Thursday, January 12, 2017

Booking a Speaker

It's kind of uncomfortable to write this post, because although I'm no longer the scrappy, enthusiastic herbie I was 25 years ago who was thrilled to speak to or teach any group who would have us, nor do I want to seem like I'm too big for my britches.  It's just that life is BUSY.
Let me just frame it this way...
I run a successful business with some sparse part-time help.  My sister runs a successful business next door, and I pitch in with that.  We are very busy women - and we're not kids.  We have spoken to thousands and thousands of people over the years.  Pick an herbal topic, a type of group, a kind of venue - and we've probably done it.  We've been around the block.

It occurs to me that I might be able to give a little advice on how to book a speaker or teacher for an event. I just had an unpleasant experience full of "don'ts" that might be helpful to share.

During the very height of the holiday shopping season, I was contacted about teaching "some kind of hands-on class to a group of about 12" locally.  I was given a date (one month out) that didn't work, but she was willing to change it.  She mentioned that they weren't that knowledgeable, because they all "had lives."  Yes, I filed that comment away.  You betcha.

I asked if there was payment.  The answer was, "yes."  That was helpful (no it really wasn't - that was sarcasm).
I asked how it would work for materials used, and there was no helpful answer to that, either.
There was no indication of whether it should be medicinal, culinary, decorative.
Further volleys were put off because it was just too busy here to fool around.

I know without a doubt that charging the amount required to develop a class specifically for this small group, negotiate every bit along the way, figure out what the costs and payments would be; all of those things would be considered over the top.  I'm not even doing this thing, and I've already spent an hour or two trying to figure out what was being requested! We've turned down large groups that weren't clear in their requests.  After all these years we've learned that the more you go out of your way or bend to please strangers that pop up asking for things outside the norm, the more you will eventually regret it.  That's not snark, it's just fact, and we've learned it over and over and over.

It was wrong of me not to get back to the person.  I said I would.  We're still busy with orders (because herbies get to shop for themselves after the holidays!) and dove into the Mar/Apr issue on the 2nd, but I did say I would get back to her. I didn't in any way expect that she would be counting on me to show up.  Never agreed to that.  Didn't expect snippy, and really don't appreciate that.

So HERE'S MY ADVICE

Have all the information available in the initial contact.
~ Payment or honorarium.
~ Length of time to be filled.
~ Date, time, approximate number of attendees.
~ Subject matter you're looking for.
~ Location of venue or home.

Learn a little about the person you're contacting and what they do.
Realize that they may have a life too.
Just tell them the details up front.  Most of us really don't have time to hem and haw around.

If it hadn't been so crazy around here (see my previous post about how rough that last issue was), it wouldn't have gone beyond the first email.  If I had been focused it would have been a quick "no."  Instead, there are some hard feelings that were completely unnecessary if just a small amount of preparation had been done.

OR approach new businesses who really need to get their names out there.  They will be much more flexible than a crotchety woman who has been around this particular block a few too many times :-P

2 comments:

Marge said...

"After all these years we've learned that the more you go out of your way or bend to please strangers that pop up asking for things outside the norm, the more you will eventually regret it. That's not snark, it's just fact, and we've learned it over and over and over." Yep. full agreement, from another crochety woman who has just been doing all this too long. Yep. do NOT assume that I will change what we do or how we do it to make you happy for a one off "opportunity" when we both know I will never hear from you again. Nope. sorry it went down that way, Tina.

Catherine, The Herb Lady said...

I so completely understand. My experience is very similar. So many small groups looking for a "warm body" to present to their monthly meetings seem to couch it in terms of doing you a favor by highlighting your skill or books or whatever. I have a musician friend who finally got fed up with nightclubs offering little or nothing other than a "getting his name out there" and a chance to put down a tip jar. With that said I try very hard to be as helpful with individuals as I can I see you doing the same thing.

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