Ep 444: What You Should Know About Working with Speaker Bureaus with Shawn Hanks



Are you a talented speaker looking to advance your career, but unsure of how to take the next steps and scale up?

Then look no further than today’s conversation with Shawn Hanks, CEO of Premiere Speakers Bureau (PSB) – a company that has spent over 25 years successfully partnering leading speakers with satisfied clients.

Tuning in, you’ll hear Shawn unpack everything you need to know about the dynamics of working with bureaus, along with a host of practical tips for aspiring speakers.

We explore the nuances of choosing your content as a speaker, what to consider when it comes to trending topics, and how you can tailor your content to suit the market.

Our conversation also covers essential assets for speakers looking to land top gigs, including a detailed breakdown of what to consider when putting together a preview reel — like getting audience reaction shots — and how to tailor keynote descriptions for different industries.

For a comprehensive overview of what speakers bureaus are all about, plus Shawn’s actionable advice and top strategies, be sure to tune in today!


  • Get to know today’s guest, Shawn Hanks, CEO of Premiere Speakers Bureau (PSB).
  • An overview of what a speakers bureau is and what they do.
  • How Premiere Speakers Bureau (PSB) serves its clients.
  • The role that PSB, and other bureaus, play in selecting the best speakers.
  • Working with a reputable bureau; why you are taking on little to no risk.
  • How working with a bureau can benefit speakers.
  • What to consider when choosing your content as a speaker.
  • Finding a balance between trending topics and evergreen content.
  • Advice on how you can reframe your content to suit the market.
  • The content that is most popular with clients hiring speakers.
  • Insights on how to scale and grow your fees.
  • The essential assets for speakers looking to land top gigs.
  • How companies choose and compare speakers.
  • Why you should tailor keynote descriptions for different industries.
  • Tips on how to make an excellent video reel.
  • What it takes to be a prime candidate for a speakers bureau like PSB.


“Ideally, there’s no risk in working with a bureau because we’re bringing them the cream of the crop.” — @Shawn_Hanks [0:07:20]

“We’ve done all of the hard work of selecting from the 1000s of speaker submissions we’ve seen in the last year. We have found the 10, or 20, or 30, or 40, that we know are going to be amazing.” — @Shawn_Hanks [0:07:25]

“If you’re picking something because you hope it’ll capture the market, my argument is, you’re going to hate that content in six months, because you’re trying to fall in love with something that you don’t love.” — @Shawn_Hanks [0:16:40]

“You can build an amazing career as a customer experience, marketing, or branding speaker.” — @Shawn_Hanks [0:25:56]

“Killing it onstage is the barrier to entry to be a professional speaker.” — @Shawn_Hanks [0:28:34]

“Don’t be afraid to have two or three keynotes [descriptions] that look similar, but are targeted towards different types of organizations.” — @Shawn_Hanks [0:33:01]

“Hyperbole is the natural language of our industry.” — @Shawn_Hanks [0:38:16]

“You want to answer the question, ‘Why are you an expert? Why should I give you 60 minutes of my people’s time?’ You want to answer that in the first few seconds.” — @Shawn_Hanks [0:39:23]

About Shawn Hanks

Shawn Hanks, CEO of Premiere Speakers Bureau, has two decades of experience in the bureau industry providing direction to speakers and developing strategic relationships. And he is the most recent Past President of the International Association of Speakers Bureaus (IASB.) An avid sports fan, Shawn enjoys CrossFit and watching the NFL/NBA. He and his wife, Heather, are native Texans that have made Nashville home for 23 years. They are the proud parents of Mia (20), Ethan (19), Ella Kate (16), Ava (14) and the world’s greatest golden-doodle, Poppy.


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AJV (00:00): Hey everybody, and welcome to the influential personal brand, AJ Vaden here. Have a long time friend who is on the show today, Shawn Hanks. I’m going to formally introduce him in just a sec, but I want you to know who this episode is for and why you should stick around and listen to it. Number one, this is for anyone who is on the path to desiring to become a highly paid professional speaker. That’s who this episode is really built for. If you want to speak occasionally, probably not the episode for you. This is built for the person who goes, I have a message to share, and I have a passion for sharing it on stages all over the world. I want this to be the primary part of my business, and I wanna be a highly paid professional speaker. AJV (00:53): If that’s you, this is an episode you cannot absolutely do not want to miss. Now, what are we gonna talk about? We’re gonna talk about what it takes to become a highly paid professional speaker, and most importantly, how do you get on all those stages that you so desire to be on? ’cause There’s lots of different ways to do it. And working with a bureau is one of those, which we’re gonna talk a lot about today. It’s not the only one, but it is one that definitely helps pave the path. But in order to do that, there’s some things you gotta do before you get on those stages. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to the CEO of Premier Speakers Bureau. Shawn has been in the Speakers Bureau world for almost 20 years, if not over 20 years. He was also the most recent past president of the International Association of Speakers Bureaus, which is just a real fancy word of saying he knows a lot about this industry. , he knows a lot about this. But I also love the fun facts. I love that you’re an avid sports fan. But I gotta know, like, who, who’s your NFL team? Like who’s your favorite team? SH (02:02): Dallas Cowboys. Oh, Dallas, Tyler and I went to a game last week. We watched them beat the Rams. Hey, it’s, it’s fun. Cowboys are great until they’re not, and it just breaks my heart every year. AJV (02:13): Oh, I love that . Also Shawn lives here in Nashville as Roy and I do. So it’s also great to also get to have fellow Nashvillians on the show. And I gotta tell you this before we get started speaking of football, like my two little ones, I have a four year old and a six year old, both boys. And just this year they have discovered a deep passion for football. And it’s like, we love football, but we, SH (02:36): That’s fun. AJV (02:37): We don’t have a deep passion for it. But my four year old got himself a pair of football gloves, like, you know, like I love SH (02:47): It. , AJV (02:48): But SH (02:48): Yeah, probably receiver G gloves. Yeah, AJV (02:50): Receiver G gloves. There you go. That’s what they called. I don’t even know. But he sleeps in them. SH (02:55): Love it. AJV (02:56): He wears them to basketball practice. He wears them to school. He wears them everywhere his goes. I’m like, you’re gonna have the softest, most moisturized hand I’ve ever seen this light of day. They’re obsessed with football and they, they don’t care what the teams are, only what the mascots are. So our house love it. Designated as fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Miami Dolphins. So SH (03:20): Yeah, they’re two great teams. Eki. AJV (03:29): So funny. Alright, well now we gotta talk business. We gotta talk business. So Shawn, help everyone get to know just a little bit about you and premier speakers. Like for those who are listening, who are going what, what’s a bureau? What do those people do? What is a bureau? What is Premier? And how did you get into this industry and how have you stayed in it for so long? Yeah. SH (03:53): Well, thank you aj. It’s great. Always fun to see you and your energy comes through the screen. I love that. Bureau is, if you don’t know what a speaker’s bureau is, join the crowd. I didn’t know what a speaker’s bureau was in October of 2000, 23 years ago. Let’s not do the math. I didn’t know what a speaker’s bureau was. That’s an old dusty term. That essentially means we do speaker representation, right? We are the organizations that especially larger conferences, corporate groups come to a speakers bureau to say, Hey, I need to have four slots and these are the types of content I want to fill. This is what I do want. This is what I don’t want. Premier in particular, and you mentioned IASB, which is a great organization, international Association of Speakers Bureaus. I am plugged into that group. SH (04:39): So I, I probably know more about speakers bureaus than I should except for doing market competitor research. But we, it’s a small industry. There’s about 120 speakers bureaus. Most of those are very small. You know, one, two person shops that really started doing event management and then event production and then slid into the speakers bureau world. ’cause They really enjoyed being the liaison with the speakers. But, and they’re probably four to five that are significant in size and, you know, would, would own a significant part of the industry. PSB in particular, we, last year we worked with about 2000 events. We have nine agents on our team. They are siloed. So we have one agent who only handles healthcare, right? So when a healthcare client calls or a hospital he can speak with, you know, he, he understands their pain points, he understands their jargon. SH (05:34): So we, we have been intentional at Premier. We’ll celebrate 30 years next year. Congrat of building congrat. Thank you. Thank you. Building what we call sectors. So we have one agent that only handles education. We do a lot of work in the K through 12 arena. And if you call from a school district or any kind of education group, you’re always end up talking to Carl because he understands what your pain points are. He understands that in particular, you always pay net 30. Most groups don’t do that. All those little intricacies that, that you can really glean from working with the same types of clients over and over again. Expertise, ultimately. But our job most people assume our job is to just book speakers. And that is the end product. I always say our, we are in consultancy more than anything else. SH (06:18): And really risk mitigation. When, when a large corporation calls us or a large association and says, Hey, this is the type of speaker we’re looking for, or often it’s, here are the three types of speakers who want, we need a headliner. Who’s going to capture attention? We’re willing to spend X number of dollars, then we think this is going to be a hot topic. Let’s call it ai. I mean, that’s a hot topic for today. We need someone on the stage who can cover that content. And then we want someone who can do this and, and check these certain boxes. They, and they most often call us with very specific criteria of these are the things they don’t, most often don’t have a name. They’re not calling to say, we want AJ on this date. Right? they’re calling us and the consultancy is really what we’re selling. SH (07:01): We’re risk mitigation. They may book four speakers this year. We worked with, we booked 2000 events last year. So they understand we aren’t going to book a speaker for them and with them. Who isn’t going to be literally world class. I mean, just show up, crush it, be amazing, you on stage. So there’s no risk in, I’ll say that ideally there’s no risk in working with a bureau because we’re bringing them the cream of the crop. And we’ve done all of the hard work of selecting from the, the thousand speaker submissions that we’ve seen in the last year. We have found, gleaned the, the 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 that we know are going to be amazing. And that ultimately that’s what a speaker’s bureau is. We’re we are here to service our end clients when we say clients. And that’s the term of art in our industry. SH (07:50): We are talking specifically premier speakers bureau. We are talking about an event planner. Mm-Hmm. who has a problem to solve. And we are in the problem solving business. Our solution happens to be amazing speakers that they say, we need to communicate a message this year for this thing. We say we know the person to do that. Now, typically, they don’t want a proposal with one person. They, they require of us a proposal with four or five, six suggestions. And we can dig into that a little bit. ’cause That’s a very different buying process than if they go directly to a speaker’s website, right? That’s a step prior to what most speakers experience when they’re working directly with a client. But our job at that point make great suggestions. The client, they end up in a boardroom somewhere with a search committee or, or you know, a team who’s playing at a conference. SH (08:40): They select from that list and probably come back to us. So we massage that ultimately, but at the end of the day, it turns into, is the speaker available on this date? Yes. We go to contract with the end client, go to contract with the speaker. We have nine of those agents. We have five people on our event logistics team. They grab the event, they do all of the event logistics in turn, I’m sorry, they do all the speakers event logistics, airfare, car service, all of the details to get the speaker from home to the event and back. And then we have a full accounting team. We collect all the funds, guarantee all the payment to the speaker. So the, there’s very little risk for the speaker. We do work on a commission structure, so they’re paying for those services. But, but ultimately solving the problem of what content do you need on the stage Event planner, that’s where it starts. AJV (09:29): Yeah. So I, I love that you said that ’cause I haven’t heard that. So clearly stated, it’s like we’re risk mitigation for our clients. Mm-Hmm. , we’re the first round filter of all of the speakers out there who fit X criteria of going, Hey, we’re gonna filter these. We’re gonna, you know, mitigate any risk. So someone doesn’t get on stage and say something crazy or this isn’t very good because at the end of the day, that makes the meeting planner look bad and makes the company look bad. But then also that’s a lot of wasted time because these events are very expensive to put on and they’re paying high dollar for these people. Now, what would you say is the benefit of a speaker working with you as a, a bureau? SH (10:14): Assuming the speaker is with the, the right bureau. And when I say right, every, every company ha ends up with a clientele that looks like them as a company, right? And whether that’s intentional or unintentional premier has been blessed with a lot of organic growth over the years. But much of that is the, the, the speakers that we select to represent, attract a certain type of clientele, right? So then we go find speakers who are attractive to that type of clientele that that grows. So our client base somewhat intentional, somewhat just by the nature of how business works, we over time end up with a certain type of clientele. And then we are looking for speakers to service the, those groups of, of clients. So it, there is a step there of, I have seen many times, and we’ve been guilty of it, we say, Hey, we, this, this speaker is very interesting. SH (11:03): We think it could be a good fit, but we end up misaligned ’cause we don’t have the right clientele to select them. But when there’s a great marriage there a speaker working with a bureau the opportunity there is Speaker X. If you get in front of 10 event planners, and I say in front of, if you’re email, if, if you have contact with 10 event planners and two or three of them book you, right? Let’s say you have 30% close rate, well, we can put you in front of a hundred event planners or a thousand, 10,000 is a big number. But so it at that, it’s just the, the scale of opportunity. Even if that close rate goes down, you still have massive opportunity. There are assumptions with alignment there, obviously, but when it works well, it really, it it’s a scale that most speakers are not able to build on their own or choose not to. SH (11:56): I mean, ultimately, I mentioned all of our staff with 24 people on our team, it, for a speaker to go hire someone, okay, I want you on the phone all day, every day talking about me to clients. I need someone to run a business. I need, you know, maybe ACOO so like manage all of this and I need someone, an account like it’s staffing up becomes a significant amount of overhead bureaus. We do sell services and provide services to speakers. But that it eliminates for most speakers the requirement of having a full back office. AJV (12:27): Yeah. That, you know, what I’ve always said is just being honest, we’ve always had a love hate relationship with bureaus. Yep. ’cause We are salespeople. It’s like we’ve always found ourselves. It’s like we’re great at pitching ourselves and getting ourselves on stages until you run into a slew of clients that are like, oh, we love you would love to book you. Let me contact my bureau. . Yeah. SH (12:50): , AJV (12:51): You need to contact the bureau. I’m talking to you right now. Yeah. And it’s like, but I think that’s one of the benefits for speakers is just understanding there is a whole world of clients who will not book you without going through their bureau because of that risk mitigation process. SH (13:06): Right? AJV (13:07): Right. It’s that they wanna know that you’ve gone through the ringer with the bureau too before they put you on their stage. And I would say that’s, I think that’s, it’s a huge benefit of just going, if you have a great relationship with the bureau, one access is a big deal. Like, you’re gonna get access to people who would never book you direct. They’re just not gonna do it. It’s not what they do. Right. But then two, it’s like if you don’t have relationships with bureaus, even if you’re not exclusive you’re gonna be competing with ’em. Right. Right. That’s true. And those have, that’s that established relationships where even if they like you, they know these other people really well. And so there’s pros and cons to all the things, but I think a lot of people who want to be highly paid professional speakers, they want to do it now . AJV (13:57): And there’s a process of how do you raise your fees and how do you get to become that person who is booked on stages where people are calling you, or bureaus are calling you versus you calling them. So I’d love to hear from your perspective of, you know, booking 2000 events last year is insanity. Right? That’s so many. That’s so, I mean, that’s what, four a day for three and a half a day. It’s a time. But also being in the industry for so long, like what are people looking for? And so I wanna talk about this in three different ways. Sure. What are they looking for in terms of the content? Like what’s trending, what’s hot, what’s, and I think there’s just evergreen. Like people are always gonna want leadership. They’re always gonna want culture. There’s always, there’s always some of those things, right? But then there’s new topics like ai, right? Yeah. So I’d love to talk about content. The second is, what are the assets that a speaker needs in order to get booked, right? So we need demo video, but any footage isn’t good footage, right? So like, what type of SH (15:01): Footage? AJV (15:02): And then also like a speaker press kit or a website. Like what, what’s the formula of this is the set of assets you need if you’re really going after this. And then the last thing is, what does it take to work with a bureau? Sure. Because I think that’s important. So let’s start with content. Like, just thinking of, you know, some people have great ideas, but are people gonna pay 10, 20, 30, $40,000 for an hour? Right? SH (15:29): Yeah. And that’s a great question. You, you, you described it perfectly, aj. There are certain elements of content that will never grow old. Leadership is one of them. Teamwork your right culture and how we see that play out in the market is often a client will call and say, Hey, we need a speaker who I mentioned AI earlier, as we sit here in November of 2023, that’s a hot topic. It, it may not be two years from now, but it is today. And I’ll come back to that in a second. But often they’ll say, Hey, even if you’re an AI speaker, we want you to, to hit on ai. We want you to be the expert. Ideally, you’ve written a book on it. You, you’ve been on tv and they’ve put your name aj a expert in ai, right? But the reality is they also want you to hit on some of those evergreen topics. SH (16:19): So event planners will say like, oh, we want that AI speaker to be great. Can they also hit on leadership? And, and so there is kind of this combination of your content. But that isn’t, say you do want to be known for something. Now what that thing is, social media eight, 10 years ago was the thing. And I remember so many speakers saying, I have to overnight reinvent myself as a social media speaker. The problem with that is, the next day, you know, you have, let’s make up a number a thousand speakers who overnight became experts on social media. So there immediately becomes a glut in the market. But there was opportunity there. The problem is, if you’re chasing content in that way, it is really hard to read what’s in the future, right? Like to guess. Okay, where’s it gonna be in a year? SH (17:08): I’ve always encouraged speakers, yes, be smart, leadership, teamwork, culture. There’s some content that will never grow old. The thing that you’re gonna care about in three to five years. ’cause We’re talking about what you guys do at brand builders. Like, figure out what you were great at and like, you own it, but you gotta live it, right? So if you’re picking something because you want, you hope, it’ll just capture the market. My my argument is you’re going to hate that content in six months. ’cause You’re, you’re trying to fall in love with something that you don’t love, right? . So, but everyone, if, if you’re, if you’re watching this and you’re passionate and you answered the question that, that you, you tossed out on the very front end or definition of this is what this conversation, this is who this conversation is for. If you’re in that small segment of people, you know the thing that you’re passionate about, Mm-Hmm. SH (17:58): And make that your own. Now be smart, obviously. It, it, DEI was a very hot conversation topic and keynote topic two years ago last year. But we’ve seen a number of DEI speakers, DEI speakers start to see their business slow. Because a a lot of companies will say, we had that content last year and they haven’t devalued it, but they can’t do that content every single year. So they, the, the rally the market, there’s less opportunity for that specific content. So you mentioned culture that is an, an evergreen topic, very clever gifted DEI speakers will, will pivot. And they don’t change their content significantly, but you rebrand it instead of DEI, it’s culture. And those are the same things, but how you brand it matters matters in the market over time. So that’s a long answer to what is the hot content out there. SH (18:53): You define three that will never go away. And you as a speaker have to lean into those and be able to answer the question, Hey, is there some leadership content in everything you do? Yes. You have to be able to honestly answer that with a yes. And then frame your content. You know, again, if it was DEI last year, you read the room and say, Hey, the opportunities are lessening for that content. Okay, I’m gonna reframe it as culture. The same with social media. You know, like I said, 10 years ago, overnight we had a thousand experts, but today we haven’t been asked about a social media speaker in probably five years. So you have to know that content has faded. And I will say there are, and you guys probably unpack this a bit with brand builders, there’s certain content that is viewed, no one sits down and defines this, I don’t think in a spreadsheet. SH (19:45): Leadership content, you can be a $40,000 leadership speaker. You will never find, well take that back. It would be very difficult to find a $40,000 social media speaker. Mm-Hmm. event planners think, oh, that’s like $7,500 content. So there are, there are kinda levels in, in the market’s mind. No one chooses it intentionally. It’s just kind of what the market does with the content. If you’re heavy on entertainment, you don’t, unless you’re a celebrity the market doesn’t pay heavily for entertainment. If you wanna do magic, they use that as a vehicle, as part of a keynote. Yeah. And this sounds like such splitting hairs. You can be a $20,000 magician who uses that as a vehicle to teach great content. Mm-Hmm. , if you do magic and also having to speak, they may pay you $7,500 for that. Whereas flip the description of it, you may get 20 for it. So some of that, and you, you figure out what those levers are over time. But being intentional about how you frame it, making certain there is a market for the thing that you’re doing is, is important. AJV (20:57): I think that’s so, so important. As you were talking, I was thinking about speakers like Eric Wall, right? SH (21:05): Amazing. Yeah. AJV (21:06): Yeah. He’s an artist and does his artistry, but it’s woven into a more articulate message with content. Mm-Hmm. . You know, there’s so many others that I could, I think could think of right now, but there’s one I’m thinking of, it’ll come to me in just a second. Dan Thurman. SH (21:25): Yes, he’s amazing. He’s terrific gymnast AJV (21:27): Balance and productivity and making it all come together. But yeah, he does acrobats and it’s like, that’s entertainment, but the content is just as good, SH (21:37): Right? Yes. Versus if you ask the person when they walked out of that, you know, there’s a thousand people in a conference room in Vegas, Hey, what did Dan Thurman do? They would probably, they would tell you some cool stuff. He can do things that I could never do physically on a stage. But that’s only to capture your attention. It’s kind of the concede or the trick and the thing to teach you something. If you’re leaning on the thing to be the thing, then, then you’re a gymnast. That’s right. If you’re just using that to communicate an idea, Uhhuh then you’re, you’re a true artist. I mean, you, you’ve, you’ve hacked the, that’s the professional part of professional speaking. You’ve found a way to capture people’s attention but then ultimately teach them amazing content that’s, that it has to be the end result. AJV (22:22): That’s so that’s such the key part of it in that entertainment aspect. It’s like you’re only using it to catch their attention, to deliver the great message. Now, we talked about a co ’cause I thought that’s really fascinating. Something that you said, it’s like categorically speaking, there is a, you know, perceived price value on certain categories of confidence. Mm-Hmm. . And like, I know that inherently, but it’s good to articulate, like Yeah, like, you’re not gonna find many 40,000 bucks social media speakers. Right? There SH (22:56): You go. AJV (22:56): That’s true. That’s very true. And so I, I would love to talk about, did I miss any, ’cause we said leadership, we said kind of culture we said teamwork, I threw in sales, but I don’t know, I believe that’s evergreen. Like, everyone’s looking at how do we keep revenues top line high, bottom line high. Are there any other categories that you’re like, yeah, these are evergreen. People are always gonna be asking for these types of speakers? SH (23:22): Yeah, I, that’s a great question. I, those, those you just described, and sales is definitely one. And I, I, I would pause for a second to describe the, the types of the buyers that are coming to speakers bureaus most often. Are you, you touched on this earlier, are larger corporations associations. Yeah. There’s a, I think the last number was like 26,000 associations out there. Not, no, not all of them can afford a $40,000 speaker, but they are all required by charter to do a conference. So, right. They’re all doing a conference on some level. So those are the types of clients who are most often working with, with speakers bureaus. So we, we do our, our data points are within a certain type of buyer. There are certainly other buyers out there who, that we don’t, we don’t bump into. But th those that you hit on are, are, are those described really well? SH (24:14): And, and sales is corporations will do a sales training or they’ll, you know, they’ll bring in their sales leaders. Associations don’t lean heavily into sales because unless there are a specific type of association, big picture sales would be probably a, a, AB option for them. And there are a lot of options beneath that. But leadership, teamwork, culture, those things that especially in the association world, the only thing these people have in common, the 5,000 people in the Vegas Orlando Ballroom, is that they’re all in one industry together. Mm-Hmm. beyond. And they’re all, but some may run a company, some may work at a company, some people may, you know, they may pick up the trash to the company. So the, the event planners are looking for content that can resonate with the CEO, the person who answers the phone. People in sales, people in logistics associations have to bring in broad content because of the types of attendees that are in the room. AJV (25:11): What about customer experience? SH (25:15): Yes. That is content that we, that we would book from time to time. That is not I wouldn’t say that would be a content where this is a home run every single time. And customer experience, customer service, those would almost be interchangeable. I do, I like customer experience is a better, it’s better terminology today. Customer service was definitely at five to 10 years ago or some amount of time ago, I would say. That does, if that is your only content, you are bumping up against a, a ceiling on some level. Now what that number is, is a guess, right? But you, you, you won’t find many customer experience $50,000 speakers, but you can find quite a few at 15, right? Or 12 five. AJV (26:00): So, fascinating. I love this conversation. Last question because I’m like, whatcha gonna think of, what about like marketing or branding? Mm-Hmm. SH (26:08): market, I would, branding is definitely the, the terminology would want to use in the corporate event space rather than marketing. Yes, that is, that’s great content. And I’d probably align that or put that in a similar plateau with customer experience. That is content that event planners will pay for wouldn’t be the top echelon type of, of fee structure. But with the caveat, again, if that’s something you’re passionate about, you can make that you, you can build an amazing career as a customer experience or marketing or branding speaker. Don’t, don’t let anything, don’t let me suggesting there are limits to it. Make you go, oh, do I wanna invest my time in this? If that’s something you’re passionate about and you have the, the, the silver bullet idea that you’ve seen work and you’ve led a team and it works and you taught it to other teams and it works. There’s always value in that thing and every market has a cap. But it, yeah, that’s, that’s the question I would ask. And the answer would be, yeah, that’s probably a 15 to $20,000 keynote somewhere in that range. AJV (27:17): No, I think it’s really good because it’s, again, back is like, I’m just kind of like listing these out, like these, these higher level evergreen topic categories, leadership, culture, teamwork and you can differentiate and position within those high level categories that really at the end of the day, it’s like you’re wanna your fees to grow. It’s like, it’s gonna have to reach things on that more general widespread nature of leadership. Sure. But then, yeah, you can have an amazing career in the sales, branding, marketing, customer experience space, but there’s, there’s gonna be a ceiling at some point. Unless you can figure out how do we weave that into one of these more overarching categories, something SH (27:56): Larger AJV (27:57): Or culture leadership. But I think that’s really important because sometimes just knowing that helps a lot of like how you position and if you don’t know those nuances of the industry, you’re stuck before you even get started. Because that’s right, it’s nuanced. And I think that’s really important. So I love that in terms of like content, just categorically speaking. And I think that’s really, really important. Now, let’s talk about assets, right? Mm-Hmm. . So let’s assume you are like, let’s just, right. Barrier to entry. Like you know, you have to have a, a great speech, you have to be a great presenter. So let’s just pretend, but everyone is listening. Yeah. You have great content and you’re great on stage, right? Mm-Hmm. . So like, if you’re listening and you’re going, oh, I’m not sure, then you’re not ready for this conversation. That’s right. Like, we need to go back and go, let’s ensure that your content is tight and your presentation skills are tight. Right? let’s ensure that first, but let’s assume we got that covered. Mm-Hmm. . What are the assets when it comes to websites, demo videos press kits? Like what is really being used? What is necessary, what’s essential? SH (29:02): Yeah. Great. Great question. And the s starkest thing you’ll hear me say today, AJ, hopefully is when, when speakers say to me, man, every time I walk off stage, you know, like they tell me I’m the best speaker ever, or I crushed it. I always, hopefully I don’t always say it, but I do think, yeah, congratulations. Like that’s what a professional speaker should do. Like, if you’re a professional speaker, you should never say, yeah, I laid an egg today. I mean, it’s gonna happen, but killing it on stage is the barrier to entry to be a professional speaker. You said that, well, I’m being redundant, but that is, that is the expectation. If you’re being paid $15,000, that that’s a significant amount of money. But also if a company is putting their 500 employees in a room for sitting idle, idle by product productivity standards for an hour, the cost to the company is literally probably another 15. SH (29:55): And depending on the size, could be hundreds of thousands of dollars for that hour. So be amazing that we said that be amazing. Assets are the thing that the, I I, I try to frame it this way, instead of just thinking them as marketing, you get to answer questions that you will never get asked because they’re gonna make a decision about you without asking you certain questions. Mm-Hmm. . And it also allows you to put yourself in that conference room that I described earlier where, you know, they, they order pizza and they throw five speakers on a screen and look at them and compare them and know that you’re very rarely being considered in a vacuum. So it’s not just Speaker X, do we like them or not? It is most often Speaker XI like that they did this, but I’ll poke fun of myself. SH (30:45): We’ve had three middle aged white guys in a row the last three years. Ah, we don’t wanna do a fourth thing. Like they really do have to nuance and start to compare and contrast. Well, this speaker is 10% funnier. I mean, that they make up, they have to measure things. And the first part of the job is to eliminate options, right? So they’re looking for things to go, okay, well this speaker says they’re the most amazing branding speaker ever, but their video looks like it was shot 10 years ago. Like that, of course. I mean, you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t buy a, you know, if, if your person you’re buying a car from drives a, a horrible car and knows nothing about cars, and you go, I probably don’t know what they’re talking about. So if, if you, if you have an expertise, obviously you gotta crush it in that expertise. SH (31:27): But headshot I’ll come back to video. ’cause I video’s the, the silver bullet in, in the speaking world. I’m convinced of that a professional headshot. And, and I always suggest to speakers or lean into, it’s easy if you come out of the corporate world or you’ve had success, you built a company and sold it, you’ve always been branded as a certain thing in that space, in the speaking space, what you’re selling is, I can get on your stage and communicate an idea maybe better than anyone else for 60 minutes or 50 minutes, whatever it is. So you have to change your mindset from I built this company, that’s who I am. It being very biographically focused. Think about the event planner who’s sitting in their cubicle considering four other speakers. They’re, they’re looking for something a little bit different in that biography. SH (32:20): It’s not just essentially a, your Wikipedia page, right? It, it really is like, how are you bringing your expertise to my room of 500 people who may or may not want to be there and moving the needle for our company? Still not sure about this. Oh, sorry, Siri just heard me. But the, the, so keynote description, so headshot, no brainer, 300 DPI, great high resolution, spend money on that. If you, if it’s a friend with an iPhone that’s not gonna cut it. I mean, you spend money on it. Selfies, brand build southeast, yeah. Selfie aj, you and call aj. She can help you out. I’m sure they can. Brand builders can assist with that. Oh, it’s so funny. The keynote descriptions are something to, to, to harken back to. We were talking about it earlier, own a certain piece of content. But a keynote description is ultimately your describing what your brand is, and one or two words, colon, you know, here, here’s a short description of how I’m gonna move the needle for your team. SH (33:22): And then a, a description of what they are buying. I mean, all they’re buying a product. We’re buying, we’re paying you money to, for 60 minutes to come communicate an idea. This keynote description describes how you are going to, what that thing is and how you’re going to do it. The title describes what it is. The keynote description describes how you’re going to do it. Don’t be afraid to have two or three versions of, it’s almost disingenuous to say, okay, sales colon, whatever that thing is, and this is for, you know, it companies and then the same thing. But for healthcare companies, that doesn’t scare off buyers. They want, if they’re a healthcare company and you, you have a keynote description describing your content in their space, that’s a good thing. They, that tells them, you know, enough about the healthcare industry that you have content, that you’ve taken your content and specifically built it for their audience. SH (34:23): Right? That’s a, so don’t be afraid to have two or three keynotes that look similar, but are targeted towards different types of organizations. So keynote descriptions are important. Reviews are are crucial because, and I I jokingly say this, often it, you know, if you, if you have a, I’m gonna use Magic Johnson. If you know Magic Johnson and he says, I AJ’s my buddy, she’s the best speaker I’ve ever met, you’re gonna love her. That’s awesome. At a dinner party. And that would impress me. I’m a huge basketball fan. Event planners in the moment that they are buying are not impressed by big names. Remember, risk mitigation, the most valuable thing from a review point of view in that buying moment is someone like me in my chair took, used you as a speaker and you crushed it and they wrote a review saying, Hey, I brought speaker X in. SH (35:22): They crushed it on stage. Yeah, they move an needle. These metrics, whatever that is, so big names are great. I would drop one or two on my website. Way more importantly are is event planner. Stacy from Prudential is very valuable when Steve at Allstate is considering you, right? Because these are lateral competitors and they’re saying, we tried it, it worked. So they’re gonna try it. Also video, we touched on it a little bit. I can’t tell you how often I’ll get a video because I’ve got so many friends and buddies that are in the speaking world. They’ll text me a video, Hey, here’s 60. You know, here’s a a clip. Man, this, this joke I told, or this story I told crushed, right? I watched the video. No, it doesn’t because they are remembering. And I, it breaks my heart. I I hate to say no, it doesn’t. SH (36:13): But they are remembering the audience reaction. You know, aj, you’ve been on a ton of stages. You, you have a joke or you have a story that you know always works, right? You remember it. But if, if you don’t have video of the audience reaction, so I, as a viewer sitting at my desk watching a video, if I can’t see the audience react, then you just get whatever you get from me and I’m probably distracted. So audience reaction is one element that speakers very well paid professional speakers forget to include that in their preview videos. Mm-Hmm. . And then when we consumers see it, we go, no, that joke wasn’t nearly as funny as you thought it was because in my cubicle it’s not funny. It’s probably funny when a thousand people are slapping their knees. So I would say video it’s a, a constant discussion in the market. SH (37:05): What’s the best length of a video? Yeah, probably five to seven minutes. If you’ve got a couple of really killer clips that push it to 10, just know that most event planners are considering, you won’t watch 10 minutes, but they’ll skip through a video. But it needs to punch and it needs to, if you’ve got two or three stories that are your fastballs, include those in there. And I would say one little hack that I always suggest to speakers is, your video is never a finished product. If you know you’re gonna tell that story often on stages Mm-Hmm. , if you tell it in Tulsa and it crushes, get that video and replace that story in your current preview video. So don’t ever think of your video as being finished. Oh, I’m gonna do a new video next year. You should do a new video next year. But while you’re waiting for that, go ahead and keep refreshing those different clips as you’re crushing it on stages around the world for now. And then always be thinking, what’s my next video going to be? AJV (38:06): Yeah. So I’ve got a question for you specific to this video thing, which is how much of the video should be you on stages? Because a lot of the videos I see today are more like sizzle commercials and they have mm-Hmm, b-roll footage, or they’re storytelling components. And should there be testimonials in the video? Should there be client logos? Like if you were just like high level, it’s like, if it’s five minutes, I wanna see this many minutes of you just on stage. Yep. The rest of it save it for something else. SH (38:38): Right? That, that is a great question because it’s a moment in time question. A few years ago, a couple of speakers realized like, everyone’s videos look the same. And this is generalities, but pretty close. A few years ago it was pre covid, so we’ll call it five years ago, some speakers said everyone’s videos look the same. And they started to do some videos and I can mention names and we’ll talk about ’em offline. I loved it. They kind of reinvented the, the sizzle reel or the preview video world. And it became the videos that we’ve all seen now and been a part of probably helping make, which is you follow them to the stage and they’re standing and they look at the camera and say like, this is gonna be great. And you watch them walk on stage and crush it. That total overnight it elevated the, the, the expectation from the viewer side of the videos because it used to be, okay, I’m probably gonna do some talking head to introduce myself. SH (39:32): Here’s three clips of me on CNN and Fox News, like, you know, quick Clips. And then here’s three clips of me speaking. Now we kind of have almost movie production quality videos, right? I I think the market has adjusted to that, where a large number of speakers have that more kind of movie production. So it, it’s like the rubber band thing. I think it will stretch and pull back and event planners, they do, they’re a cynical bunch because we make them a cynical bunch because I always say hyperbole is the, the natural language of our industry. Like everything is the best ever. Every speaker’s the best ever. Like, so they, they could, AJV (40:10): Everyone’s an expert. Everyone, SH (40:12): Everyone’s an expert. , wor words might have less value and hand up. Like we’re all guilty of that, right? But I, there probably will be a, a bit of a return to, Hey, I don’t want it to be a hyped video for you. Like, I, I need content. I’m making a decision on can you do the thing I want you to do. So as a long way to say, I, I don’t know that that will ever go away because production, the production value expectation has increased. Mm-Hmm. , if it’s shot from a shaky camera or one camera from the back of the room, that’s not gonna cut it for you. If you expect to grow your career you, you do have to invest in an additional camera audience reaction shots that I mentioned earlier. But does it have to be Jerry Bruckheimer, you know, type of camera work? SH (41:04): No. but I, I would say if I had $10,000 to invest in my video tomorrow and I was a speaker, I would lean heavily into production. And then do put you, you want to answer the question, why are you an expert? Why should I give you 60 minutes of my people’s time? You wanna answer that in the first few seconds. So if you’re on CNN and they have, they’re holding your book up and it says you’re an expert, definitely include that. But you wanna answer that question in 10, 15 seconds and then get to you on stage speaking and not to dig in to be boring with it. But a couple of basic items are you want more than one camera. You want one more than one scene. So if it’s you wearing the same dress or the same suit in all three clips, the question, you’re, they will, the event planner will never say, have you done this a lot? SH (41:59): Right? But you’re, you’re implying to them, I’ve only done it once ’cause all three clips look the same. So that’s why if you’re watching a great speaker’s reel, you’ll notice that they jump around and show themselves sometimes even during the same story. Here’s me on stage at this conference and here’s me on stage. Part of that is just communicating. I do this all the time and I’m amazing at this and here’s a couple of different versions of me doing it. It helps the flow of the video video. So you, you want multiple locations. You want multiple, you know, attire, changes to communicate. This is something I do regularly and I’m great at it. AJV (42:39): Hmm. Those are so good. And, you know, to, it’s easy to make long videos. It’s hard to make short ones. And so making sure that’s just a, a key part of that. And I love like just all the s assets that you talk about, like, I think people forget of like how important it is. Like I say this all the time, it’s like, I love your headshot. Who is that ? Who is that? Who is that? It’s like, I wanna be able to write, SH (43:05): It’s you in college, . AJV (43:07): Well, I be able to recognize you when I go find you online. And I’m like, wait, is this the same person? I don’t know. Did I, did I type the name in wrong? . so I think those things really do matter. And it shows that there’s care and attention to detail. So I know that we’re, we are already over time, but there’s one last question because I think this is really important and you can answer this as succinctly as you can or you want to, but we talked about content, categorically speaking assets again, barrier to entries, you’ve gotta be phenomenal both content and on stage. But at the end of the day, what does it take for someone to be a great candidate to work with a speaker’s bureau like Premier? Like what are you guys looking for? SH (43:50): Yep. Great quality, professional speakers. The stuff that we, we’ve touched on multiple times. The two most frequent ways. I get that question a lot. I have a lot of friends who are speakers. Honestly, I have a lot of friends who are speakers that we don’t represent because we aren’t the best home for them. But the two best ways to connect with Premier Speakers Bureau or any speakers bureau at this point is referral from one of their key speakers. We have out of those 2000 events last year, we probably booked about 600, 650 speakers. So a lot of those speakers we booked a couple of times. Mm-Hmm, , there were probably 20 speakers that we booked many, many times. We have a couple speakers that we booked 70 and 80 times in that one year, right? So when, when one of those speakers texts me and says, Hey, this, I’ve gotten to know this person, or I saw this person speak, they are amazing. SH (44:43): That moves the needle for me because I know what their litmus test for great is. And so that’s a great way to open a door. The last two speakers that we have, premier has signed exclusively, and we could unpack that another time. Which means all of their business comes to Premier, have been started as referrals from other people that are trusted speakers of ours. So that, that’s a, it’s proven to be the case. The other way is to take business away from a speaker’s bureau. So we, we have that core client base that I told you that, that most often we know like they’re gonna come back to us ’cause we serve them really well. We take great care of them, we answer the phone the first time it rings. We are good at best when we talk to them and they say, Hey, actually, you know, thanks, I’ll talk to you in a month and we’ll do business together, but my CEO saw this person speak and told me to go book them, and I did that that, that happens once. SH (45:39): Okay? That’s how life works. And CEOs say, go book a speaker and then they know it’s risky, but the CEO told ’em to do it. When that happens three or four times, that alerts us to that speaker is a, is attractive to the types of clients that we work with, right? So that quite often we will start a conversation with them. And many times over the last 23 years, that has ended up in a very strategic long-term, mutually beneficial relationship. But it started with them proving themselves by the way they proved it was they took business away from us, meaning clients that we value said, yeah, that’s somebody that we’re interested in. Most often, those two things connect up. Yeah. And the speaker we trust says, this person’s great. And we go, yeah, we’ve, we’ve heard that from clients too. At that point, it’s, it’s almost a no-brainer, but that, I wish that the easy answer was press this button and this thing will happen. SH (46:35): All of those things are nuanced and they all come down to relationships. Being great on stage is a starting point. Event planners will, being in love with how you do your business, if you’re a great speaker and are pain to work with, you won’t, you won’t make it, you won’t make it. You have to approach your business as Aer with a servant heart. Like I am coming to, to offer something to the people in this room, starting with that poor event planner, Stacy, who’s probably a mom of two kids and has three other jobs and is rolling the dice on this event. And if something goes wrong, she takes all the blame. She’s your first customer, right? Make her life amazing. Take great care of her. You’re gonna be amazing on stage. But if you do that a hundred times, the universe will love you. The market will love you. There’s no easy answers, there’s no easy fixes. It is just hard work, aj you know this, you and Rory did this. It’s hard work. You build a thing over time, and if you do it the right way, you look back in 10, 20 years and say, I’m proud of the things that I built. AJV (47:41): Amen. Preach it. I love that. And like, the underlying message that I hope everyone heard is like a part of the path of working with bureaus is that you actually already have to be on stages, right? Yes. Their job is to get you on the first stage or the 10th stage. Their job is to discover you after you’ve already been doing this long enough and good enough that other people are willing to tell other people about you. Which means that it starts with you, it starts with you SH (48:13): Perfectly said, AJV (48:14): Perfectly said, and you’ve gotta be the one to get on stages. And I, and it’s like back to everything in life. It’s a trusted source, referring someone is how business is still done. Regardless of how many things have gone online and how business has evolved, that has never changed, which is the power of a trusted referral. Mm-Hmm. And this is no different here, Shawn. Perfect. Thank you so much. You’re the best. This is so you and this is gonna be just so rich for everyone who takes the time to listen to it. And for those of you who are listening, if you guys wanna connect with Shawn, it’s Shawn Hanks. You can find him on LinkedIn. But if you wanna learn more about Shawn and his role and everyone else at Premier Speakers, just go to premier speakers.com and again, premier speakers.com. I’ll put all that in the show notes and if you wanna catch the recap episode of this then stay tuned. And if not, we’ll catch you next time on the influential Personal brand. We’ll see you later. SH (49:17): Thank you.

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25 of the World's Most Recognizable Influencers Share Their Tips on How to Build and Monetize a Personal Brand

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