If you're a professional speaker or aspire to be one, you may soon fall victim to a speaking scam. With fewer meetings, budget cuts, and higher customer expectations, the competition for speaking engagements has increased. As a result, scammers are seizing the opportunity to prey on unsuspecting speakers-especially those new to the industry. Who books speakers? Event planners, corporations, associations, and speakers bureaus hire speakers. An event planner may have a paid or unpaid speaking engagement. But beware of event planners or speakers bureaus who charge you an upfront fee to register with their database. Don't be lured in by exciting video testimonials on their site. I exposed one of these fake testimonials when I saw the name of someone I coached on her first keynote speech. Six months later, I saw her picture on a website that claimed to package and promote speakers. She was quoted as saying that she was making $250,000 per year from working with this company. As a veteran speaker, I know it's highly unlikely that a speaker would go from zero to $250,000 in 6 months. She wasn't aware of the false testimonial and immediately had them remove it. By taking a registration fee from every applicant, the company makes money without having to book you.
A legitimate speakers bureau will not ask for money from you. They maintain a data base of clients and propose two or three speakers when they get a request. Once booked, the speakers bureau takes a 25-30% commission from your fee and you receive a check for the rest. The bureau maintains their own sales and marketing costs and the clients belong to them and not to the speaker. Speakers bureaus have a website with profiles of speakers they represent, they often list their clients, and they are usually members of IASB (International Association of Speakers Bureaus) and may also belong to NSA. When in doubt, check the National Speakers Association (www.nsaspeaker.org). You can also chat with some of the speaker groups on linkedin to check out legitimate booking agents. Read a report of a recent speaker scam and don't get caught in their web of deceit.