What's the difference between a speakers bureau, a speakers manager, and booking a speaker direct?

By Tim Mathy on February, 4 2020

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Tim Mathy

Tim has been with SpeakInc since 1996 and was made Partner in 1999. He is actively involved with Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), Meetings Professionals International (MPI), Worldwide Exhibition for Incentive Travel, Meetings and Events (IMEX), and serves as the SpeakInc. liaison to the National Speakers Association (NSA). Tim is a graduate of the University of San Diego, but also studied abroad in Oxford, England. He and his wife Jennifer stay busy chasing around their three children, Kyle, Daniel and Sarah. Tim can often be seen on the weekends coaching his kids in one of their many sporting activities. In his spare time he enjoys playing sports, a good game of hold-em and diving into the latest bestseller. He currently operates our Denver office.

Today's guest post is brought to you by one of our favorite partners from the largest speakers bureau in the western United States, Speak Inc.. Tim helps #eventpros answer: What's the difference between a speakers bureau, a speakers manager, and booking a speaker direct?

This is a question that has been around since the beginning of time, or at least since Speaker Bureaus have been in existence. It seems that not many people outside the Speaker Bureau world knows the answer. Let’s see if I can help.

What is a Speakers Bureau?

Our job is to serve as the go between for speakers and Meeting Professionals. We simplify the process for both sides and handle the details of the deal. There is no additional fee for a Meeting Professional to use a bureau. In fact, bureaus view event pros as their client!

A Speakers Bureau will make your life easier and make you look good. A speaker pays a commission to a bureau for handling the deal. I can go on and on about the benefits of using a Speakers Bureau, but I have a word limitation on this blog!

What is a Speaker Manager?

Now this gets fun! A manager assists the speaker in getting additional business. A Speaker Bureau works with the manager to get the deal done with the speaker. Usually a Meeting Professional deals with the Speaker Manager when they book the speaker direct.

When going through a Speakers Bureau, not much, if any, interaction with the manager is needed from the Meeting Professional. The speakers pay the manager for their services. There is no added fee when a Speaker Manager is involved. Speaker Management companies have really evolved over the last 10 years.

Businesswoman standing on stage and reporting for audience

What does it mean to book a professional speaker direct?

This is when a Meeting Professional goes directly to the speaker and leaves out the Speakers Bureau. I have a bias, as I am a bureau, and am not a huge fan of this method. Some say the one advantage is that the Meeting Professional gets direct connection with the speaker.

I don’t really find this accurate, as a good Speakers Bureau will welcome the direct access with the speaker. A speaker sometimes prefers this method as they don’t have to pay a commission to a Speakers Bureau. There are some speakers that will only work with Speakers Bureaus, so the direct option is not always an option.

Bringing it all together

I can go on and on about this topic, but you may already be dozing off! At the end of the day, my bias is that a Speakers Bureau will save you time, be an insurance policy, and mostly importantly, if you choose wisely (and I know you will) serve as a great partner. There are some really good speaker bureaus out there, go find one.

Want more great Tim content? Check out his full #IMEX Americas interview with Lindsay and Alex. You can also contact him directly at +1 720.219.0087. 


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