How to Start a Seminar Production Business

Finding Presenters

If you plan to act as a promoter rather than a presenter, or if you want to put on programs that feature other speakers in addition to yourself, you'll need to locate and negotiate with your talent. So how do you go about finding speakers? You could audition friends and neighbors, put an ad in the paper or launch a safari to track down speakers at every convention in the civilized world. Or--you could contact speakers bureaus, which act as matchmakers of sorts between presenters and promoters or potential clients. Since there are an estimated 450 bureaus around the world, with 80 to 85 percent of them in the United States, you've got plenty to choose from.

Some bureaus specialize in representing speakers on a single topic, like genealogy, family dynamics, business management, international affairs or empowerment. Others represent only celebrities or politicians. Most represent a wide variety of professionals.

As a seminar promoter, using a speakers bureau can save you valuable hours. You tell the bureau the topics you plan to present, your guidelines (whether speakers should use your script or their own material, for instance), your budget and when and where the program will take place. The bureau then provides you with a list of potential candidates, sends demo tapes and references and provides you with the means to contact your chosen few.

And to make a good thing even better, it won't cost you any more to hire a speaker through a bureau than it would to hire the speaker directly, because the bureau gets its commission (generally 25 percent) from the speaker and not from you.

The downside of speakers bureaus is that they tend to represent people in the higher echelons--those who command the big, big bucks and who are usually booked a year or more in advance. As a newbie, or as the head of a training company who will use the same presenters over and over again, you might do as well or better to find your own speakers.

Denise D. finds no shortage of applicants for her Mission, Kansas-based company. In fact, she says, they always have more trainer hopefuls than they have jobs to fill, a delightful state of affairs she attributes to her company's reputation in the industry.

Unless they've been "pre-approved" by having worked for a reputable competitor, Denise asks hopeful presenters to send a video and a resume. The resume is then screened to see if there's a match between the candidate's experience and the slot to be filled. If the candidate has been a secretary for 15 years, for instance, she's a better match as a secretarial skills seminar trainer than someone who's been a professor of chemical engineering.

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