The Commoditization of Speakers and Entertainers

by Ken Kirsh
© 2009 PODIUMTM All rights reserved

The purchase of speakers and entertainers has shifted toward commoditization. But this change has more to do with buyers' perceptions and sellers' manipulations, and is therefore more of spurious slither than a solid shift.

Speakers and entertainers can and should be grouped into general categories. They always have been and will be, providing some semblance of order, whether for searching record racks or surfing the web. But that's as far as it goes.

Define Needs, Differentiate Talent

Ever try to describe a unique band or singer's style to someone who is unfamiliar with them? Exactly. That's why artists will never become commodities, no matter what some industry "experts" and websites would have you believe.

The same holds true for speakers. It's an easy mistake. You surf around for the right person, exploring categories like Business, Motivation, Sports, and without the proper guidance, can be lulled into thinking speakers are interchangeable. I tell clients you can tap your foot to nearly any band with a lively beat but the wrong message can be deadly. Speakers are that unique.

If you take nothing else from this article, take this: Scrutinize the information you get online and by all means consult a professional. If you use a financial software program, does that mean you don't need an accountant or investment advisor? If you believe everything you read, you will surely fall short. And you'll fall even farther if you deal with someone who isn't clear about the differences and benefits of one talent vs. another.

Talk the Talk vs. Walk the Walk

How do you determine who should entertain or speak to your group? I suggest you take the information you gather, think through how the content and style resonate with your group, and talk it through with your speaker or entertainment representative.

Good entertainment producers know each act's appeal, as well as the real fees, travel and rider requirements. Unless you do it for a living, you can't possibly know the ropes or have the relationships, in which case you can be assured of headaches and higher costs, and possibly the wrong act.

Good speaker reps help you determine who is right for your group because they differentiate among options in any given category whether they exclusively represent the speaker or not; they'd rather split a commission and nail it, than make a bit more and provide you with someone who is "less than".

They advise you on each speaker's message and have your best interests at heart.

Your Safety Net

If my point isn't painfully clear, let me restate it this way: If your rep throws names at you like a broken ball machine, and doesn't clearly explain the differences between acts or speakers within the same category or price range without your prompting, find another entertainment producer or speaker rep immediately.

Speakers and entertainers are anything but commodities. Do your research and don't expect just any speaker bureau or entertainment firm to solve your problems and help you select the best option. Rather than rely on the internet, put your faith in a safety net: an experienced consultant with a vested interest in helping you succeed time after time.

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