Down the mousehole : Episode 009
MFL (Maria Franzoni Ltd) was formed by Maria Franzoni after years of working in both business and Speaker Bureaux with the support and encouragement of Tom Kenyon Slaney and Brendan O’Connor (Founders of the London Speaker Bureau).
MFL is a group of very experienced people who really want to make a difference to an organisation and go beyond the speaker booking to create real change and continued momentum for clients. MFL is not in the B2B business but in the H2H business; human to human. More than just a Speaker Bureau, we are Agents of Change.
So Maria Franzoni – What Did You Want To Be As A Child?
Independent! My strongest memory as a child was being desperate to be old enough to drive. I didn’t really think beyond that, or where I was going to drive to!
Advice To Your Teenage Self?
Use sunscreen every day, your 50-year self will love you for it!
Karaoke Tune Of Choice?
Cry me a River, bound to clear the room at the high notes.
Career Plan B?
There was never a plan A ☺
Who Would Play You In A Movie Of Your Life?
Sarah Jessica Parker
Secret To A Happy Relationship?
Communication – and it helps if you fancy each other lots
Cat Or Dog?
Dog – please refer to our Head of Security – Keaton – my baby
I’m terrible at keeping up with fashion, I don’t really have a style or style icon. I have been accused of choosing comfort over form on more than one occasion ☺
Your Coffee Order?
I prefer tea, good old English Breakfast – My favourist is Yorkshire Tea.
Number One On Your Bucket List?
Discover how to have a work/life balance
I am the voice of Agent Tag in the real-time, class-based strategy game Satellite Reign (www.satellitereign.com) set in an open-world cyberpunk city! How cool am I ???!
Dream Dinner Date?
What Was Your Big Break?
Answering a very cryptic job advert that brought me into working for a Speaker Bureau. I haven’t looked back
Where Is Home?
I am living in my dream home, a gorgeous converted barn in a Surrey village with my dream man and our four fur babies.
I don’t have a favourite villain but I have a favourite Super Hero – Batman. In fact I named my dog after my favourite batman actor – Michael Keaton
Book That Changed Your Life?
There have been quite a few – but most recently David Price’s book: OPEN – How we will work live and learn in the future. Made me really rethink my business.
First Ever Record?
Roxanne by The Police
When You Look In The Mirror You See..?
Someone who desperately needs a sun tan!
On A Night Off We Would Find You?
In a nice restaurant
What Is Your Favourite Meal?
I love Thai food
Signature Dance Move?
Who Do You Most Admire And Why?
Being surrounded by amazing speakers there are so many I can name, I couldn’t choose one person (the others would get jealous). But I do admire people who know who they are, where they are going and are making the world a better place along the way.
Motto You Live By?
Do what you say you are going to do, or keep quiet!
Hello and welcome to the Three Blind MICE podcast from Radio Events. I’m your host, the MICE ‘maister-in-cheese’, the honorary doc.
Welcome to Radio.Events and the Three Blind MICE podcast. Thanks for tuning in. We bring you what’s hip and happening behind the scenes of meetings, incentives, conferences, and events. Three Blind MICE, the little pod with a cast of thousands from Radio.Events.
In this episode, we’re going to cover the business of speaking. We’ll talk about keynote speakers and masterclass leaders whether that’s for your conference or business meeting, and that’s going to cover everything from say the briefing of a speaker bureau, finding, hiring as well as getting the best out of your speakers. We will also find out about the current hot topics and hopefully get a few names of some standout speakers for you. Whether your requirement is to educate, motivate, or entertain an audience, you can find speakers and thought leaders from across the fields of business, finance, technology, politics, economics, psychology, and way beyond. Maybe you found a possible speaker online or through social media, maybe they’re referred to you directly, that doesn’t mean there’ll be right on the night as there are a myriad of things to work through and to check out first.
Prepare yourself. Okay. Let’s go.
To find out how to do things properly and find out about some hot speakers specifically who should be on our radar screen, I’m delighted to be joined by Maria Franzoni. Maria has been curating top speakers for clients for over 20 years and she’s worked for two of the top international speaker bureaus so she knows what she’s talking about and she now runs her own imaginatively named Maria Franzoni Limited. She is currently co-chair of the European Association of Speaker Bureaus and her bureau is part of the London Speaker Bureau global network. This year she’s launched her own podcast and the speaker training company just because she’s got lots of time on her hands I guess. Maria, welcome to Three Blind MICE. Thank you very much for joining me.
I am absolutely delighted to be here. Thank you for having me.
My pleasure. Now Maria, I’m going to kick straight off with, how did you get into the speaker business?
Completely and utterly by accident. I mean, I don’t know about you, but before I got into this business, I didn’t even know what a speaker bureau was and I think a lot of people still don’t. And so I sort of very cryptic advert that basically said, are you able to negotiate at senior level? And of course that’s talking about the very senior speakers and the very senior clients that you end up working with. And I just went along out of curiosity because I wanted a change in career. I’d had enough. I’d burnt out where I was really. I’d been a management consultant and it was just too much travel. And I met a wonderful gentleman who was running one of our competitor bureaus, so I’m not going to name drop them, But he taught me very well and he opened this amazing industry up to me and it’s addictive. Once you’re in it, you do not want to leave. So it was completely by accident. He explained to me about, you know, speaker bureaus and that was it. I was hooked.
And that was 20 years ago?
Yes, I was very young. I wish
I’ll move swiftly on, but today obviously there are lots of celebrity agencies out there and forgive the expression almost any man or woman and their dog in their front garden could be, or claim to be in this business. There are a whole load of standards and ethics that are adopted by certain leading players, but why Maria Franzoni and being part of London Speaker Bureau network?
Actually do you know what, you’re absolutely right, there is no barrier to entry to setting up a speaker bureau. You’re totally correct. And so you do have to do a bit of due diligence as a client and you have to sort of do a bit of research. So why us? I suppose because we do like to do things differently, we don’t want to transact. We want to have a relationship with the client. I often say to people we’re not in B2B or B2C, we’re in H2H or human to human. And so that’s part of it, that it’s definitely about having a relationship and, and hopefully seeing us as an extension of your business and your company and part of your team. But apart from that we’re really, really focused on getting the maximum benefit out of bringing a speaker in. So I have a Head of Momentum, for example, which I don’t think any other bureau has. We do things like, as you mentioned, podcasts, we actually work to train speakers. So we try to take a much bigger approach rather than it’s not just getting the booking for the speaker, it’s a much bigger support for them and for the client. So I suppose that’s why.
Head of Momentum, I worry very slightly that that’s a sort of fringe element of the Labour Party. Is that something different in your place?
No, it’s actually a head of Learning and Momentum, I missed a bit out. The lady who’s in charge of Momentum and Learning is a lady called Mary Tillson. And her background is actually education and learning within corporate organisations. She was on the other side. She was booking the talent to come in and train the people and so she understands it and her job is to help clients and speakers post-speech to get the best value because the worst thing is when somebody comes in, you invest in the speaker, they do their bit, they go, you go back to your desk and you carry on as you did before and nothing’s changed and so her role is to make that stop happening so that you do change.
That’s definitely something I’d like to drill down on in a few minutes, but let’s start off with maybe some of the fundamentals in terms of before you even select an agency or a speaker, doing your homework, what should that homework look like, for somebody who wants to potentially source and hire such talent?
I suppose it depends really on what level the person who’s tasked is at and if you’re quite senior you’ll have the answers and if you’re not it, you need to ask the questions. What is it that we’re trying to do? What is the result we’re looking for by bringing somebody in? It’s no good just to say, well, we’ve got a conference or an event or a program and we need an expert. You have to understand what does success look like from bringing that person. There’s a lot of thinking about what are we aiming to achieve afterwards? So that’s the really, really important question and to really be sure you understand where are we now, what’s going on in our business? What are the issues? So that when you’re briefing a bureau or even briefing a speaker, they really get what they can do and what they can contribute. A lot of people miss out that thinking, which is the Stephen Covey thing, ‘begin with the end in mind’. A lot of people don’t do that bit and just dive straight.
In particular when you’ve got a portfolio of speakers, whether it’s at a single event or because you’re running a number of concurrent streams of activity, or breakouts, each of which potentially has a speaker as well as maybe keynote speakers. Understanding how it’s all going to fit into your budget, but equally understanding where the messaging is going to go, what you need the audience to go away thinking, feeling, doing, acting on afterwards. Where do each of these speakers fit into the process? These are all fundamental things that you’ve really got to get your head around as an organiser.
Absolutely. And you mustn’t skip that step and it’s really vital. A lot of people will skip it and go straight to names, straight to coming up with names and ideas, without having done that step. And that’s a mistake. I try to pull them back and say, let’s not talk about names. Let’s talk about what the right fit, the right profile would look like, put names to it afterwards. And I mean, in terms of working through the messaging, working through the content, the big themes, the big ideas, et cetera. Do you find that that clients come to you with that well thought through or does it sort of break down into, into different types of engagement with you? It varies dramatically. It really varies dramatically. I would love a client to come to me early on and involve us in the process so that we can help them because we know what’s trending out there, what’s going on out there. We know what their competitors are doing a lot of the time. So you do get a variety. You’ll get some that will have absolutely thought it through and others that you can tell they don’t know and haven’t thought about it because the brief changes every other day and you’re having to rework and rework and rework and, and if you could have the conversation with the right person and ask them the right questions, they wouldn’t have to do it that way.
Do you think it’s because potentially less experienced people have a perception that it’s going to be cheaper for them to find the speaker directly or they can get to the end game quicker as opposed to potentially using a speaker bureau such as yours. What do you think is going on there for the less experienced? Do people ultimately have to pay more for using the agency (or bureau)?
Well, there’s two questions in that. The first one is about actually the benefit of using a bureau and I think part of the problem that is that we all really bad at communicating to people how we work and what we do and the benefits of using bureaus. We just assume that they understand it and they know it and we should really say, listen guys, this is all we do day in, day out. We are working with the top people in the various industries in the various areas in the world, talking to them, booking then working with the clients and that’s all we do. So therefore we’d have some knowledge, especially somebody who’s been in the business as long as I have and I have to say, some of my team aren’t young too, but let’s not go there. But then with regards to the thought that, is it cheaper if I go direct, there are different types of speakers and the majority of speakers that work through bureaus, are the speakers that generally you wouldn’t go direct to anyway, it’s not appropriate. They are of a certain level. They won’t answer your direct approach. And then there’s another part of speakers who absolutely you can go direct to. And those who are savvy will work with bureaus, know that they have to give a lower rate to bureaus so that they are not pricing themselves out of the market by not giving a discount on a commission to a bureau because otherwise why would you be promoting them? So there’s a lack of regulation really within this and so it becomes quite complex. But also if you think about it, if I’m booking a speaker 10 times a year and you’re going to them once, am I going to get a better deal for you than you are by going direct? It’s obvious the I’d get a better deal because I know how to get to that speaker very quickly. I know what works for them, what ticks their boxes, what makes them happy to do a a gig for you at a better rate. But I think it’s a lack of education. People don’t know the value of a bureau.
And I guess also if you’re dealing with a potential client for the first time as a speaker, there is perhaps a lot more painful stuff to work through, maybe because the client isn’t particularly experienced, isn’t asking the right questions. Whereas you’ve done your homework once with that client and although that might be germane to a particular event and therefore there’s a sort of subcontext of it, but you know you’re up and running and lots of stuff that you just know how it works and what needs to happen and how payments are going to work and so on and so forth. You just take the pain away.
Absolutely. For both sides actually. And so yes, it makes it just a smoother operation. And also the other thing that many people don’t realize is that a bureau will give you a fall back position if something happens and it’s rare, it’s rare, so don’t panic about these things, but if your speaker has to drop out the last minute because they’ve got the flu because they broke their leg because the wife is ill, etc. Things that happen in life, a bureau will work, absolutely, and they’ll get the entire team involved to find you somebody else to replace that person. So you don’t have a hole in your program.
Maria, from a sensitivity perspective, you use the word ‘bureau’ on a regular basis. Whereas others in the industry might refer to it as a ‘speaker agency’. Do you see a difference between the two?
Yes I do. And again, you see we’re really bad at communicating these things and it’s our fault, you know, but terrible. Um, so for me a bureau works specifically for the client – it’s a resource for clients. Even though we call ourselves a ‘speaker bureau’, we are reacting to what a client requires and if we don’t have the right person on the books, on the roster, we’ll go out do the research, find them, do the deal and make it happen for them. Whereas I see an ‘agency’ as working more for the speaker. They have more talent because it may be a comedian, it may be other types of presenters and I see them working to promote them and market them and help them with all things. It might be the agents do different things, but they might be looking after their book publishing deals, TV… They’ll look after much more and they will generally have fewer people than a bureau. A bureau has many more people.
So Maria, when, when a client is looking at selecting a speaker bureau, what kind of things should they be considering? One of the things you touched upon earlier on is, is the fact that you and your colleagues, you’ve got a little bit of time on the clock and I guess that’s really, really important.
Well, I suppose it depends what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a bit more experience. Yes, absolutely. So I would treat it as if you were bringing somebody in as part of your team. So it’s sort of like looking at their cvs. And the CVS of the bureaus are very easy to see because you just look at the websites and you can see how do they speak, their language, what style do they have? Because the style needs to fit with you and you want to work with them in partnership. I think the mistake that many people make, many clients make because they haven’t found the right bureau, I think is they will work with three or four at the same time on one brief and instead, if they then said, well, let’s see the one that I have the relationship with and let me focus with that one. You’ll get an awful lot more out of that relationship and a lot more help and support. So you can tell what a bureau is like by looking at their website. I would always go to, if I’m looking for a bureau and I’m starting out and I don’t know where to go, I would go to either the European Association of Speaker Bureaus, (I’m a little biased because I’m the co-chair) where you have the speaker bureaus in Europe that would be recommended and if you were looking internationally, you can go to the ISPB which is the International Association of Speaker Bureaus. Because there are so many, as you said, and there are many, in the garden shed, one man and their dog and there’s nothing wrong with that. But you do want to check them out.
Yeah, absolutely. And those names, references and links will all be on the Radio.Events website. Let’s just go back to costs for a second. And when I want to explore costs, in essence it’s just getting some sense of what are we talking about from and to? Let’s assume that people are looking at speakers for the first time or they’re still in the formative years of their career. So getting some sort of sense of proportion and perspective, what does it cost?
Well, the variety of prices is huge. So if I talk about our bureau and a few ranges, speakers start at around 3000 pounds, in case you’ve got any international listeners out there and our top speaker is a £1,000,000. So the variety….
I was just about to have a sip of water
And you splattered it everywhere, all over the mic. But there is a sweet spot. There is a place where the majority of speakers sit and that’s usually between £5-20,000 bracket. Obviously the bigger the name, the bigger the recognition factor, or the harder it is to get them to say yes then the higher the rates.
And how does the client where often they have internal stakeholders that they have go to, should I say, to sell it in, how do you help them go through the cost versus value story?
That’s a really good question actually. It’s really important. I have found so many clients spending less money on their external expert than they do on the cakes that they provide with the coffee break and I sort of want to shake them a little bit and say, listen, don’t give people sugar. So the answer is you know, what is, what value is that speaker going to bring to you? And often that is reflected on, okay, let’s look at the audience, who’s my audience? And you know, the more senior the audience, clearly the more money you want to be spending because they’re going to be absolutely much more sophisticated and have much more experience and been exposed to a great deal more expertise. And the bigger the numbers of the audience, you know, you’ve got a price per head. But that’s, that’s a very difficult one. It’s really difficult and it has to do clearly with what budget they have available. And it’s more often than not, you’re having to think about, how do we negotiate maybe with somebody who’s right, is the right fit when the client doesn’t have the right fee. But I think if more clients thought about what are we were going to get afterwards, what do we do afterwards to embed it and to continue it in the business and realise what that value is, I think they’d probably be more encouraged to put a bigger budget in.
When potentially people are contracting a speaker through you, what’s included in the fee typically, what should the client be thinking about… what are the extras that might want to be signed off?
So generally when you’re booking a speaker the only thing that’s included is that speech however long that is, whether it’s 30 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour, sometimes really short as the fashion is now of course for doing the 15 minute TED style speeches. So it would be the speech, it would be the briefing and more often than not that’s actually done on a telephone call rather than face to face these days, especially when you’ve got international events and international speakers and then a follow-up call, but also within that then from within the Bureau we’d support with ensuring that the briefing does take place, the logistics are put in place, that you have all the technical, you have all the material that you need to promote them. And so we hold your hand all the way through, we don’t let you go. But that’s all that’s included generally. And so there are opportunities there to say, well, okay, can we add some extra value? And you can ask for additional things, but generally that’s it. It’s just as basic as that.
And when you allude to value, additional elements, what things typically spring to mind?
Well, typically one of the things that many clients don’t do, and I don’t know why they don’t take this offer up actually because every speaker would be up for it apart from where it’s inappropriate for that type of event. But I think every client should have a follow-up call after the event because the speaker can give you so many insights that you not aware of after they’ve spoken to your audience. And many audience members will talk to a speaker much more openly and tell them all sorts of things that they could give feedback on. They’ll get a feel for what the audience is thinking from the kind of questions that they’re asking. But they can also say to you, look, you know, this is what’s happened here. This is what I think you should be thinking about in order to take these things further within the organisation. And more often than not, you can actually ask the speaker, do you think you could do a little summary sheet for us that we can send out afterwards to help people embed it and to help people continue to use what they’ve learned from you. So I don’t understand why a client doesn’t do that more often. It’s amazing how many people don’t. They’ve done the event and they move onto the next thing. Take advantage of the speaker a week after the event. They would be very happy to have a call and say, listen, this is what I’ve learned from working with you. This is what I think would be beneficial to you. Have you thought about this, have you thought about that? Huge value
Going back to, should I say, ‘included in the figure’ or whether it’s not, the sort of mix and mingle if there’s a coffee break immediately after the keynote. Is that something that speakers are happy to do? Or does it vary by person? Or yes I can do it, but it will be extra… or time is money, etc. Equally, the selfie or the official photograph with whoever needs to be there. Again, where do we stand in this sort of socially connected world?
The majority of speakers will do that. Absolutely. The key is to make sure that you communicate all the things that you would like that speaker to do when they’re with you in advance of actually approaching speaker with your offer to say, we would like to attend, these are the things that we would like you to do. It’s very difficult once the speaker has agreed to then add these things as extras. If you go in upfront, you’re more than likely to get a yes to everything. The one thing that speakers are not always keen on is having their full presentation videoed.
Yeah. I wonder why
Should we talk about that? Two things. One is because of course they don’t really want you to share it afterwards. That’s their IP and if you know, if they have some humour or some stories that they use in that, they can’t use that same story again because not every speaker will tailor 100 percent of the speech. They will tailor a percentage of it, so of course then that content is gone. But the other thing is that if you are videoing, and it depends on which type of speaker it is, but there are many things that they don’t really want to go down on record. So there are things that a speaker can tell you and if they know it’s staying in the room, they’re happy to share, but if it’s going to go down on record, they will have to potentially change what they say to you because they don’t want to be, taken out of that room.
So we’ve touched upon several things there. So in in terms of briefing a speaker bureau from the outset, either proactively from the client perspective or a typical list of things that you’d be looking to work through, what would you summarise or detail as the most important things?
The most important things? What is it that you’re trying to achieve? What is the end that you have in mind? Who is your audience as much as possible about the audience, because the audience will absolutely affect who you would choose. If English is not their first language, there are certain speakers that immediately you wouldn’t even consider. What level are they? Do they know each other? Are they paying? Are they invited? What’s their industry? Many organisers unfortunately will come to us and not tell us who the end client is. They’re scared for some reason or they don’t have that trust. And you have to have that trust because we will know instinctively which speakers would not speak to those industries or to that client or if the speaker has a relationship with that client, which means that we can’t put them forward and so a lot of time can be wasted there
And also I guess, you probably have a good idea through relationships or other projects as to whether indeed that speaker’s already spoken to that client audience and it’s also embarrassing to put them up again?
That’s sometimes does happen. Yes, I had a client recently where we suggested a speaker. They hadn’t revealed the end client and they loved the speaker, when we went to the speaker, ‘I’ve a relationship with the competition, can’t do it because we didn’t know the end client to the last minute and then of course, you’re back to square one. You’ve lost lots of time.
So I think the key message coming out of that is develop close working relationships with your speaker bureau or speaker bureaus. Trust them, if necessary sign NDAs, etc and it’s a collaborative partnership. Make it work.
Absolutely. Absolutely. Which is another reason to choose one rather than work with three or four and that’s a mistake that a lot of organisations make. I think either because they think if I go to one and they’re not quick enough, I’ll go to another one. But what does happen if you’ve given a good brief to a bureau, we will end up potentially with the same names and then if you’ve asked us all for the same names and 4 bureaus have gone to that one speaker to talk to them about your event, that speaker is immediately going to say, ‘I’m really uncomfortable about this’. They don’t want to feel like pieces of meat for a start. They want to feel like somebody has come to them because they’re an expert and they’re the right person. So then it becomes really awkward. So you know, and then it becomes a price battle where really the speaker doesn’t want their price reduced.
Or alternatively they turn around and think, ‘well I’m obviously in demand so you know it’s going to be a top drawer price, whatever. As opposed to it being a quiet February and I might be happy to take a couple of grand, so you could finish up shooting yourself in the foot as well.
Yeah, and it is awkward because people say why do some bureaus quote different prices and it’s because if I’ve worked with the speaker 10 times this year, I know him very well or her very well, so I know what the rate is this year. If I haven’t worked with a speaker for five years, I’m going to go on information that is old so you can very easily have different information and it’s only when the client says ‘actually, please check that they are interested and definitely available’ that the fee might vary slightly because then you’ve now got the accurate rate.
I guess when it comes to actually selecting and booking a speaker, sometimes a client might come to you and say, well I was thinking about x or y, what, what do you think about that? Presumably you welcome that kind of engagement, that kind of conversation, but going back to the drawing board, who’s the audience? What are we trying to achieve and all that sort of important background stuff, but when it actually comes to selecting a speaker, do you go back to a client with just one? Do you go back to them with a short list of a few. What’s the practical reality of that?
Well, let me tell you what we do because I imagine every bureau has their own way of doing things. So I like to give them a choice of about five because by this point I personally don’t want to approach a speaker on a client’s behalf without their permission, so I actually won’t check availabilities in advance because it’s not appropriate for me to talk to a speaker about a client event, if that client then says this speaker isn’t the right fit, because then I’ve got a very embarrassing conversation and I’ve got to go back and say, actually it’s not right. I shouldn’t be talking about a client event without their permission. So I will give them five in case they’re not available. I will always say this is my first one or two choices. I think these are the best fit, but at the end of the day it is the client’s choice because they know their audience very well. When they then come back to me and say Maria, I really like this person and I like that person, that’s when I go back and say, have I got your permission to talk to them? Yes you have. I would then say, I’ve been talking to a client, this is their event, this is their audience, this is who they are. You are a good fit. Does it work for your side too? So the speaker also has the opportunity to say, actually no, I’m not comfortable with that audience, but we know them well enough to know if it’s going to be a good fit.
We touched upon earlier the spread bet between £3,500 – £1m. Finding the wow factor, presumably the wow factor isn’t always the million?
No, it’s not. Again, it depends very much on your audience because there will be audiences that will be wowed because somebody has a specific background and is relevant and you may not have heard of them if you’re in a completely different audience. So often a wow factor is the industry expert or the business expert or the person that you read about in your industry magazine. So it does vary. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the same as it might be for me. My wow factor may well be different to you. So it really comes down to the audience.
So we’re now at a point of, okay, we think this is going to be the speaker we’re going to go with. What happens from there as far as the client and the bureau is concerned? Securing the commitment, sorting through the detail, making sure that things like the ability to socially share comments or photographs or slides or not, or content or specific pdfs…. Just talk us through that.
Yes. So we have quite a detailed, we call it a firm offer form because that’s form, but once the client has completed goes to the speaker to say yes or no. The speaker at this stage obviously knows about the general detail of the event and the date and the time but may not know the full detail and this is the point where we’re asking the client to give us all the things that they require. So are they going to want it to be recorded? If they’re recording it, where would it be used? Would it be kept? How will it be accessed? That kind of information? Yes, are they going to want photos? Are they going to want meet and greet? Are they going to want the speaker to attend lunch? What time do they want the speak to arrive? What time is the sound check? Some clients like a rehearsal. Most speakers don’t. Some clients want slides in advance. There are a lot of speakers that don’t want to share slides in advance because they are changing them literally while they’re sitting in the audience before going up. So all of those things have to be covered. I cover at that point when you’re ready to go forward, you might want also to buy speaker’s books and what discount you can get. That kind of thing. So all of those things are covered at that point and that’s all been documented and when that document is all agreed, that’s when it goes to the speaker and usually there’s a very quick response because we’ve already kept them informed.
So going on from that, you reach a point of hopefully the signed contract. What else has to happen pre event?
So pre event, you’re definitely going to want to have all the materials you need to publish a speaker’s participation, which has to be approved of course by the speaker just in case there’s any mistakes and you’re going to want photos. Some speakers are happy to do a little video recording to say that they’re participating. Some are happy to be involved in doing some social media for you and again, we’ll know which ones will and which ones won’t. And we can also help if a speaker isn’t able to do social media. We have quite a following on some of their various channels so we can use social media to support your event if the speaker’s not willing to, but is happy for us to do it for them. So what else? The briefing of course needs to be arranged, which is arranged at a time that’s convenient to both parties, so a speaker knows how much lead time they required to prepare. But a client will often want to do a briefing much sooner than that because they just want to have maybe a bit of a feel and a bit of content that they can quote from the discussions with the speaker about the event. What have I missed? Obviously the logistical planning, the transport, any visas and all of those nitty gritty things needs to be done in advance.
Can I just drill down a little bit on timings and I’m also conscious of the fact that this is something I should have perhaps asked earlier…dealing specifically with I’m making an inquiry. I’m looking at the possibility of speakers for a particular event that we’re looking at holding. Ideally when should that process actually begin?
Ah, this is the big question, isn’t it? If you have someone in mind and that’s the person you want to give as much lead time as possible because their diary might be booked. If you’re flexible you can be a little bit shorter, but I mean the longer the lead time, the more likely when I give you the five names that your number one choice will be available. So it also depends how senior you are in terms of this, how senior the speaker is. So if you can give us six months, that’s wonderful and if it’s a really big name, you want to be looking a year ahead. I’ve got a client that runs an event every April and every September. She’s already booked the speaker for the next April and because of this, she always gets her first choice, which makes my life a lot easier and also that far out you’ve got a much stronger negotiating position because the speaker hasn’t really got much in their diary, so if you want to negotiate on fees, I don’t like the word discount. I like the word negotiation…there are certain things that you can do to negotiate a better rate and certainly that’s one of them. If you’re really far out, planning a year ahead, the speaker’s looking at the diary for that month, and there’s nothing in there, I might drop my prices a little bit for you to get something in there. It can go the other way as well, of course, because it can be last minute. Some speakers will say, I’ll reduce my price because I haven’t got anything next week on that day, but it could go the opposite way with the last minute. Oh, so last minute. I’ve got to do the preparation. I’ve really got to cram it in. I want twice the money. So you know there’s different speakers have different ways of working.
When it comes to the the speaker briefing themselves, you touched upon the client likes such and such a date, the speaker prefers such a date. What are those ‘such and such dates’? Examples.
It depends on what the client’s comfort zone is really. Often a client that’s not worked with that speaker before wants to do the briefing as soon as possible. They want to be sure that everything that they’ve told the bureau has been passed on. Too rightly, why not? Absolutely. Whereas a speaker likes to do it much closer to the event, especially if they’re doing other events, they want to have it as fresh as possible, so we tend to work with what the client prefers because we need them to feel comfortable and relaxed and that varies client to client and also of course it depends on their availability. What’s really important though is that time for briefing the speaker. That’s really about getting the speaker to understand your content, what success looks like by their being part of that event, the audience, the outcomes. That’s really important. Don’t use that time to talk about logistics. It’s really that. We’ll do that separately. Don’t talk about what time the train gets in or if the taxi driver’s name is John, don’t do that. Use it for the really important stuff.
So the big day arrives and you get a phone call to say I’ve got laryngitis. What happens?
That doesn’t happen. It depends really. I’ve actually had a speaker do that, say ‘I’ve got laryngitis’. I said to him, are you going to be able to do this? He says, I am, but I’m going to need to have a microphone whereas perhaps originally he wasn’t going to have a microphone. I’m going to alert the client, so could you let the client that I’m not going to talk at all before. I’m going to hide myself away and I going to be sipping drinks, etc, and he got through it. If somebody has got literally no voice, then we would go into overdrive to offer the client a solution, an alternative speaker getting briefed up very quickly and put them in. It’s a rare thing that it happens at that short notice to be honest with you, because if you’ve got laryngitis you know the night before so you have a bit more time to sort it out.
Is there anything else that happens on the day that we should talk through?
Some speakers are very happy to sit in on a session before they speak, so they get a feel for the audience and gets to feel the language. Some clients don’t allow them to do that because of their concerns. And again, it’s about trust. I think if you trust your speaker, trust the bureau, if they need to sign an NDA, let them, but it makes it an awful lot easier for them to have a feel of the language. It’s amazing how many clients will make you sit outside in the green room, not hear what’s going on, not have seen the audience, smelt the audience, touched the audience until you come on stage and of course it’s a lot easier if you have been in the session before.
I guess one of the other things that often crops up is because there are now a number of senior stakeholders focused and at the event as opposed to say the event organiser themselves, is sometimes inadvertent liberties that are being taken by, oh, could you just do this? Could you just do that? The sort of things that hasn’t been cleared or a clear understanding as to what it is we’ve actually engaged in, paid for, contracted for etc. That it’s always worthwhile making sure that all the key contacts understand fully what they’re in for I suppose?
That’s a really, really good point. I actually had a speaker last week who did an event. He rang me yesterday to give me some feedback and he said to me, Maria, at the last minute I was about to go on and they cut my time from 30 minutes to 20 minutes and he said, it’s no problem for me. He says, they just put my hourly rate up and I’m quite happy with that. Which is a wonderful reaction to have. But not every speaker is that experienced, that they can handle that. So if you’re paying a lot of money and I have to tell you he’s not cheap, and you’re paying a lot of money for somebody to fly internationally to come in and you’ve given them a certain slot, don’t cut them down. Cut somebody else down. Give them that time to let them deliver. And I personally don’t like this new practice of reducing the speaking time, 15 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes. If you’re having somebody come in and it’s costing you money, give them the time to share their knowledge and expertise, give them a longer slot.
Are they often very happy with audience questions?
Yes, absolutely. If it’s part of the brief, again, you agree that in advance do you want questions or not? And that’s normally the client’s call. Most speakers are happy to take questions unless it’s the closing speech when you have questions after the closing speeches it sort of rather ruins the whole feeling that you’ve left the audience on. It can drag it down. And so I personally wouldn’t do it after the last speech unless it’s an industry expert as opposed to a closing keynote speaker. That’s there to deliver a powerful close.
When it comes to post-event, you alluded earlier on that perhaps event organisers could get a bit more bang for their buck or supplement the buck very slightly in order to get a better bang. What kinds of things should really be taking place post event?
Well, I think certainly talk to your bureau as to what do you think we can ask the speakers to do post event. From our bureau’s point of view, you should talk to our head of momentum. Absolutely because she can give so much value and so many tips that won’t cost you anything in order to implement and embed the learning that you’ve had, but I would absolutely ask for that telephone call with a speaker. Not all of them will do it, but the majority of them will just say, let’s do a follow-up call and the stuff that comes out is fantastic, the knowledge that a speaker has of your audience and your industry after they’ve worked with you is just phenomenal. Take advantage of that. Absolutely.
I’m going to be a bit cheeky here and interrupt. We had intended to produce this as a one off podcast in its own right, but Maria was sharing such good advice and then I persuaded her as you’ll hear shortly, to name a few names and share some clips of just some of the great talent she has at her fingertips, and I don’t want you to miss out or have to leave things on the cutting room floor, nor do I want you to be late for the gym, the wine bar or work. So I’m going to split the episode into two because it’s so much a better experience for you when I keep things close to 30 minutes an episode as possible. Thank you for joining us today on Three Blind MICE at Radio.Events. I hope you’ll come back and listen to part two of Speaking Talent with Maria Franzoni and guests. Until then go well,
Three Blind MICE is edited and mixed by Sam Williams at RightRoyalAudio.com. Right Royal Audio – be heard, loud and clear.
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