because of a sudden health problem, for example, they simply won't be able to help.
On the other hand, here are 3 drawbacks to using Speakers Bureaus:
You might pay more for your speaker if you use a Speakers Bureau. Speakers Bureaus generally work in one of two ways — either they take a percentage of your speaker's standard fee (usually 25% - 35%) as their commission, or they add their commission to the speaker's standard fee. If they add their commission to your speaker's fee, you obviously pay more than if you dealt with the speaker directly. But even if they deduct their commission from your speaker's fee (so that you're not paying extra), you lose the ability to negotiate the speaker's fee with the speaker — and so you could possibly end up paying more than if you'd negotiated with the speaker. (Of course, you can always try to negotiate the speaker's fee with the bureau, but they're probably less likely to want to negotiate.)
When you're working with a Speakers Bureau, you can miss the opportunity to build a relationship with the speaker. Although you will probably have some contact with the speaker, most of your contact will probably be with the bureau, and so your contact with the speaker will be only indirectly.
When you don't know which speaker you want, a Speakers Bureau can be a godsend — they eliminate the hard work of searching for you. But if you do know the speaker you want, using a Speakers Bureau can possibly slow down the process — your contacting the Bureau who then contacts the speaker can take longer than your simply contacting the speaker directly. (And some speakers do not work with Bureaus, in which case the Bureau won't be able to "find" them for you.)
As in many other things, one of the most powerful activities you can do is to forge a relationship. Whether you're better off forging a relationship with a speaker or a Speakers Bureau is something that you must determined based on your particular situation.