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The world of professional speaking can be very competitive. Forming strong relationships can be the key to securing your spot onstage. Whether you're an established speaker or just starting out, the power of connections cannot be underestimated. But how do you effectively build and maintain the types of relationships that get you on stage?
In this interview, I sat down with a booking agent who has been working with professional speakers since her childhood. With 30 years of experience, you can imagine the deep understanding of the speaker industry. Nona Prather, CEO of Prather Marketing Agency shared her insights on the power of relationship building and how it has played a crucial role in getting her clients booked for paid speaking events.
When it comes to building relationships in the speaking industry, Nona's advice extends beyond the perspective of speakers and booking agents. She also sheds light on the importance of considering the meeting professionals' point of view. Nona shared that meeting professionals appreciate proactive follow-up, and it often has a positive impact on their decision-making process.
Nona shared the following tips and best practices for follow-ups:
Consistent Effort: Follow-ups may be important to the decision-makers, but Nona shared that this is one of the areas she sees as a challenge for many. She works with her clients to make it clear that follow-ups are what makes the difference in this industry. She stressed the need for 10 to 12 touches to get someone into an event – "that’s 10 – 12 conversations, through email, phone calls, and even sending thoughtful gifts before they feel like they know that person enough to trust them to come and speak at their event."
Personalized Touches: Nona believes that personalized touches can make a significant impact. She encourages her clients to go beyond email and add personal notes to their communications. This personalization can also include physical items sent in the mail, such as books, postcards, or industry-specific gifts. Thoughtful gestures help to build a stronger connection and leave a lasting impression because physical items trigger the part of the brain that perceives value.
Leveraging Technology: While personal touches are essential, Nona also leverages technology to streamline and systematize the follow-up process. She uses automated reminders to track conversations, update notes, and manage relationships. This combination of personalization and technology ensures efficient and effective communication.
Nona tells me that when she begins to work with clients, she sets follow-up expectations up front. She expects the clients to help her with the follow-ups because when they do, they have a higher success rate than those who do nothing. She tells them "The more they see your name, the better." Nona has earned the trust and respect of meeting professionals through her approach to placing clients and the reputation her clients have within the speaker community. They now turn to her as a trusted source for speaker recommendations, seeking her expertise to match the right speaker with their event. This mutually beneficial relationship is a testament to the significance of building trust and maintaining regular communication.
Since Nona has been doing this for so long, I asked her for ideas and examples for a speaker to go above and beyond to set themselves apart in this space. There are so many people competing for a single stage in a lot of cases, so how can someone really stand out with the speaker coordinators and create relationships that are lasting enough to maybe provide multiple opportunities.
Nona shared that going beyond the traditional methods of communication makes a difference. Some of the creative touches she has experienced or witnessed include:
Personalized Postcards: Sending postcards with a picture of you speaking or your logo, accompanied by a handwritten note. The personal touch and visual appeal of a postcard can make it stand out among the sea of emails and mundane communications.
Thoughtful Gifts: Sending items like stress ball hard hats for industries where they are relevant, keychains with flashlights, or industry-specific items that align with the interests and needs of the organization can make an impact.
Industry-specific Educational Materials: Providing industry-specific white papers or reports that demonstrate your expertise and address current challenges can be a valuable touchpoint. By sharing valuable insights and knowledge, you position yourself as a trusted authority and resource for the audience.
Articles and Publications: Sharing relevant and insightful content showcases your understanding of their field and can spark their interest in your expertise.
Branded Merchandise: Utilizing branded merchandise can be an effective way to keep your name in front of mind and create brand recognition.
Books: Sending a personalized copy of your book can be a powerful touch that showcases your expertise and provides a tangible item for potential clients to reference. Make sure to personalize the book with a thoughtful note to make it even more special.
It’s true that any of these creative ideas will help nurture your relationship with the decision makers you want to be in front of. It’s also worth noting that the relationship shouldn’t end when the event does. Any of the suggested touchpoints above would also be worthwhile sending after you attend events. Remember, the person who put you on stage probably plans more than one event, and at a minimum you might want to be considered for next year’s event. Why not continue to develop the relationship on an on-going basis? Demonstrating commitment like that will create the type of lasting reputation that will serve you well.
Forming long-term, meaningful relationships is key in the world of professional speaking and consistency of touchpoints is what makes that possible. By following Nona’s approach, you can unlock more opportunities and establish yourself as the expert that organizers want in front of their audiences.
At The Expressory, we help build meaningful relationships that grow your business. If you’re stuck on the strategies or tactics that make sense to build your speaker presence and stand out from the competitive landscape, we’d be happy to have a conversation. You can join us at one of our upcoming Q&As to discuss with our community click here to register - or feel free to schedule time for a one-on-one conversation.