Tips on how to pick a great speaker (Part Nine): a speaker from abroad

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NEW YORK - MAY 30:  Former President Bill Clin...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

(this is a follow up of a set of stories from our monthly newsletter)
Up to not so long ago the speakers business was a pretty localized business. When you would run an Australian speakers agency, your clients and speakers would mostly be Australians. Dutch agencies would run mostly Dutch speakers and UK-agencies focused on UK speakers and clients.
There were exceptions on this rule, mostly from the US. Bill Clinton and other former US presidents like George Bush would be having a nice international speakers’ circuit. Tony Blair has joined them recently, although he seems nowadays more interested in other kind of jobs. Alan Greenspan was also doing extremely well, until he got of course with hindsight partly blamed for the financial crisis in the US and the rest of the world.
But those big names would be exceptions, be it well paid. Other people could be a big name in their own country or territory, but that would not guarantee an audience abroad. And while a part of the English-speaking countries could still exchange some speakers, in a country like China there would be a speakers market for some of the big shots, but not for anything less than Bill Clinton. Many speakers find that hard to realize, and we have a part-time job in explaining to experienced speakers that they might not have a market in China.
Reversely, we do see a high interest on speakers from China. Most of our current business is coming from outside China, because of the rising interest the world has in China. What we try to do in those cases – sometimes even at the cost of business deals – is giving those clients a reality check for these international deals. We recently got a request for a motivational speaker, a Chinese Olympic sporter who could address in audience in English. Well, speakers who do not exist cannot be invented.
More limitations. Chinese politicians cannot go out for public speeches after their retirement. And many successful Chinese business people are so busy making real money, they have no time to build up a career as a speaker. Both groups might change, but that will only happen in five to ten years time.
Still, we do a lot of international deals, but mostly with a selected group of Chinese academics, authors and foreigners who got in one way or another a special take on China.
What is it you have to take into account, when you invite speakers from abroad? First, you have to make really sure that the person involved can bridge a possible cultural rift with your audience. Sometimes we do not propose speakers for certain audiences, since you make different jokes for a Chinese audience than for an Australian audience.
Second, you cost will go up. Typically, a speaker’s fee doubles to compensate them for travelling time
and because Latin America is so far off, speakers would cost there three times the original costs, when we have to fly them in from China. Even more, speakers expect business class travel arrangements. None of our speakers requests a private plane, but that is also not excluded in some international deals. Of course, 5-star hotels and other additional requirements come on top of that.

4Zhang Lijia, of our international speakers by Fantake via Flickr

Our business has become a global business very fast: that does has a price tag.

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