Reflections of a Business Speaker…
As a business speaker, I’ve always been a fairly self-sufficient sort – in Emotional Intelligence terms, I demonstrate optimism, resilience, self-actualisation… all that good and healthy stuff.
Over the years, I have learned to prioritise better so that I am able to balance my professional ambitions with the things in life that make you a more-rounded person (namely, family).
It wasn’t until I went to live in Egypt in 2012 that I was able to take stock of where I was in life – yes, I had done well building a few businesses up but this had led to high blood pressure, teeth grinding (bruxism) and a generally dysfunctional personal life.
I went back to the UK at the end of the summer of 2012, missing most of the rains and floods of that year but still in time for the London Olympics closing ceremony. The plan was to go to the Welsh coast: run first thing in the morning, shower, work on my next book, walk in the late afternoon, light dinner, beer in the sunshine… repeat until the book was done. It was to be a solitary time but after a bruising few years, solitude appealed!
Curveballs can be great!
But then life throws curveballs – and this curveball happened on a Welsh beach (in the rain, naturally) where I bumped into the lady who became my wife.
Six years’ on, and here we are: married with 8 children between us (the youngest three being entirely ours) as well as a beagle and numerous cats.
Life was rebalancing nicely and, in that time, with someone there to support me, the business grew.
And that’s where life switches curveballs for ironies.
Now that I had found a fantastic relationship that meant I wanted to stay close to home, I began picking up more work abroad – and, courtesy of Brexit, my entire order book is outside of the UK. One option available to us would be to move and, at one point, we had considered Barcelona as it was where we got engaged to marry.
Whilst this is all fizzing around, we took the view that I really needed to do something that I had historically struggled with: delegation.
Learning To Delegate Again
It’s taken a while but Eskil now has a strong cadre of partners (a few time wasters along the way, but we took that to be an occupational hazard) and so I decided to also engage with a speaker bureau to source and manage my speaking engagements as opposed to doing it all myself.
So I got myself a business speaker reel, spoke to people who had seen me on stage, tightened up my web site and made the leap – I contacted a speaker bureau that had been referred to me by another speaker.
LinkedIn did it’s work, contact was made, bio was sent… I uploaded the speaker reel to the contact. And waited.
So I contacted them again… their response being, “can you resend it?”
Well of course I can – no problem.
And then… silence.
Don’t go blaming the bureau
OK, now I’m mature enough to know that I won’t win every time, but I have seen some of the business speakers who are represented by bureaux and, being honest about it, they suck. I wouldn’t mind if they sucked a little but some of them suck a LOT.
I’ve sat through the dinners where experienced speakers do battle with each other’s egos through constant oneupmanship and war stories.
But… at the end of it all… they suck.
One business speaker was telling everyone (whether you wanted to hear him or not) that his measure of the success was being asked to go back for more work. In that time, I had 3 invitations to go back and 2 pieces of work.
The loudmouth? Well he had complaints made about his conduct and, as far as I can tell, very little in the way of work.
Yet… he’s represented by a bureau.
Maybe there is a critical point, a bit like a football manager, where, no matter how rubbish you are, there’s always another job around the corner.
Discovering a professional pride
So the frustration isn’t necessarily with the lazy bureau who can’t be bothered to get in touch but the standard of people out there. Professional speakers with old material, old delivery styles, and old attitudes seem to care less about the level of satisfaction as long as they sell their books and get paid.
In the past, I’d not really been one for professional pride but, in the context of speaking, I AM proud of how I can stand up in front of 500-1,000 people, make them laugh, tell them a story, give them something new to play with in their heads. The problem is that this could easily become pride in what I do as an individual and not pride in my peers.
So I guess it’s back to the beginning – self-sufficiency, resilience, self-actualisation and the rest of the good and healthy stuff because it seems that it’s the way forward.
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