I was a celebrity lecture agent in the college and university market for over seven years. During that time, I have received hundreds of requests for authors to speak. My standard answer was always "Authors write, but they don't speak!"
This motto was obviously from the old school of lecture agents! Today hundreds of authors are promoting their books through lectures on college campuses. The student population has grown so diverse in age, race, and interests that the days of booking only UFO speakers, RAP music stars, and cult heroes are fading.
The college lecture circuit is a natural place to start promoting your books. Students take pride in being involved in shaping and starting trends. I enjoyed being able to help impact thousands of students by promoting new speakers on timely or trendy topics.
Students and faculty continually search for experts who can inform, enlighten, and entertain! But in order to be successful in this market, you'll need to pitch yourself and your topic over the phone, through your website and your emails. Be prepared to follow up these pitches with written material. Send or email a current bio and a video or DVD of you speaking.
Your video should be no more than 10 minutes long and the first few seconds MUST be dynamic or you'll be turned OFF and not even given a second chance. It doesn't need to be professionally produced if YOU are a good speaker. Be creative though and realized that all meeting planners, college or professional, review hundreds of speaker's videos so MAKE YOURS OUTSTANDING!
Next, a bio or "biography" is not a RESUME! This sheet of paper should look professional. Print it on nice paper. Your name should be in bold letters at the top of the page. Bios are often referred to as "intro sheets." You may want to start your bio with "INTRODUCING...(your name)" at the top of the page. The rest of the bio should contain a couple of paragraphs about why YOU would make an interesting and credible speaker on your topic. The bio should read like a story. Highlight the importance of your subject and why you are a better choice than anyone else! Your bio should be written in third person. Make it a fun read. If you can afford to have a graphic artist enhance your one page bio, DO IT! With pretty and creative promotional materials, you may be noticed over someone with a bigger name.
You should also include a photo, topic backgrounder sheet, your book (or detailed information on your book), and as many terrific references as possible! If you have no written references...GET SOME! Call and ask your best friends to write references if necessary, but you must have an outsider singing your praises! Even if you haven't done any public speaking, have a client or customer write about how good you are in your profession. This is a very competitive market, and you will need a hook to be able to be noticed.
To start the marketing process, you need to identify groups which might be interested in hearing you speak. You might contact he Deans at all of your area colleges and universities to pitch the idea. Talk to the assistant or secretary to see if the Dean has ever brought in speakers. If the answer is yes, ask to get a telephone appointment. Once on the phone or get their email addresses, ASK QUESTIONS! Ask what they look for in a speaker, what types of speakers do best at that particular university, and what he or she personally looks for in a speaker. Once you get the person to open up and tell you what they want, you will know exactly how to position yourself as a speaker. DON'T do all of the talking if you actually get them on the phone. This is the biggest way to get turned down.
Whether they bring in speakers or not, ASK FOR REFERENCE FOR OTHER POSSIBLE LECTURE LOCATIONS! This can be a great way to make your next call whether it is to someone all the way across the country or to a person in the next city or state. A great introduction is "Your colleague on the west coast, Dr. Smith, suggested that I call..." When a personal name is mentioned, new prospects tend to be cordial and listen to pitches. So start all over again: "Do you pay for speakers?" "What time of year is best for your speakers?" "Do you market to the community or just at the college (or within your department)?" "Is your department doing research in this area?" "Would you like to learn more about it?" "Can I forward some information?" Once you commit to sending information, do it right then. And be sure to follow up a day or two after they have received your information. Ask whether or not your program would fit into their schedule in whatever month you are available.
If they have told you that they pay speakers, be up front about your fee. The fee is always PLUS EXPENSES! Expenses will include round trip airfare, ground transportation to and from the city, lodging, and meals. Don't try to make money on expenses, because you will never get booked again. If you try to use this person as a reference down the road and you padded the expenses... guess what they will remember? That you had 1,000 people in attendance, received a standing ovation, or that you PADDED THE EXPENSES. You guessed it!
Some departments are morel likely to book speakers for pay than other. If all you want to do is get your expenses covered, target the administration. They normally will bring in experts and not give an honorarium. The advantage to this is that it is possible for you to give 20 free speeches... in 20 MAJOR BOOK MARKETS ON AN ALL EXPENSES PAID BOOK TOUR! If you are able to help the publishers in this way, they will be able to spend time promoting you in those markets. Also, it is then likely that your book will sell more copies, and you may be asked to write another book!
The best place to receive an honorarium is through Student Activities Offices. They are each given a budget for lectures. This is obviously the most competitive of all markets. If you want to compete, here some tips.
First , call your area university and ask to see a copy of their NACA (National Association of Campus Activities) directory. Write down information for the schools you may want to target, and you'll find the names of those in charge of booking speakers. You may want to send a mass mailing or just market to few select cities. Next, call the Student Activities Director and/pr the Student Lecture Chair to tell them who you are and what you are proposing. These people are BUSY. If you get them on the phone, you are fortunate. The best way to get their attention if you don't hook up by phone is to send eye-catching promotional material plus a dynamic video or DVD of you speaking via email and by mail. Follow this up with a call or two or three. If you make an emotional connection with them on the first call and they decide to book you, you may have them hooked. If not, you may need to continue to send press clippings on your book and develop a relationship with them.
When they do book you, be sure to get a firm commitment in writing. They can usually fax it to you within the next two days, and it ALWAYS must be signed by their advisor. Otherwise, it is not deemed an official contract and may be broken at any time. If you insist on a firm commitment in writing, you will rarely have a cancellation! A mutually agreeable contract must then be signed by both parties.
When contracting for the upcoming engagement and you're being paid for it, ask for a deposit to be sent back with the contract within three weeks. Most state universities cannot do this, but it will help your cash flow if they can! If you are doing the lecture for expenses only, you'll have to get paid after the event by sending in your receipts.
The schedule of your events usually is as follows: press conference upon arrival, dinner at 5:30 p.m., speech at 7:00 p.m., book signing and reception for the lecture. Most of the engagements are in the evening. The exceptions are usually at the junior colleges which book daytime events. Other details to get in writing are your fees + expenses, the date, where the event will be held, sponsoring organization, and the topic you will discuss. If it is all in writing, there will be little room for disagreement after the fact.
Also, be sure to get the day, evening and cell phone numbers of the person who sponsors you and details about the hotel. Make sure that he or she knows your flight arrangements and greets you at the airport. This person is also responsible for getting you back to the airport the next day. This is the reason for getting cell phone numbers. Don't you remember ever sleeping in while in college?
When you have booked a lecture, remember that authors on tour must be colorful, enthusiastic, and willing to answer dozens of questions. If you feel the need to improve your speaking skills, you might try video taping a couple of trial run speeches to improve your presentation. If you are passionate and knowledgeable about your topic, it will show and you will be well received! Also, the students LOVE speakers who show an interest in helping the students gain success as well. The most popular and well received speakers stay around long after the speech is over, answering questions and giving advice. Be sure to spend quality time with the individual that chose to book you. This is the person who can give you a recommendation letter, suggest references to other campuses, or perhaps even offer the name of an agent that he or she does work with.
Promoting your books on the college market has several advantages. First and foremost, there is FREE PUBLICITY! The tours will bring your name to the attention of tomorrow's leaders and increase their sensitivity to your issues. Students want to draw a crowd for their speakers and will promote the event on the campus and within the community. Travel to the city and event is all expenses paid by the college or university. And lastly, if you enjoy the experience, it could result in a financially rewarding new career!
Mary Gardner , The Charisma Coach! is an Executive Communications Consultant and Trainer. She works with, coaches and trains individuals, sales teams, executives, and celebrities. After being a lecture agent at Keppler Speakers in DC, she owned and operated one of the first coaching institutions on the east coast, CCI, in NYC, Philly and NJ. Mary has appeared on ABC's 20/20 and has self published a book on public speaking. Mary is married to Sway and is mommy to Jeremy 5, and lives in Orlando, FL.
Contact Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org or Web: www.marygardner.com