For this Report, we sent our survey questions to those in the speaking industry around the world:
Not everyone replied to every question. I am sure some replied to no questions at all. They were just curious to see what questions I asked, so they did not ask to be removed. The replies have an amazing amount of diversity in who replied. One question might have had 1000 replies, the next 100.
I asked very personal and confidential questions about where the speaking industry is going. See the Table of Contents for the full list of questions. I asked meeting planners and speakers bureaus what are best selling topics and subjects, how bureaus and planners prefer to hire speakers, what does the future hold, which speaker would they really like to hire if money was no object, and what they wish they could tell speakers, but cannot?
Also included are the actual comments - most used anonymously to encourage absolute freedom of disclosure of their honest opinions. To insure the privacy of those who disclosed something not all together positive, I have deleted things, and inserted an XXXXX to show that I have. These were mentions that were too specific, and did not help to make the point. For instance, one person had a negative impression of NSA, and mentioned their unhappy experience with a local chapter. The actual chapter name was not important to the point being made, and was replaced with an XXXXX.
I have not included all comments, but a sample of the opinions sent to me.
For one question, I asked the participants if I could quote them, with the by-line of their choice. Only those who choose to be included, are at the end of this Report.
You will find many typos in the copy. These are the actual comments, the way they were sent to me. Very real, very human, very honest
Included also are some of the survey results from the 1995, 1998 and 2000 Reports, so you can compare moments and trends. For those questions from 2000, for which I knew there was no, or very little change, I did not ask the question again, but included the results from 2000 for you for reference. This are noted as 2000 results.
Thanks to everyone who gave so generously of their time, their opinions, and their insight to make this Report one of the most unique in the industry!
- Lilly Walters
Division of Income and Products Commissions For Speakers Bureaus
SPEAKERS: How is your income divided. Products? Consulting? Speaking? Others? Please give the answer in a percentage, with total figures coming to 100%
Sample comments from speakers on income division
SPEAKERS: When you sell products to customers booked by a speakers bureaus, do you always give the bureau a commission? Yes, or no?
Sample comments from speakers on product commissions paid to bureaus
If yes, what commission do you pay?
Sample comments from speakers on paying commissions to bureaus
If not, why do you not pay a commission?
BUREAUS: Do you try to sell the speaker's products to your customer?
Sample comments from bureaus on selling products
If yes, how much of a commission do you expect?
Sample comments from bureaus on product commissions
BUREAUS: Are you upset when you learn the speaker has sold a large amount of product at the back of the room, but did not send you a commission?
Sample comments from bureaus who ARE upset when a speaker does not offer them a commission on back of the room sales.
Sample comments from bureaus who are NOT upset when a speaker does not offer them a commission on back of the room sales.
What Speakers Read
SPEAKERS: Which book(s) has/have been the most helpful to you as a professional speaker?
Books which appeared in the top lists from the past two surveys
SPEAKERS: Which publication(s) do you *MAKE* time to read?
SPEAKERS: As a professional speaker, do you have favorite on-line place to share, network, or chat with other speakers?
SPEAKERS: As a professional speaker, do you have favorite on-line place for gathering information vital to you?
Best Selling Speakers, Topics & Titles - Past and Future
Best Selling Topics From the Past Two Years
PLANNERS: For those speakers you hired in the past two years, what were the subjects/topics you actually used those speakers for?
BUREAUS: Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, for which subjects/topics did you close the most bookings in the past two years?
SPEAKERS: For which of your subjects/topics had you noticed an INCREASE in actual booked dates during the two years PRIOR to Sept. 11, 2001?
SPEAKERS: For which of your subjects/topics had you noticed a DECREASE in actual booked dates during the two years PRIOR to Sept. 11, 2001?
Best Selling Topics Since 9/11/2001
BUREAUS: For which subjects/topics did you close the most bookings in the past two months? (After 9/11/2001)
PLANNERS: For those speakers you hired in the past TWO MONTHS, what were the subjects/topics you actually used those speakers for? (After 9/11/2001)
SPEAKERS: For which of your subjects/topics have you noticed an INCREASE in actual booked dates SINCE Sept. 11, 2001?
SPEAKERS: For which of your subjects/topics have you noticed a DECREASE in actual booked dates SINCE Sept. 11, 2001?
Projections of the Best Selling Topics?
PLANNERS: Which subjects/topics do you foresee in 2002 and beyond?
BUREAUS: Which subjects/topics do you foresee will be the most requested in 2002, and beyond?
Combined results of Speakers, Bureaus and Planners
SPEAKERS & BUREAUS: When you are chatting with your customers, which speakers have they mentioned, whom they would love to have come to speak at their event? Perhaps also the speaker/s they would want if money and other impossibilities were no object?
SPEAKERS: Thinking back over your life, did you hear, or read the words of a great speaker? Words that still inspire you today? Who was that speaker?
SPEAKERS QUESTION: Is there a phrase or wisdom that you carry with you in your mind today from a great teacher's wisdom? What is that phrase or teaching?
Fees & Booked Dates: Past, Future
Comparison of 1987 through 1999 on average fees speakers receive
SPEAKERS: How many PAID ENGAGEMENTS have you booked since Sept. 11, 2001?
Sample comments from Speakers on the number of paid dates after 9/11/2001
SPEAKERS: BEFORE Sept. 11, 2001 By what percentage have your total NUMBER OF PAID BOOKINGS (not fees) gone up or down in the past two years ?
Percentage of those speakers who saw change in their fees
SPEAKERS: BEFORE Sept. 11, 2001 By what percentage had your FEES gone up or down in the past two years?
SPEAKERS: SINCE Sept. 11, 2001 By what percentage have your FEES gone up or down in the past two years?
SPEAKERS: Want to make an anonymous comment about what you attribute the changes in fees and/number of paid bookings?
BUREAUS: It seems that some clients are struggling to pay deposits and balances on time no matter how successful and big the company is, and no matter what they signed and agreed to on the contract. Have you found this to be true for your company?
Sample comments from bureaus on late deposit payments
If yes, do you have a suggestion on how to handle this?
Fees for Handouts, Workbooks and Customization (from 2000)
SPEAKERS: Do you use any type of handout/workbook?
SPEAKERS: Do you ask the meeting planner to reproduce your handout/workbook from the original you supplied, or you do want them to buy the handout/workbook ready made from you?
SPEAKERS: Do you charge for a handout/workbook of UNDER 5 pages?
SPEAKERS: Do you charge for a handout/workbook of OVER 5 pages?
SPEAKERS: How much do you charge for handouts over 5 pages? (price per piece)
How speakers are charging for handouts/workbooks over 5 pages
SPEAKERS: Do you also charge a research and/or development fee if the handout/workbook needs customization?
SPEAKERS: How do you charge for research and development?
SPEAKERS: How much do you charge for a research and development fee?
Marketing, Sales, and Growing Your Speaking Business
SPEAKERS: which of the following marketing tools are most valuable in obtaining bookings for you - not what you HOPE will work, but what has really helped you close the sale.
Other Marketing Ideas that Have Worked Well - or not - For Speakers
Sample comments from speakers about marketing tools.
SPEAKERS: What strategies for securing new business have you found the MOST effective?
Below is a sampling of the comments from speakers on this
SPEAKERS: What strategies for securing new business used to be effective that are no longer effective since the downturn and 9/11
Sample comments from speakers on NON-effective marketing after 9/11
SPEAKERS: What strategies for securing new business are now effective since the downturn and 9/11? N/A
Sample comments from speakers on EFFECTIVE marketing after 9/11
SPEAKERS: If you were to start all over again as a speaker - knowing what you know now - what would you do differently?
Sample of comments from speakers on what they would do if they were to start over
SPEAKERS: Do you have a tip that has helped you effectively and profitably penetrate large companies for large contracts?
SPEAKERS: what is your best passive marketing tip, that will work without you, while you are working with your clients and do not have time to actively market yourself?
SPEAKERS: Do you have an on-line video yet? Are you happy, or unhappy with the results? Why?
Sample replies from speakers who are HAPPY with video on the web
Sample replies from speakers who are UNHAPPY with video on the web
SPEAKERS: Membership in which association/s has proved the most beneficial as a source of actual bookings for your speaking career?
Sample comments from speakers on associations as a source of bookings
SPEAKERS: In my prior questions about membership in associations, NSA (The National Speakers Association) was the most often mentioned. (Value or disappointment in NSA?)
I found/find disappointed in my membership in NSA for these reasons
I have found great value in my membership in NSA for these reasons
BUREAUS: As a bureau today, do you feel the majority of speakers belonging to NSA (The National Speakers Association) are viewed as amateurs?
Sample comments from bureaus about NSA who feel it does NOT brand speakers as amateurs
Sample comments from bureaus about NSA who feel it DOES brand speakers as amateurs
BUREAUS: Do you have second thoughts about a speaker who has an NSA logo on their materials?
Sample comments from bureaus who DO have second thoughts when seeing the NSA logo on speaker's materials
Sample comments from bureaus who do NOT have second thoughts when seeing the NSA logo on speaker's materials
Bookings from Speakers Bureaus, Agents and More!
BUREAUS: When a speaker approaches you for the first time, would you rather it be via:
Sample comments from Bureaus about first contact
BUREAUS: Think back on the past two years of the new speakers you actively started booking successfully. Over the hundreds of hopefuls that wanted you to book them, why did you choose to work with those few?
Sample comments from bureaus about why they choose speakers
BUREAUS: What turns you off most when a speaker is working on selling you?
BUREAUS: What has impressed you most when a speaker is selling you?
Bureaus: Add-ons vs. Standard Commissions (2000)
Bureaus: If you add-on, what percentage of your total bookings are of this add on?
Bureaus: How much do you add-on?
Bureau: The times when you take a commission FROM the total fee, what percentage of the speaking fee is standard in your company?
Bureaus: How much of a deposit do you ask for from the end buyer?
Bureaus: When do you give the speaker their portion of the deposit?
Bureaus: When do you ask for the balance of the total fee?
Bureaus: When do you give the speaker their portion of the balance?
Bureaus: Do you handle the billing for expenses? Or do you ask the speaker to handle this directly with the buyer?
Bureaus and Speakers: Multiple holds (2000)
Bureaus: SCENARIO -- Two (or more) different speakers bureaus ask the same speaker to hold the same date, for the same customer. Which bureau should get the date?
Speakers: SCENARIO - Two (or more) different speakers bureaus ask the same speaker to hold the same date, for the same customer. QUESTION: 1) Which bureau should get the date?
Bureaus What Are the Problems With Speakers Staff?
BUREAUS: Are there speakers you avoid working with because you dislike working with their staff?
Sample comments from bureaus about problems with speaker's staff
BUREAUS: What comment would you like to make to those difficult speaker's staff, that of course you won't make because you are too polite?
Speakers: Saving Your Marriage
SPEAKERS: If you are/were happily married for more than 10 years: Why has your marriage lasted?
The Future of the World of Professional Speaking
SPEAKERS: Is there life after speaking? What's the next step?
Sample of comments from speakers on life after speaking
SPEAKERS: What will the professional speaking business look like in twenty years?
BUREAUS: What will the professional speaking business look like in twenty years?
SPEAKERS: How do you keep from giving up when the going gets rough? How do you overcome the fear of not having enough bookings to be self-supporting
First and foremost, we are an industry that is in transition. It had started before 9/11/2001, and has perhaps been hasten along by the terrorist attacks. We are reinventing topics that serve the new focus of our industry. There is more on 9/11 effect on our industry in this summary
Here is an overview of the full results to be found in the 2002 Report.
A SMALL SELECTION OF THE CHARTS ARE HERE ALSO. We do not include the multitude of charts we have in the actual Report, in this Summary
INCOME DIVISIONS AND PRODUCT SALES
100% of the speakers who responded have income from speaking, with 53% of that income from speaking engagements. The rest is divided in other income sources. (See charts, comments and the rest of the divisions at: Division of Income and Products Commissions for Speakers Bureaus).
Product commission to bureaus for product sales was impossible to chart, but the comments and opinions about this subject are wide and well opinionated. (See comments at: Division of Income and Products Commissions for Speakers Bureaus).
36.4% of the speakers surveyed pay a 10% commission on products. See Chart
42.9% of the bureaus surveyed say they only sometimes try to sell product to customers. but 50% are upset when the speaker sells product, and does not offer them a commission.
WHAT SPEAKERS READ
Forty-six books were mentioned, with the most valuable book 17.4% - "Speak and Grow Rich" (Prentice-Hall Simon Schuster) Book by Lilly and Dottie Walters. (See the other top 10 from 2002, the top 8 from 2000, and those that made both lists, the publications speakers made time to read, and the website that are most valuable at: What Speakers Read). FYI, of the non-association publications, FAST COMPANY is again the #1 most read publication.
BEST SELLING SPEAKERS, TOPICS & TITLES - PAST AND FUTURE___
Motivational topics were still the best selling topics. Leadership has made a huge leap in popularity, and sadly, Terrorism is now on the best selling list.
Prior to 9/11, speakers saw the biggest increase in Sales topics, and decrease in After Dinner speakers. Since 9/11 bureaus saw a huge increase in requests for motivational topics, the majority of speakers 23.7% - saw no change in topics. For all other topics that saw an increase and decrease, with comments, see this section in the Report. The results are divided into: Prior to 9/11, Since 9/11 and Projections for the Future.
For the most requested speaker of the 65 mentioned by the other speakers I asked, Tony Robbins was number one. Of the 40 mentioned by speakers bureaus, it was Colin Powell. The other top 10 are shown in the section of the Report, and a list from speakers, and another from bureaus of often requested speakers. See chart. Also shown are a list of the speakers whom other speakers found made a personal difference in their own lives, with a list of wisdom's that speakers have carried in their hearts from these other great speakers.
FEES & BOOKED DATES: PAST, FUTURE
According to speakers bureaus, fees for national keynotes fees have gone up, but fees for breakouts, and local presentations went down.
An average of 58% of the speakers surveyed saw an increase of 51% in the number of paid bookings they received for 2000 2002 (prior to Sept. 11, 2001)
An average of 38.1% of the speakers surveyed feel that the number of paid engagements booked since Sept. 11, 2001 to be down by an average of 45.86%.
An average of 24.7% found it to be the same
An average of 36.2% found it to have increased by 47.80%
An average of 75% of those speakers surveyed saw an increase in their fees, compared to the 2000 results of only 58%.
An average of 76.8% of the speakers surveyed saw an increase of 45.5% in their fees.
Comments are included in this section on why speakers feel business has gone up, or down.
An average of 50% of the bureaus surveyed see clients are struggling to pay deposits and balances on time. Bureaus' comments on this are included in this section.
MARKETING, SALES, AND GROWING YOUR SPEAKING BUSINESS
We asked SPEAKERS: which marketing tools were most valuable in obtaining bookings - not what they HOPED work, but what has really helped speakers close the sale. I was actually surprised by the scores on the 29 tools we asked about. There has been a great deal of movement with those, but what was not surprising is, the number one tool of marketing is the speech itself. Included in this section are the comments from speakers on what has, and has not been working.
On the average 77.4% of those speakers we surveyed felt there is no change in the effectiveness of marketing tools since 9/11/2001.
What would speakers do, if they could start over?
Comments from speakers are also included on their best passive marketing tools, and what is most effective for penetrating large businesses.
We also asked for comments from speakers about on-line videos. Mainly, it's a great idea that is still too slow.
We asked speakers about membership in associations that have proved the most beneficial as a source of actual bookings for your speaking career.
10.81% said None; 17.6% said NSA National Speakers Association. The other associations mentioned are in this section.
There was so much discussion in the replies sent back to me about NSA, that I also asked a specific question about the value of membership there. 53% found value. There is a long section with many of the comments for and against the value of membership in NSA. Interesting that there were NO comments from those in the middle of the road. As you will see, I had no lack of opinions offered to me on this subject!
For many years, some bureaus would tell speakers that putting the NSA logo on their promotional materials made them look like an amateur, and should therefore, not be used. Some had stronger private, but negative things to say about speakers who affiliated with NSA. During the past few years, NSA has been working hard to change that image.
So, we asked bureaus, if they felt the majority of speakers belonging to NSA were viewed as amateurs. 55% said yes. This seems like a high number, but in my personal opinion, if I had asked that same question in 1996, I believe the number would have been about 80%. So, 55% is actually very good news about the very difficult job NSA is undertaking, and at which it is succeeding.
Included in that section are the comments from bureaus as to why they still do, or do not view speakers with NSA poorly, and their thoughts on working with a speaker with the NSA logo on their materials.
BOOKINGS FROM SPEAKERS BUREAUS, AGENTS AND MORE!
We asked bureaus about how they prefer a speaker to approach them for the first time. 48% want an e-mail introduction, up from 10% in 2000. HOWEVER, read their comments. Bureaus have a love/hate relationship with e-mail.
Also included in the section are bureaus' comments on why they have taken a new speakers, selecting one over the hundreds of hopefuls that wanted to be booked by them. Also, their comments on what turns them off, and on, when speakers are making their sales pitch to them.
BUREAUS: WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS WITH SPEAKERS STAFF?
We asked bureaus if there are speakers they avoid working with because they dislike working with their staff? 40% said YES, while 13% said SOMETIMES. Personally, I look at those who choose an ambiguous reply, as a YES. Included in this section are the bureaus' comments about the speakers staff problems. See Chart
SPEAKERS: SAVING YOUR MARRIAGE
We are an industry with a high divorce rate. So, I asked speakers who have been married for more than 10 years why their marriages have lasted. Several pages of their replies are included. I made no attempt to chart these results. They are comments from the heart.
THE FUTURE OF THE WORLD OF PROFESSIONAL SPEAKING
We also asked speakers what their next step would be, if there were a life after speaking? The most popular choices are to write, coach, and to NEVER retire. Some very insightful replies and sad comments are in this section. Note the WHY RETIRE?
We also asked speakers and bureaus, what will this industry look like in 20 years? Many of the interesting comments are included. Overwhelmingly, we all feel that in 20 years there will still be a great need for great speakers to greatly inspire their audiences.