Not every bureau operates by the same principles but here are the basics.

Bureaus work on a commission of your speaking fee so if your fee is less than $2,500, you’re not ready to be represented by a third party.  (You cannot add on to your fee to compensate for bureau commission).  You’ll need to gain more experience so that you can command at least $3,500 and then you’ll be ready to explore representation.  Bureau commission percentage can range from 35% to 20%.  Usually it’s 30%.

Usually it’s not worthwhile for a speaker to have an exclusive arrangement with a bureau although we often have exclusive agreements within Canada for some of our international speakers.  In exchange for exclusivity, we conduct a marketing campaign on their behalf. 

Unless a bureau can get you the number and level of engagements you’re looking for, you’re better off to be listed with more than one.

Your bookings
Once you’re listed with a bureau, you’re still able to get bookings on your own without having to pay commission.  There’s no need to pay commission on clients you’ve gotten through your own efforts and contacts. 

To be considered by a bureau, your topics need to be timely and fulfill a market demand.  You’ll need a professionally designed promotional page, two to three speeches, a two to three minute video, a credible website and also an excellent linked in profile.  Why does that matter?

Because booking agents will often check you out on linked in and then book you through a bureau.  Why?  Stay tuned, that is another article.

Name Recognition
You know you’re ready to catch a bureau’s attention once you’ve achieved a lot on your own and created some name recognition for yourself through being in the press.
You’ll be known as the go-to expert in your field and command a decent keynote fee.

You’ll have experience with different groups and hopefully specialize in a particular field or industry.  That makes it easier for bureaus to place you.  Every organization likes to feel that you’re an ‘insider’ who understands their issues.

You’ll have a great reputation for being easy to work with (the day of the diva is gone!) and be known for your honesty and integrity.  And you’ll come with strong references from clients.
How do you approach bureaus?  That too is another article. 

Author's Bio: 

Cathleen Fillmore owns Speakers Gold bureau and also is a marketing consultant to speakers who want to make more money doing what they love. She’s well known in her field and has worked with beginning speakers as well as speakers in the Hall of Fame who need a new strategy or fresh branding.
She can be reached at or