058 Speaker Agent Spills the Beans about What it Takes to Succeed as a Professional Speaker

058 Speaker Agent Spills the Beans about What it Takes to Succeed as a Professional Speaker

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Would you like to know what it takes to succeed as a professional speaker? Listen in as speaker agent Christa Haberstock shares industry insider secrets.

Christa Haberstock manages, consults, and represents a cadre of world class talent at the See Agency. It’s the industry’s fastest growing speaker management outfit. Prior to that, as vice president and top producer at a speaker’s bureau, Christa booked over $1 million dollars of talent annually into corporate and association events.

Christa will be one of the panel experts at the upcoming Heroic Public Speaking Live 2016.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • The difference between “speakers bureau” and “speaker management agency.” (6:46)
  • How management agencies help with speakers’ brand development. (8:35)
  • How agencies decide to bring a speaker on, even when they are not as experienced. (10:08)
  • What to do when you’re thrown curveballs during your speech. (21:06)
  • Why you should respect the event organizer and their time. (24:03)
  • Topic, platform, skill and professionalism – which one is more important to succeed as a professional speaker. (29:25)
  • 3 critical things that help speakers get more business – Video, Website and Testimonials. (33:04)
  • What you  need in your demo videos to increase your chance to get booked. (38:14)
  • Do you have to be an author to succeed as a professional speaker? (40:23)
  • How a genuine speaker can make a lasting impression on an audience. (45:00)

You can learn more about Christa Haberstock and the consulting services offered at the See Agency.

Read the Velvet Chainsaw report on “Conference Organizers Top 15 Professional Speaker Pet Peeves.

00:00 Michael Port: Welcome to “Steal the Show with Michael Port.” This is Michael. Today’s guest is Christa Habberstock. And since 1997, she’s blurred the line between talent and agent by living large on both sides of it at the same time. On the agent side of the line, Christa manages, consults and represents a cadre of world class, Hall of Fame corporate talent at See Agency. The industry’s fastest growing speaker management outfit. And for 10 years, as Vice President and top producer, at a powerhouse speaker’s bureau, Christa booked over $1 million dollars of talent annually into corporate and association events.

00:43 Michael Port: And on the talent side of the line, Christa, listen to this, she’s an accomplished recording artist having written, performed, and produced award-winning songs which received radio play in the US, Canada, and surprisingly, West Africa. Her music has won international awards and earned critical acclaim from people who know stuff. Quite a feat on one of the most competitive stages in the world. And Christa is also a successful improviser and actor. Co-founding Dallas’ premier all-female improv comedy troop, Heroine Addiction. She doesn’t have one, though, fortunately. And she’s also done time as a stand-up comedian, which sounds like she was in prison. But most recently, and she’s been invited to open for Caroline Ray and Kevin Nealon who, I’m sure, you have heard of. Formidable accomplishments in a difficult, dare we say, cut-throat business. And the reason I am bringing her to you is three-fold. Number one, she’s an agent at a phenomenal bureau. So she’s know the business of getting booked to speak professionally.

01:57 Michael Port: And number two. She’s a creative artist. So, she gets what we do on the performance side. And number three, she’s also coming to Heroic Public Speaking Live 2016. She’s gonna be on a panel with other experts in the business of speaking answering your questions live. You can learn more about Heroic Public Speaking Live at heroicpublicspeaking.com/live. Hi, Christa, how are ‘ya?

02:28 Christa Haberstock: I just wanna sit here and hear you talk about me some more. That was the best part of my day.

02:33 Michael Port: I’ll do it all day long for ‘yeah, whatever I can do.

[chuckle]

02:36 Christa Haberstock: Great.

02:36 Michael Port: Good. Well, we’re really, really, really looking forward to the answers to the questions I have, because the questions that I’m bringing you, actually, come directly from my students. So, in our Heroic Public Speaking Facebook group, our private group, I put out a post, I said, “Listen, Christa’s coming. What do you want to know?” So they gave me a whole series of questions. I’m gonna fire them at you. And I know you’re gonna make them very, very happy. Sound good?

03:03 Christa Haberstock: It sounds perfect. I got a big smile on my face. I can’t wait.

03:06 Michael Port: Good. So, how do you see your role as a Speaker’s Bureau agent? And what do you find rewarding about that role? And then, also, what do you find the most frustrating about it?

03:17 Christa Haberstock: Well, let me just back up just an inch here. Because I think there’s a delineation that we need to make. I am not a speaker’s bureau, although, I was with a speaker’s bureau for 10 years. I was a Vice President of a large bureau here in Dallas, Texas. And there’s a difference between a Speaker’s Bureau and a Speaker Management Agency which is where I am now at See Agency. So, a Speaker’s Bureau will book anybody at any time for anything and they can… I see them kind of as… And “they” being, I came from there, so, I was a broker for all talent. Now, as the representative of a collection of 20 speakers, I am an actual agent. So, that’s the delineation there. So, just wanna make sure that I lay the ground work cause it may be confusing if I answer the question and it’s a little bit of differentiation.

04:09 Michael Port: Oh, that’s great. No, thank you for that. I’ve worked with folks on both sides of the coin. And there is a difference. And it’s actually quite, I imagine, helpful for you now working as an agent that you had all that experience as a representative at a bureau.

04:29 Christa Haberstock: Totally, yeah. And some of it’s semantics. And I get that. I mean some of my best friends are bureau agents. And I even use the word agents over there because that’s… When I was with the bureau, that’s how we referred to ourselves. But the definition of an actual agent is the representative. So, I feel that’s what I am now, more than anything, 100% manager, 100% agent.

04:51 Michael Port: So, yeah. What do you think a big distinction is for you? Oh, say, “Hi,” to your puppy.

[chuckle]

04:56 Christa Haberstock: Sorry.

04:56 Michael Port: That’s okay.

04:57 Christa Haberstock: It’s gonna happen again.

04:58 Michael Port: Yeah, yeah, in real life, you know? So, what do you think the distinction is? What’s different for you now in your work and why’d you make this shift?

05:08 Christa Haberstock: The best way to describe the difference I think is to explain how I felt when I left or one of the reasons I did leave the bureau side and had never… Obviously, being a doctor, working in a hospital, I can only kind of… It’s conjecture, but my 10 years at the bureau felt very much like I was a generalist at a hospital or a general physician, that kind of thing. General care physician. And going over to the representation side where now I’m responsible… There are three agents with See Agency and I have 12 speakers and then two other agents to divide the others. I am personally responsible, as specialist, for those 12 speakers. I know there is everything to know about those 12 speakers. And so, I represent them top to bottom for their keynote speeches or some full day stuff of course, but really it’s a specialization. So that’s the delineation for me.

06:06 Michael Port: And do they have exclusive contract with you?

06:10 Christa Haberstock: Again, it’s semantics. I don’t use the word exclusive because exclusive is reserved for speakers’ bureaus who have a small selection of speakers that they represent exclusively. So they can book anybody and everybody, and they also have speakers that they represent exclusively. Now, just parenthetically, this is so boring, I can’t believe I’m talking about this. Anyway, whatever…

06:32 Michael Port: No, this is the… I’ll tell you, seriously, my students will eat this up.

06:34 Christa Haberstock: What?

06:35 Michael Port: They will… Nothing… This is not even remotely boring to them.

06:38 Christa Haberstock: Okay.

06:41 Michael Port: To my dad who’s a doctor, he might find it boring, but…

06:42 Christa Haberstock: I guess.

06:43 Michael Port: For our audience, they’re gonna love it. Trust me.

06:46 Christa Haberstock: Okay, cool. Well, it’s… I suppose ’cause it’s so every day for me, it’s kind of 101. But again, there are speakers bureaus who are non-exclusive speakers’ bureaus, that’s how we describe them in the industry, where they do not have any speakers that they represent exclusively. So they book anybody and everybody with no exclusivity. There are a couple of examples of that speakInc is one of them. National Speakers’ Bureau is another one. There are others that do that. There are speakers’ bureaus who do have a good selection of exclusive speakers where it’s very similar to a management situation, but not exactly the same. There are just nuances between them that, you know, there’s a variety of nuances and speakers’ bureaus like Kepler’s Speakers, Premier Speakers Bureau, those are two examples of people that have exclusive departments.

07:39 Christa Haberstock: And then, just in the last probably three years or so, there are some speakers’ bureaus who have opened a management division so that they actually have a model where they are a speakers’ bureau and a management group. I think Harry Walker was the first on the field with that, and then Eagles Talent and Goodman Speakers, they have a division of managed speakers, where it’s much more hands on. And then there is the Speaker Management Group, speaker management agencies like See Agency over here, and we do not book outside of our roster at all. So we don’t book anyone that we don’t represent, and we don’t use the word “exclusive” because it would almost be redundant and there’s, you know, it’s an important nuance when it comes to some of the finer points of the industry. So we don’t use the word exclusive, but, you know, to the naked eye, that’s what it looks like. I hope that makes sense.

08:35 Michael Port: Yeah, sure, it does. So, do you get heavily involved in the development of the speakers that you work with? Do you help them on the brand development side, on the website development side, the materials, et cetera? Or do you expect them to focus on that themselves and make sure it’s top notch?

08:56 Christa Haberstock: Yes, and yes. Absolutely I get involved in that, but to say that I’m behind the wheel on that would be an overstatement for sure. There are certain speakers that I might be a little more hands-on with that may not either have the experience in the industry or have the… Just for whatever reason, I might get a little more involved in it, but for the most part, I’m coming alongside a speaker who is really established, has the formula down. But there are, and then I say that and I talk out of both sides of my mouth cause then I’ll take on a speaker who’s got nothing, but I will tell them, you know, “Here’s what you need to do. You need to do these seven things or I can’t even talk to you.” And when they come to me with those seven things, and this has happened recently, like I thought it was gonna be you’re great in every way, but you’re way too startup. If you can come to me with these seven things, let’s say, I don’t know what exactly the number was, then we’ll talk again. And it wasn’t three, four weeks before she came back to me and I went, “Okay, these are perfect.”

[laughter]

10:00 Christa Haberstock: And so I did get involved because obviously she was gonna do the hard work and she’s paid off in spades.

10:08 Michael Port: So I imagine you start relationships with some speakers that are already well established. You meet them somewhere, you make a great connection, they love you and they decide to work with you. And then, so in this case, you made the decision to bring on somebody who was rather new and helped develop her. How do you decide to bring somebody on when they are not as experienced and they are not already well known?

10:37 Christa Haberstock: I get… That must be the number one question I get asked. It’s kind of a surprise to me when I get it because I think… And I think I might have an answer for it now. See Agency is built on three basic tenants: Do good, have fun, make money. And if the speaker does not fulfill all three of them, or, at least, two of them really hard, then it’s usually a pass. And the acid test for me is, a lot of this comes down to gut, really. I can talk to someone on the phone and if I feel like I don’t… I feel like there’s just no connection with maybe the synergy with the topics, some of my other speakers on the roster, that their topics and their vibe and who they are and what they do has to synergize with the other speakers on the roster, ’cause it’s really easy to cannibalize someone else’s business too.

11:30 Michael Port: Right, so you wanna make sure that you don’t have a lot of repetition in terms of the content, the material in your roster.

11:37 Christa Haberstock: Totally. Yeah, there’s that. I couldn’t… Two females with the exact same vibe would… They may synergize each other or they may cannibalize each other. The business, I should say. Not actually cannibalize each other. So there’s that, but the biggest… The acid test for me as I was saying is that I need to emotionally I need to connect with this person. And there’s that old thing, “Don’t hire someone that you wouldn’t wanna have dinner with again or that your team wouldn’t wanna have dinner with again.” For me, it’s a road trip. If I would not want a road trip with this person, I definitely can’t represent them. ‘Cause a lot of times, I talk to them. There will be times where I’ll talk to a certain speaker every day. I’ll talk to them more than I’ll talk to my best friends for sure. So, if I can’t… If I don’t just love spending time with them, then it’s not gonna work out.

12:37 Michael Port: If somebody cold calls your office, can they get through? I mean, will anybody talk to them?

12:44 Christa Haberstock: Being a speaker you mean?

12:45 Michael Port: Yeah. ‘Cause a lot of the speakers when they’re starting, and I’m really happy that you’re doing some of the 101 stuff because one of the things that we often forget when we have a lot of experience is how much we already know about the business that most people don’t. So, I think it’s great that you’re doing this. I really appreciate it. So, just in general, a lot of them ask, “Well, how do I get in touch with them?” And we know in the business that speakers get speakers’ work. This is… You meet a lot of the speakers through other speakers. You get a lot of your gigs through your friends, et cetera. So, I mean… I know you’re meeting people that way, but if they… If a speaker calls up one of the bureaus and says, “Hey, listen. This is who I am. This is what I do. Can I get an audition?” That kind of thing. Will people talk to them? Is there a way to get in? Is there a way that people… A particular method that people respond well to, et cetera?

13:43 Christa Haberstock: You know, Michael, this is the ultimate catch 22 in this industry. And again, this is another one of the questions I get a lot. And I wish there was a clean answer for this one. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Tim and Kris O’Shea, with the O’Shea report, very funny improvisers. And they put together… The first thing I ever saw from them was a video they put together when they did it. I think it was they did… It was at a National Speakers’ Association session at one of the general sessions. And it was about how to work with speakers’ bureaus. And they put the best spin on it. It was going back and forth, going… “Well, what’s the best way to get a hold of a speaker’s bureau? You should never contact a speakers’ bureau. Well, how will you build a relationship? Well, you need to make sure to build a relationship. How do you build… How do yo build a relationship? Well, you spend time with them. How do you spend time with them? Well, you would get to know them. How do you get to know them? Never contact them.”

[laughter]

14:33 Christa Haberstock: And it’s so true. It’s… And it is nothing. And the first time I ever did a panel or anything for NSA and this was probably, gosh, 10 years ago, maybe more. I like… I said and I felt like I was being very bold in saying this, but I had to say to a room full of speakers, there is a love-hate relationship going on between bureaus and speakers. We love you, but we hate it when you contact us because it’s… There’s not a more aggressive group of people on the planet who don’t know the word, “No.” And so it makes… It makes it tricky for us because there may be times… And I say, “Us,” because I was on the bureau’s side for so long, but I get the same calls here at See Agency. That there is the potential of someone being a real… Maybe diamond in the rough or what have you. But what I hope that speakers can understand is that it is not a bureau’s job to take a diamond in the rough, and make it a diamond. And it is not my job as an agent for professional speakers on the management side. It’s not my job, either. It is the speaker’s job. It’s the speaker’s job to make their craft, make their speaking as great as it can be so that there is more buzz, because the more buzz there is, the more bureaus will hear them. So…

15:57 Michael Port: I always figured… I always figured if you’re best in class, people take notice.

16:01 Christa Haberstock: Yeah.

16:02 Michael Port: It’s a very simple concept, but I think that often people spend more time on the business side than the development of craft.

16:11 Christa Haberstock: ‘Cause the business side is scientific. The craft is approximate, and it’s emotional, and it hurts.

16:16 Michael Port: It’s art?

16:17 Christa Haberstock: It’s art. It’s art, exactly.

16:19 Michael Port: It’s art, and it’s messy, and you get rejected a lot.

16:22 Christa Haberstock: Yeah. And you put yourself out there. And it’s just that it’s so timely that I’m talking to you today. There was an interview, and one of my speakers, Carey Lohrenz, she sent it to me this week. She’s like, “Everything in me wants to post this on Facebook, but it’s got way, way too much [laughter] salty language in it.” But it’s an interview with Dave Grohl.

16:39 Michael Port: Yeah, I know Dave, yeah.

16:41 Christa Haberstock: And… Yeah. So, he was talking about how… Basically, how new artists can get noticed. And, I mean, definitely, it is… It’s PG-13. I mean, it’s…

[laughter]

16:52 Michael Port: Yeah, sure.

16:53 Christa Haberstock: It’s a rock star talking about business, but he hits the nail on the head that you have to get out there, and play, and play, and tour and tour, and gig and gig, and play and play, and tour. And just keep getting out there. And then, the next video that popped up was an Ed Sheeran video. And you know these overnight successes that take 15 years to make.

17:13 Michael Port: Yep. Absolutely.

17:14 Christa Haberstock: And this is the bottom line. So, let me circle back because I always wanna make sure to end with a word of encouragement that, “The cream always rises to the top. But sometimes, it takes a while.” But I have not met a professional speaker who didn’t eventually rise. It’s a slow burn. But if people spend enough time on it, and they work hard enough, it does happen. And it happens… Sometimes, it takes longer, but it does happen. So, if they’re willing to stick with it, it’ll happen.

17:49 Michael Port: And there are different ways in, aren’t there? So, for example, someone may start focusing on workshops in corporations where they have a very specific expertise, and they go in and work with the organizations in small groups, very workshop-y around very specific problems that those organizations have. And so, they’re not necessarily keynoters, but there’s a lot of money in that side of the business as well.

18:20 Christa Haberstock: Yeah. I see what you’re saying. Yeah. [18:21] ____.

18:22 Michael Port: And then some people, never really planned on being speakers but they became very popular authors, and they started getting requests to speak. But some people were big bloggers, and next thing you know, they have opportunities to speak. So there’s a lot of different ways in, and I think it’s, you’re an artist, so I think you see the world this way too is that there isn’t really one way to do anything. And sometimes, I think when people are going and taking courses on this kind of stuff and there’s a lot of people offering courses on this kind of stuff, there’s a lot of dogma like this is how you have to do it, it has to be this way, this is the… And it’s surprising. I didn’t really know that bureaus or agents existed when I started. I was an actor so I knew all about managers and agents, and I had good agents, and I was very lucky in that regard, but when I came into speaking, I just spoke for free all the time anywhere. I mean, I spoke at the Jewish Community Center on the upper west side of Manhattan on projects to two people who are retired. [chuckle] There’s only two people, that’s the only people who showed up. There was I think 400 seats, two people showed up, and they were like, “Oh. This is lovely. We don’t work anymore or do any project, but this is lovely.”

19:42 Michael Port: So it just… It was the grind of that. And then, I didn’t really try to get many paid gigs until after my first book came out. My first book came out and became a big hit, and then I just started getting calls. So, I don’t really feel bad saying that, like I had it easy ’cause I grind… I mean, I was like… I dug, I built a platform outside of speaking first.

20:09 Christa Haberstock: Yes.

20:09 Michael Port: And then, I moved into speaking from there at a higher level, and a higher price points, but it was a lot of work on all sides. It wasn’t just like one day, I popped up and like, “Hey! I wanna speak and you gotta give me $30,000” Just, it didn’t go like that.

20:27 Christa Haberstock: You know those are what you call… And my friend, and speaker Cary Mullen, he’s an Olympian and holds a speed record in Kitzbuhel skiing, downhill skiing…

20:35 Michael Port: Is he the one that starts his speech where he’s on the chair?

20:37 Christa Haberstock: No, that’s Vince Poscente. That’s actually…

20:39 Michael Port: Oh, that’s Vince. Yeah.

20:39 Christa Haberstock: Here’s a fun fact, that’s my brother. That’s how I get into this industry. [chuckle]

20:43 Michael Port: Vince is your brother?

20:44 Christa Haberstock: You didn’t know that. [chuckle]

20:45 Michael Port: I didn’t know that. Oh, my gosh. That’s so funny.

20:48 Christa Haberstock: I know. Yeah. So I’ll let that settle in for a minute ’cause now you’re like, “Wait a second!” Yeah.

20:52 Michael Port: That’s so interesting.

20:53 Christa Haberstock: Yeah. Well… In this industry, it’s funny. It is… Anyway, on this side of the industry, there are a lot of people you come and you stay, I say it’s the Hotel California of industries ’cause you can check out any time you like but… [chuckle] You’re never leaving.

21:06 Michael Port: Yeah, that’s right.

21:06 Christa Haberstock: But the point that actually bringing up Cary is that he’s a fellow Canadian skier, though, so I imagine that’s why you thought it was Vince. But Cary calls though is the hill sprints ’cause he had to train for the Olympics, and you don’t get to the Olympics, you don’t get to the… You don’t walk on to the Olympics; you don’t walk on to a $30,000 station. If you do, you’re gonna walk right off because you won’t have the experience, you won’t have the endurance, you won’t have what if the sound goes down. This is what separates… And forgive this, this is a woman saying this. But that’s what separates the men from the boys. When the AV craps out, or when the meeting’s running late and you have not 60 but 30 minutes, or when the fire alarm goes off, or when everybody tells… Says, like the big announcement before you go on is that, the CEO of the company has cancer or something. I’ve heard these things happen.

21:58 Michael Port: Sure, yeah. Of course.

22:00 Christa Haberstock: And then you gotta get on to go, “Hey, everybody! Let’s get motivated.” So this is where those speaking to two people in a Jewish Community Center, that’s where it pays off because that was rough, and you had to take deep, and still be a professional. So, it’s very, very important, the more you gave, the better you get, the better you get, the better career you’re gonna have.

22:18 Michael Port: So let’s talk about some of the things that hold, that get in the way of speakers, of getting a great reputation of building a professional business around this. There are certain things that make a big difference that can help you get more gigs, and then other things that are really get in your way. So for example, I got a keynote for Coldwell Banker at Lincoln Center, Avery Fisher Hall, and I got that because I gave a speech to 100 people in a theater in New York city as a favor from a friend, Chris Brogan. He was having a little event.

22:53 Christa Haberstock: Yeah.

22:53 Michael Port: Yeah, yeah. So, Chris was at Heroic Public Speaking live last year; that was his payback favor to me for my doing his thing. But I went up there and I don’t really use many slides. I just don’t really have a need for a lot of them. But I was using some visuals and then about five minutes in, this projector went down, it just everything stopped. And I asked the guy and said, “How are you doing?” He said, “Uhhh… ” I said, “Alright.” I just threw the remote on the stage, and I just kept going. And when the… And just the guy who hires for Coldwell Banker happen to be there, and he hired me and I said… I always ask why, “Why did you pick me? What’s the thing? You could’ve picked anybody.” He said, “Well, I… When that… When you… When that technology went out, your transition was seamless. I’d never seen anyone do anything like that.” And I said, “Well, you’re just probably… ” I don’t know how that’s possible. I know it doesn’t… I know there are other people who are able to do that, no doubt but that was the thing that was so impressive to him. And I said… And he said, “‘Cause your content is great. There’s lot of other people that have also a good content on the same subject, but I knew that I had nothing to worry about with you. I knew you had the chops.”

24:03 Michael Port: So that made a [24:03] ____. And then I gave a speech for Anytime Fitness, and there’s about maybe 2,000, 2,500 people in the audience and the first 60 minutes were dedicated… No, the first two hours rather were dedicated to six speakers giving 20-minute speeches. So I opened and I did 19:45. I knew it was gonna be anywhere from 40 to 50 seconds. I knew exactly how long it was gonna take. The woman after me went 40 minutes, the guy after her went 35 minutes. They had to cut the sixth speaker.

24:36 Michael Port: Yeah, they had to cut, and it went over even with cutting the sixth speaker. These were people who were getting paid in front of 2,500 people to speak. I was shocked. Give me some stories. Give me some stories of things that really make a speaker great, or make their career, or get them more gigs. And then also, let’s hear some horror stories if you have them, about things that speakers will do that just get them turned away, or have people disappointed in their work, or asking for refunds, or whatever.

25:09 Christa Haberstock: Sure. You know what? You just referenced going over time. It’s systemic of a much bigger problem that this is something that I point the finger at every time I get in front of a group or one speaker, doesn’t matter. I will always talk about serving because if the speaker is there… When the speaker is hired… Let me back up. It is really easy with all the standing ovations, the accolades, the pats in the backs, and the testimonials, and the things you have to do to toot your own horn to promote yourself so that to convince the rest of the world, meeting professionals and event organizers, that you’re worth hiring. It’s really easy for that to seep into your brain and you start believing it.

25:53 Christa Haberstock: So that being said, some speakers walk around thinking that they’re at the events because it’s about them. It is not. They are hired as a service to that event. And if it means that they have to on the fly cut their presentation, or keep it to the time, be respectful, but on the fly cut it to 20 minutes or whatever, you do it. You don’t squawk about it. You do it. If it means that your AV check is five hours before your presentation time and you have to take a cab back to the hotel, you do it, or you sit in the green room for five hours. If it means that there’s a three-hour autograph line after… You know what I’m saying, I don’t need to waste time on this. So you’re there to serve the event and it’s not the other way around. That standing ovation is not for you. It’s for the meeting planner who hired you. Never think that that standing ovation is for you. It is for the event organizer to show their CEO that they did their job right.

26:55 Michael Port: That’s right. I love it.

26:56 Christa Haberstock: So if you keep that in mind, everybody’s fine.

27:00 Michael Port: One of the things we suggest when people are developing their content, if they’re creating a 60-minute keynote, we suggest they create a 50-minute keynote, five zero.

27:09 Christa Haberstock: Yeah, that’s great.

27:10 Michael Port: And ’cause there’s nothing wrong with ending a few minutes early. In fact, audiences and organizers often love it. They go, “Oh, we’ve got five extra minutes. That’s fantastic.” Even if they loved everything you did up there, they think you’re brilliant, an extra five minutes can help get something back on track that’s a little off schedule. Can give them instead of 15-minute break they get 20, and they get… They don’t have to rush to the restroom. They actually like it.

27:34 Christa Haberstock: And rarely are you gonna finish early. You’re going to see that,”Oh, thank God I had that 10-minute cushion.” Let me reference something here too ’cause when you’re saying what are the pitfalls kind of a thing. There is actually a report that came out in 2011, November 2011. It was Velvet Chainsaw. They partnered with… I think it’s Tagoras, I think that’s how you say it. I’ve only seen it written. But they’re a continuing education company. They polled meeting planners on all sorts of things. I’ve just devoured all the information from Velvet Chainsaw especially this report, but the 15 Guaranteed Ways Speakers Destroy Their Marketing Strategy and its pet peeves of conference planners from the mouth of conference planners. Michael, I’ll send you the link if you want to post it.

28:18 Michael Port: Yeah, I’d love to. I’ll definitely… We’ll put it in the show notes.

28:21 Christa Haberstock: Some of my favorites obviously, don’t be a prima dona, self-promotion from the stage, Using a canned speech, poor visuals, obviously… Reading from your slides, that’s rookie. I don’t even think we need to even talk about that. Don’t be high maintenance, that’s a prima donna. God, there’s so many. I’ll send you the link. I think one of the biggest ones for me that speakers tend to forget is that you can’t be last minute Lucy on these things, with audiovisual, travel or anything else. That’s a big pet peeve for them. You have to prepare and plan ahead, make it easy on the planner, and then hand-in-hand with that is lack of responsiveness to the conference organizer. And then, this is so funny the very last one. Anyway… Leaving immediately after the presentation. Don’t do it, just don’t. And the very last one it says, is an attitude that the speaker is the customer not the organization and its audience. So that’s exactly what… That’s exhibit A right there. That’s their number one pet peeve.

29:25 Michael Port: So interesting. I love that. That’s really, really great. Let’s talk a little bit about the different areas of importance for speaker development. There’s your topic, your platform, your skill and then your professionalism. These are the things that I hear you hitting on. Your material, your platform in terms of how well-known you are, what kind of reach you have. Your actual skill, the ability you have to perform, to deliver on the promise of being a very compelling speaker and then your professionalism. So… Do you feel these are all equally important? Is there any particular area that tends to be more attractive, more compelling to organizers? And it probably depends on the types of event or if it’s an event where someone’s selling tickets, the platform is probably the biggest thing to them. ‘Cause, well, if I get Malcolm Gladwell, people are just gonna come see Malcolm. I don’t really care what he talks about, that kind of thing. So what’s your thought on that?

30:37 Christa Haberstock: Let me approach this a little more philosophically, but then I’ll get really specific on it. I think what I’ve learned since coming on this side of the industry, and I suppose I started to learn it even at the bureau but is that… As much as we think we are maybe selling speakers to meeting professionals or to event organizers, what we’re doing is, and I referenced this before, we are on the positive side, we have to make them look good. And on the negative side, they live in fear of something going wrong. And what we… Everything that we do on our side to market, package, and brand our speakers, has to be directed at mitigating their fear. So at no point when they watch the video, should they go, “Ugh,” should they cringe go “Oh, they could never say that in front of my group.” Click. ‘Cause it goes off. It’s done. At no point… If the head shot’s too sassy [chuckle], done. If the bio references a certain political party. Done. Anything that is going to polarize an audience in any way or cause the meeting planner to doubt that they’ve made the right choice will kill the booking.

32:01 Christa Haberstock: I feel like my biggest job, and, in fact, this is kind of my mission at See Agency, is to remove the barriers to bookings for my speakers. So what I do is I take a speaker and I look at everything that would be getting in the way of their bookings, and I clear it out. And once it’s kind of like just water running downhill, once you clear it all out, the business starts to flow. It just works. So if speakers can take a look at their stuff and put on the hat of a meeting professional, someone booking an event, where their neck is super on the line. No one is gonna lose their job over dessert, but you will lose your job over a speaker. So that’s the biggest thing. Philosophically, that’s where I think we need to go first. And then the three biggest things that we’ll get speakers more business once they approach everything from that angle, the mitigating [32:54] ____. Number one, top of the list is the world’s best video. If you don’t have the world’s best video, never mind. And I mean that…

33:00 Michael Port: That was my next question. I wanna get a little bit more into that technically in a bit.

33:04 Christa Haberstock: Sure. So it’s video, website, and the third one, in my opinion, is testimonials because a social media speaker, Corey Perlman, taught me that you need social proof, and if you don’t have social proof on… And this was… He approached it from the social media LinkedIn side, but yeah, social proof is the biggest thing you can give to meeting planners saying, “Oh, look, your colleague is in XYZ industry, booked this person, and here’s a little testimonial,” because third party testimonials are critical.

33:36 Michael Port: Do you think anybody gets hired and paid to speak without video?

33:44 Christa Haberstock: If they’re a celebrity. But even then…

33:46 Michael Port: Outside of that.

33:47 Christa Haberstock: Mm-mm.

33:48 Michael Port: No. And…

33:50 Christa Haberstock: Well, let me just say this about that. You’re gonna hear stories about people who get hired without a video, dig a little deeper and you’ll find out, “Well, my boss saw them speak.”

33:58 Michael Port: Sure. There were some sort of proof of concept?

34:02 Christa Haberstock: Uh-huh.

34:03 Michael Port: So now you have a catch-22. If you haven’t done a lot of speaking, then you don’t have video. Of course, what we know is we gotta go do a lot shoot everything, shoot everything, shoot everything. Even if there’s two old people in the audience who don’t work anymore. It’s about projects, fine; it doesn’t matter, but keep shooting it. Now, of course, what that means is that you have a lot of audio in places that are small, that are not obviously big venues. How do you think the particular space that you’re speaking in, influences the way people see those videos?

34:42 Christa Haberstock: The video thing is… I mean, those are such good questions. And I get a little sensitive and empathetic to on that this can get really discouraging ’cause having been on the performer side of it, I know it was rough, but it’s… That ‘fake it til you make it thing’ is so true. And it has to do with videos, has to do with everything. You gotta look large market in any way you can and without being disingenuous and without being not true to yourself, just maximize every opportunity, get video every time you have an opportunity. Another speaker manager, a friend of mine she said, “My speakers… They’re not speakers, they’re professional video gatherers.”

[laughter]

35:26 Christa Haberstock: It’s true. And so even if it’s the two people at the Jewish Community Center, you get a quick cutaway of yourself on stage. It’s a different backdrop, you’re wearing a different tie, or shirt, or t-shirt or whatever. And so the more video you have, the more compelling… The less fear the planner is gonna have. They’re like, “Oh, look at all the experience they have in all these different venues.”

35:49 Michael Port: So one of the things that we found is that a lot of people were showing us, students, they said, “Here’s my… This is my demo video. What do you think?” And we don’t focus on the business side of it, we focus on the performance side of it just because we prefer to. However, of course, because I’ve been in business for a long time, I have some experience. So we look at the demos and there are often these videos with lots of quick cutaways, good line, audience, B-roll, laugh, off to another stage with another quick line. It’s my feeling that meeting planners can’t learn anything from that ’cause any editor could make someone look halfway decent, one or two lines here or there doesn’t mean you can hold a stage, and there’s often a through line, through that particular video that the planner can connect to.

36:46 Michael Port: So what do you think about those kinds of demo reels that have lots of quick cuts from one place to the next if they’re not 15 different cuts from Coca-Cola’s annual event to Vanguard’s. That’s different ’cause really what you’re doing is going “Look, he’s spoken at every big stage in the world. You really don’t even need to know much more than that; he’s a proven entity, take him.” So, what do you think about those kind of demo reels? The sizzle reels?

37:20 Christa Haberstock: I’m just making a note about something I wanna remember. You’re not doing one video anymore in my opinion and the opinion of a lot of people. I think as many as three demos are needed. Thankfully, the three demos arent’ going to be mutually exclusive, they’re going to have a lot of crossover in them. But I think there’s the probably 90-second to two-minute sizzle reel that you just referenced, and that will probably end up being the intro to the demo, which is about 10 minutes, I think. And again, there are going to be people listening to this going, “I totally disagree.” Well, whatever. It’s all approximate and in six months, it could change because we live in a video generation. This is not the same story as it used to be before. So the 10 minutes is approximate. I’ve seen as short as eight, as long as 12, 13 even but just around there and then the full length.

38:14 Christa Haberstock: The two things that are new is the full-length people are really requiring the full length more and more. I know a specific bureau who almost totally requires the full-length video. So, yeah, those three videos. And then, of course, you use the sizzle reels, the intro to the short demo and then the full-length is just… It can have some minor editing if there’s small whatever, just to clean it up a bit, but it needs to give the meeting planner as if they were there, that kind of experience.

38:47 Michael Port: Yeah, I’m with you 100%. That’s exactly what we do, and for my full-length videos they are edited, they get cleaned up.

38:55 Christa Haberstock: Yeah, cleaned up.

38:55 Michael Port: Yeah, because then they just feel a little smoother, and there are certainly little parts here and there that you can take out just to make… ’cause people, they’re not used to watching… Theater filmed is usually a little bit boring, it’s flat. People are used to seeing cuts.

39:12 Christa Haberstock: Yeah, cutaways.

39:13 Michael Port: Yeah, so what I’ll do is I’ll have a crew come and they’ll do a four or five-camera shoot and then they can do lots of cutaways and it looks much more exciting, but there’s no change of the content. We’re not taking and taking; it’s just they come to a big event that I do somewhere and then they film it. And then we have an excerpt like a trailer of that that’s about 12, 13 minutes. So it actually feels like when you watch that trailer through it feels like, “Oh, wow! I get the whole thing. I get what this whole thing’s about.” So there’s a through line, and then a demo kind of thing. What we did with our clients was, for the ones that were really new we rented a theater, we brought in a film crew and we edited their scripts from their longer keynotes into five-minute excerpts. So they have a really killer five-minute excerpt of one of their speeches. And the quality is so good and the film-making is so good because I think, sometimes they’ll judge you just on how well it’s filmed.

40:15 Christa Haberstock: Yup.

40:16 Michael Port: There’s so many different things that people judge, and they don’t even realize they’re doing it.

40:21 Christa Haberstock: ‘Cause if it feels small market, they’re not gonna feel safe.

40:23 Michael Port: Yes, that’s exactly right. So what we’re trying to do is create a higher end video for them than they’d be able to get if they were just filming small talks at different places at the chamber or somewhere else. What about the book? A lot of the speakers on the circuit have written books; this is, as I said when I wrote my first book then I started getting a lot of calls for paid speaking gigs, this is something that people ask a lot like, “Do I have to be an author to be a professional speaker?”

41:01 Christa Haberstock: Well…

[chuckle]

41:03 Christa Haberstock: Ooh, I’m gonna get myself in trouble. Yay!

41:07 Michael Port: Go for it.

[chuckle]

41:08 Christa Haberstock: I don’t know. Maybe I won’t. I don’t totally understand the book thing, and maybe that’s just because that’s not where my heart is. I’ve never been an avid reader of business books at all. There’s other books that I’ll just devour in a night, but business books put me to sleep, they always have. So, maybe that’s why I’m saying what I’m saying but to me a book is a marketing piece and an add-on sale at the event. So, if you have something to say, write it in a book and if you want to make some extra money at an event, write a book; if you want extra PR, write a book. Those are the three things. But there are very few, this is where I feel I’m gonna get into trouble, I just think there’re very few actual authors that are very good speakers, so all books are not created equal. I think Malcolm Gladwell he’s obviously you’ve referenced him before, right, he’s what you call it, a comet, it’s just or a… Anyway, it’s just.

42:22 Michael Port: He’s an outlier?

42:23 Christa Haberstock: Yeah.

[laughter]

42:24 Christa Haberstock: Yes. That’s what he is.

42:24 Michael Port: A [42:25] ____.

42:27 Christa Haberstock: In fact he is.

42:27 Michael Port: Yeah.

42:29 Christa Haberstock: So it’s just you’re not gonna find a ton of people who started as authors that become great speakers, however, great speakers who can become great authors is another thing entirely, and if a speaker wants to devote themselves to becoming a great author fine, but I just think just keep it simple on the book, yes I think write a book definitely, but just don’t think more just don’t think too much of yourself if you write a book.

[laughter]

42:58 Christa Haberstock: Just don’t think you’re so awesome like everything and a bag of chips, oh speaker and author, well yeah, yeah you wrote a book, but you’re not Malcolm Gladwell.

43:05 Michael Port: Yeah. Right, exactly.

43:06 Christa Haberstock: So I don’t know. That’s where I get myself into trouble.

43:06 Michael Port: Well I often joke that I don’t write best-writing books, I write best-selling books.

[laughter]

43:14 Michael Port: There’s a difference between those two things.

43:17 Christa Haberstock: Well that’s good you have the delineation down, yeah, I just I got no judgement it’s just kind of.

43:22 Michael Port: Yeah, but also the thing is people… You were saying you’re gonna get in trouble for saying whatever you’re gonna say, anytime we express ourselves out in the world somebody may disagree with us, and that’s one of the things that is scary to people who wanna go into this work even if they have a deep, a great desire for it, and they really are in service they know it’s not about them, they know it’s about the audience, and they wanna make a difference. They wanna do great work for other people out there and deliver on promises. Sometimes they’re just scared about the rejection that they may face, and the criticism, and the more public you are the more criticism you’re gonna get, it’s just part of the process, that’s just the world in which we live, unfortunately.

44:11 Christa Haberstock: Yeah. Yeah.

44:12 Michael Port: And I think it seems to me that you and I share this perspective is that we just as I said earlier there isn’t one way to do it. You’ll find lots of different ways in even in our conversation where we’re demonstrating that there are different people who’ve entered in different ways sometimes one choice of trying to become an author and then a speaker doesn’t work very well for somebody because the book is not particularly compelling, and people don’t get excited about it and then for someone else it works very, very well. So I think that it’s very hard in any industry where there’s a creative element to it to have only one way of being or one particular protocol that will always work, and I hear in all of your examples that there’s lots of different ways in.

45:00 Christa Haberstock: Being genuinely you too, boy and these things just sound so philosophical and so trite, but a speaker who… I can tell a speaker who is genuinely themselves, it just comes through, and everyone will see it, I mean its Joe Calloway preaches it, so many people, but just you be you, everyone else is taken.

[laughter]

45:19 Michael Port: Well it’s a funny industry, it’s a funny industry if I go somewhere and give a speech sometimes people will come up to me and go, “Oh my God, you’re just like I thought you’d be. I really appreciate your integrity.” I’m like, I don’t think I should get a complement for that.

45:33 Christa Haberstock: Yeah. I do.

45:34 Michael Port: That’s not a… That should be par, it’s not a pat on the back, but in our industry and this is why you mentioned it, and I don’t think its trite, in the industry people may not feel that a lot of the speakers that they’re seeing if they know them from some other platform, actually show up the way they thought they would, so there’s some inconsistency, and so integrity, honesty, authenticity, really take you very far in this particular business.

46:03 Christa Haberstock: I wanna quote somebody so bad right now, and I can’t remember who said this, but this is way back in my… When I was singing, and I went to all these seminars just like HPS I went to these things to become a better performer, and a better marketer, and so forth, and I heard something that stuck with me and it was at the beginning you will definitely have your idols, you will have your people that you look up to and at a certain point there should be a transition where your voice comes out, and who you are becomes higher than the person that you have been maybe not emulating, but kind of looking to, and there’s a quote, and I’m gonna see if I could find it, and I’ll send it to you, but something about do not be held captive by your heroes.

46:51 Michael Port: Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

46:52 Christa Haberstock: I don’t know if you heard that, but its.

46:54 Michael Port: No. No, but I understand the concept.

46:56 Christa Haberstock: Yeah. And I think its really powerful because it lets people off the hook, it let me off the hook because I had all sorts of heroes I just loved the… How certain people sang, and wrote music, and you could really hear it in my early stuff.

47:11 Michael Port: Sure. Sure.

47:12 Christa Haberstock: My early recordings, and even just when I was doing stand-up and improv you can really see my heroes coming out. I’m like well there’s no surprise there because I’d learned a lot of my skills from them, but your genuine voice ends up coming out over time, and so I hope that’s encouraging to people who maybe are starting out, they’re like, “Well I don’t know who I am,” well it’s okay to maybe be someone else for a little while, but to make sure to let yourself come out as the process goes on.

47:40 Michael Port: Yeah. We’re looking for the individual that’s what we’re looking for, not a cookie cutter or cut out or something. So how has being a performer influenced your position or perspective as an agent?

47:53 Christa Haberstock: I think just have really deep empathy for the difficulty of starting out. And I get contacted a lot by speakers, maybe the ones that aren’t starting out but people who are really trying to… And this is kind of a catchphrase, and I don’t want to hear it anymore, but… “take it to the next level, take my business to the next level.”

48:14 Christa Haberstock: And they think that a manager or an agent is the route to doing that, and it’s just not. It is not, but I have to let them down easy. And it would be really easy to get callous and just delete the voicemail, or what have you. But I try and talk to everybody because I know that every individual person is looking for… They’re looking for the silver bullet. They want the magic pill that’s gonna take them to their proverbial next level. And, I mean, I’m here to say… And hopefully, people are listening to me when I say this… I am not it. An agent or a manager is not it. Every once in awhile, it is. But the great majority of the time, it’s not. The people that it is the magic pill for are the people that were undiscovered diamonds.

48:58 Christa Haberstock: My speaker, Doc Henley, he was a 2009 CNN hero. And this dude is the definition of X factor. He’s a tattooed, Harley-riding bartender from North Carolina with a communications degree and a tip jar to raise money for clean water around the world. And now he’s in, like 23 countries with Wine to Water. And when I met him six years ago, he didn’t have a single speaking gig on the books. But I reached out to him, ’cause I’m like, “This dude is gonna be huge.” And, sure enough, he is.

49:30 Michael Port: Oh, that’s cool.

49:30 Christa Haberstock: And he’s making a tremendous impact. So that’s the rarity. That’s the unicorn.

[chuckle]

49:38 Michael Port: That’s so cool.

49:39 Christa Haberstock: Yeah, but for the most part, it’s not an agent or a manager that’s going to make or break somebody. There are very few fairy tales in this industry.

49:47 Michael Port: So how can more people learn about the See Agency?

49:51 Christa Haberstock: We have a good website, so, seeagency.com. I think, for most people listening to this podcast, they’ll be most interested in what we do as consulting. So we have… We call it a ‘Therapy Division’. So we’ve got a professional therapist on staff who talks to speakers about everything that I just talked about and helps with everything from the tactical video stuff, all the way up to the philosophical, “What’s standing in my way from becoming a success?”

50:18 Michael Port: That is so cool.

[chuckle]

50:19 Michael Port: Just so everyone’s clear, it’s not C as in A, B, C. Its S-E-E Agency.

50:23 Christa Haberstock: Yeah, what you do with your eyeballs.

[chuckle]

50:26 Michael Port: Exactly. And I’m hesitant to say, “Hey, how can people contact you?” because I don’t want 50,000 people to send you an email, ’cause you could not respond to all of them. But I imagine you’re listed on the website, and if someone has a burning need to ask you a question, they could probably find you that way.

50:47 Christa Haberstock: Of course, yeah. And, I mean, this is why we have our Therapy Division because I can’t be accessible to people, but I do try.

50:53 Michael Port: Yeah, good. Hey, listen, you are fantastic. I’m so excited, so honored, so pumped up that you’re coming to Heroic Public Speaking Live in Florida. It’s gonna be a fantastic time. And it’s a gift that you’re giving to all of our students, all the people that were gonna be there, so I thank you so much. And I thank you for doing this.

51:15 Christa Haberstock: Oh, it’s my pleasure. And anytime you need anything, you let me know, but I’m looking forward to the HPS 2016. I can’t wait to be there. It’s gonna be a ton of fun.

51:24 Michael Port: Fantastic. So that was Christa Haberstock. She is fantastic. She’s from the See Agency. And keep thinking big about who you are, and what you offer the world. I love you very much, and not in a weird way. But I really do. I love you for standing in the service of others as you stand in the service of your destiny. So keep coming back for more. I’ll bring as many great guests as I possibly can to you, and it’s a privilege to be of service. So thank you. Tune in for the next one.

 

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