Chief Inspiration Officer for MENA Speakers, the leading speaker agency in the Middle East and the speakers’ marketplace.
I get to book speakers at over 300 events a year in the Middle East and Europe. I’ve been surprised, given how globally-minded many American businesses are, that this hasn’t translated more to the speaking industry. In the age of Zoom, travel in some circumstances does not stand in the way as a barrier because of adaptation into more virtual speaking engagements. In addition, if you thought traveling to another state made you a celebrity at an event, imagine the level of attention and appreciation you receive as an international speaker.
While there is no wrong time to jump into the global marketplace, major events such as Expo 2020 in Dubai present unique opportunities to significantly increase your visibility and personal brand. Some of the biggest events in the Middle East could be described as the “regional Davos,” where great thinkers, experts and speakers meet to solve world problems. Other events include the World Government Summit in Dubai and the Future Investment Initiative (FII), which is an annual investment forum held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. These major regional events invite many speakers and provide a forum with maximum regional visibility.
Whether it be Expo 2020 or another event, here are some keys to getting yourself successfully booked.
Make a video of yourself speaking.
If you don’t have a speaking video, do not attempt to pass go — you certainly won’t be seeing that $1,000. Showcasing your talent for speaking is the best way for people to decide whether they want you to speak at their event.
Consider hiring a videographer and schedule a nice venue to speak at. Rather than speaking directly to a camera, demonstrate your skills in front of a large group of people. Otherwise, you will have to depend on personal relationships with people who know what you can offer and how you deliver your content, but this will make it more difficult for you to get booked internationally. If you are a serious speaker, you need a video and a reel. Without one screams “amateur,” and it demonstrates a lack of commitment to the art form. If you are unwilling to invest in yourself, why should an organization invest in you?
The video should be between 20 and 40 minutes in length, and you can also opt to have a sizzle reel that shows 90 seconds to 2.5 minutes of you speaking. The full-length video is important to event planners because it shows them you can make it through a speech successfully and be engaging along the way. Sizzle reels can get you in the door, but the full-length video is what will often help seal the deal for the decision-making committee.
Make your presence noticed.
When we review new speakers that we may sign on or work with, we often scan through a speaker profile sheet attached to the email they sent us. It will usually contain the standard information of what the speaker has done, such as a biography, pictures, testimonials, speaking topic and more. We rarely scrutinize it in the beginning, as it is a quick background check to observe their level of professionalism. What we often do is run an online search to see what we find on the first and second page of the search results. The ideal speaker has more than one page of search content, as this is a sign of traction.
We will look for other “professional signs,” such as a great website, public relations and other activities that show satisfactory social proof. The final step is to see what is happening on YouTube and the headlines related to their speeches — this part can really seal the deal. Since most agencies get contacted by potential speakers, the initial auditing process is really just about justifying a rejection of the speaker. However, what gets an instant yes is based on three factors:
• Professional online presence with ample social proof.
• A social media following and tribe.
• Great videos and a charismatic speaking style.
This is when the potential speaker becomes someone the agency is interested in partnering up with. If you have social proof that displays professionalism, agencies will be more confident and comfortable in pitching you to their clients.
Connect with local speaker agencies.
The most sought-after qualities that make agencies want to sign speakers are unique narratives and absolute niche specialists with deep expertise — speakers who can handle every audience question with finesse and who prove their value and demand. Agencies get solicited daily by generalist motivational speakers or hobby speakers, so they have an abundance of access to that category. Instead, they want someone who has that “wow” factor and delivers a fresh perspective with unique insights to their audiences.
If you are planning on pitching yourself to an agency, provide all the relevant details mentioned above. Note that the success rate is very low because, at the end of the day, it is as good as a cold call. A more effective approach is to build a relationship first, and then move into that conversation.
Now is the perfect time to compile and invest in your speaker video and online presence so that you’re ready to connect with local speaker agencies.