NSA/IASB Council Meeting

I had the opportunity to represent our members at the NSA/IASB Council Meeting held last week in Vail, CO.  In attendance from NSA was Scott Friedman, Shep Hyken, Joe Calloway, Janet Lapp, Laura Stack (President-Elect) as well as myself.  From the International Association of Speakers Bureaus, Rich Gibbons Theresa Beenken (President), Gail Davis (President Elect), Brian Palmer, Jim Keppler, Jo Cavender, Holli Catchpole.

We discussed a myriad of speaker/speakers bureau issues – with the focus on how our two associations can help speakers/speakers bureaus serve our mutual clients better.  From these discussions, several action items were identified – the most notable is the official establishment of a NSA/IASB Council website which is a repository of the Council’s work products, pdfs, videos etc. – all designed to support a smooth working relationship between speakers and speaker bureaus.  Once this website is established, we’ll let you know!

Although we talked about a wide range of issues, I thought I would share some of the highlights and some of the thinking around bureau/speaker relationships:

  • Slow Pay. With the economic downturn, this seems to be a more prevalent issue for speakers.  We advise all speakers to know the explicit terms in your contract.  If the terms have not been followed according to the actual agreement, call the bureau to rectify payment.  If you are still not satisfied, take legal action/send a letter requesting payment.  You can also file an ethics complaint to IASB if they are members of IASB, as that bureau has not honored the contract as per the IASB Code of Ethics.  Often times, this is enough to get their attention.  (And, the speaker’s “stock” actually will rise with other reputable bureaus!)  Then, going forward, be more explicit with your next contract.  Or you can decide not to work with them again.  (Note:  Especially in these tough economic times, you may want to recognize those bureaus who pay on time!)
  • Spin Off Business. Additional work that results from a speech you did while under contract with a bureau has two components:  1) Obviously, the money, but 2) The opportunity to continue to forge a relationship with that client.

– A speaker should always ask, “How did you find me?” and don’t stop until you find the answer – or you have done your due diligence to find the answer.  If, later on, you find out the source came from a bureau piece of business, do the honorable thing and share the commission.

– A speaker should be tracking their referral sources.

– Share any opportunities for spin-off possibilities with the bureau not only speaking, but training, facilitation, consulting, coaching etc.

– The length of time a speaker is beholden to a client is written in the contract.  IASB can’t legislate the terms, so read your contract carefully.  If you don’t agree to a lifetime of spin-offs, pick up the phone and call the bureau.

– When in doubt, call the bureau.

– If a client doesn’t want to work with the bureau any more and wants to go direct to you, you need to call the bureau and tell them what’s happening.  Agree on a mutually beneficial solution AND a path forward.

  • Spin Off for Business other than Speaking (solutions-based selling).  If the bureau or speaker envisions that a specific engagement will create additional training, coaching, consulting, facilitating, etc. opportunities, talk with the bureau about steps forward and appropriate fee structure and include it in the contract. And, if the opportunity is identified “after the fact”, let the bureau know.  For example, if a CEO requests the speaker to do a consulting initiative as a result of the keynote speech, suggest a smaller percentage or “finders fee” to acknowledge the bureau’s role in paving the way to get that business.

·  Pickpocketing. – What to do when a bureau takes credit for a booking where the client has already approached the speaker.  This all depends on the relationship between the speaker and the bureau.  There are two perspectives to consider:

– The bureau is acting as a trusted advisor and providing additional information to the client which may tip the scales toward the speaker

– The bureau has taken a pretty much closed deal from the speaker.  In this case, you always have the option to decline the offer and just say “no.”

  • Escrow Mandate for Bureaus. There is isn’t one as each state/country has a different requirement.  Having a separate, dedicated account is recommended in the NSA/IASB best practices document.
  • Transparency Issues between gross and net fees. IASB encourages transparency in sharing gross and net fees with speakers who include a bureau commission in their fee (otherwise called “gross fee speakers”).  If you are concerned (or it is not on the contract), ask the bureau if the gross is the same fee they quoted to the client.  (It should be the same).  You can also attach a form to your contract that spells your stated fees (gross and net) and ask the bureau to sign.  Then, going forward, ask for a gross/net fee agreement.  If the issue continues to go unresolved (the bureau won’t share your gross fee), you have a choice to work with that bureau – or not.
  • IASB Speaker Directory. IASB no longer uses the espeakers database to drive their directory.  Although the IASB directory was initially uploaded using the espeakers data, that data is now a year old.  It is the responsibility of the speaker to update their IASB listing.
  • Social Media False Tagging. When a bureau engages in false tagging of a speaker to boost their search engine rankings, the bureau and speaker needs to deal with it on an individual basis.
  • Bureau-Friendly Materials. While no longer absolutely necessary as it once was, speakers should ask the bureau if they want bureau-friendly materials.  Every bureau does this differently, and it shows the bureau that you care about the relationship.  At the minimum, speakers should put the bureau information on their handouts and promote the bureau at every opportunity while working with that client.

Bottom line for any speaker who is in doubt about the “right” course of action, pick up the phone and talk to the bureau partner.  If you don’t get resolution and believe it is a violation of the IASB code of ethics, then file an ethics complaint to IASB.  The IASB ethics policy/complaint process is very similar to NSA’s.   Unlike NSA, the IASB Board is the ethics committee and there will be no retribution against the speaker filing a complaint.  The IASB Board doesn’t like it that one bureau is tarnishing the reputation of ALL bureaus either!  Finally, speakers and bureaus have a choice.  Don’’t do business with someone you don’t want to do business with.

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