By Nick Jankel

Professional Global Keynote Speaker, Transformation & Innovation Catalyst, Leadership Theorist & Practitioner, 6 x Dyslexic Author, 3 x TV Coach, Co-Creator of Bio-Transformation®

Booking A Keynote Speaker

I have been a professional keynote speaker for over 20 years. In the early part of my career, clients used to book me directly as I was the co-founder of a strategic innovation consultancy and accelerator. Often we ran breakthrough innovation programs for them, so they approached me to speak on topics such as Creativity, Innovation, and Transformation—and, more recently, Transformational Leadership.

However, in the early 2000s, I started receiving inquiries from speaker bureaus because they had been recommended to me by my clients. I immediately saw the value of partnering with a few bureaus and developing a trusting and reciprocal relationship. I have since invested significant time, passion, and care in building solid relationships with several reputable bureaus worldwide.

This arrangement can be a win-win-win situation: a win for the bureau, a win for me, and most importantly, a win for you as a client—and your audience.

Let me explain why working with a trusted bureau can lead to a better outcome for all parties involved, particularly if you want to move, inspire, and transform your audience.

1. Get the right speaker to fit your event ambitions and culture

Finding the perfect speaker for your event is crucial. As a client, you want someone who aligns with your event ambitions, has an empathic understanding of your audience, and resonates with your specific culture and desired future. The more the speaker fits, the more impact the keynote can have.

This is crucial because part of the role of a great keynote speaker—one that I take very seriously—is to stay an independent voice while amplifying the messages and enriching the vibes you want for your event. This cannot happen if the fit is not there. What then occurs is inauthenticity (which audiences can spot a mile off) or, worse, undermining your communication or culture.

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From my perspective as a speaker, it is equally important to have a match between who I am, what I speak about, and the client’s needs. Less experienced or not values-led speakers will often happily accept any job they are offered. But this can be a mistake both for short-term impact and long-term career progression. There is little more detrimental to a speaker than a noticeable mismatch in style, message, insight, and experience.

By working with a trusted speaker bureau, you should be guided to the topic, style, and so speaker that fits your actual needs (rather than perceived needs). A pre-booking/chemistry call—that I always offer for free without expectations—will help you and the speaker decide if the fit is there. The bureau will suggest alternatives if not.

Trusted and discerning bureaus invest time, care, and passion into ensuring a good match. Be cautious about those that do not.

2. Keep your speaker focused on inspiration and motivation, not paperwork and logistics

When clients book me directly, the administrative and logistical aspects can become overwhelming, even though we have a rigorous and detailed process that we have evolved over a decade to deliver an epic keynote that is genuinely world-class. It may blow your mind to know it has c.40 steps, from date inquiry to after-care!

Even with both my PA and my team supporting me, without a bureau to help, I can find myself spending more time delivering on operations than on being the most inspirational, exciting, and energized keynote speaker on stage.

A trusted speaker bureau can take care of most of the logistics. They can interface with my team effectively because we know each other and have built trust over many years. They have my FAQs document, know my details, and can make logistics efficient. Trust also helps during tense moments that can often occur when everyone cares and is trying to deliver excellence.

With a bureau tending to the details, I can spend all my time and energy customizing the narrative to resonate with each specific audience, adding new ideas and examples to fit the industry and ambitions, and developing my speaking experience to be the most inspirational and motivational possible for the audience.

By taking away a lot of the paperwork and logistics, the speaker can attend to what is really important: delivering a cracking speech that accelerates event ambitions and elevates the audience to a more creative, inspired, and connected state.

3. Ensure your speaker feels safe so they can perform at their very best

This is perhaps the most important reason I tend to refer direct speaker booking inquiries to a trusted bureau partner.

During the process of organizing an event, it is common for the production, technical, and marketing teams to make requests to a keynote speaker. As a consummate professional who loves this job and feels grateful for every booking I get, I always try to go above and beyond to add value to the event and take on as many requests as possible.

But, having delivered excellence in keynote speaking for over 20 years, I know some requests will be counter-productive to the client and my ability to perform. There are times when requests can deplete my energy, preventing me from doing my best work on stage. Or I can be asked for materials that prevent me from designing the most transformative narrative or from including news that happened that day that can land a point more powerfully than anything else.

In such cases, a caring and trusted bureau can tactfully handle the request without straining the speaker-client relationship. I feel safe and held by the bureau. The client feels safe and held by the bureau. So everyone can get on with performing their jobs to the highest degree. The research on psychological safety is unequivocal: people cannot be their most creative and connected selves if they don’t feel safe.

Mutual safety, within a kind of “airlock” that the bureau maintains,  allows the speaker to channel all their positive energy into delivering the “Wow! impact” that you want as a client. This allows the speaker to be not just motivational but actually transformational, which is what can truly land the ROI you want.

Book Through A Speaker Bureau

In summary, while booking a keynote speaker directly may seem like a good idea to save money and get what you want, my many years of experience have taught me that working with a reputable and trusted bureau—one that truly cares about the impact of the keynote and the relationships with their speakers—actually leads to better results for everyone involved.

However, it is crucial to find a bureau that genuinely cares about the impact of the keynote itself rather than just focusing on the commission. Establishing a trusted and reciprocal relationship between the speaker, the client, and the bureau is essential.

Transparency, clear communication, and a shared commitment to meeting everyone’s needs in a spirit of mutual respect will ultimately result in a fantastic keynote that fulfills and even exceeds your ambitions. It truly is a win-win-win situation.

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