A snapshot into the lives of people who hire speakers
Barbara Christenson founded The Speak Well Being Group, a bureau specializing in health and wellness, in 1998. With a background in
copywriting, advertising promotion
and retail sales, Christenson is skilled
and persistent at cold-calling, building
long-term relationships and promoting
speakers. Equally important, her
passion for speakers and their messages
(she calls herself a “motivational
speaker junkie”) has helped her stay the
course through industry ups and downs.
fresh fruit at convenience stores. Take time
to be still and connect
with yourself daily, even
if it means waking up
Janet Bailey: What’s your take on
the speaking business today?
Barbara Christenson: I think the speaking industry is getting back to some
kind of normalcy. I’m optimistic. From
my clients, there’s less playing the
economy card. They still have budgets,
but if they really want the speaker,
they’ll pay the fee.
Social media is making speakers
more accessible, and that’s good.
Bureaus used to be concerned that the
Internet would put them out of business
if everyone could find speakers on
their own. But now there is so much
information out there, people are
turning to speakers bureaus to edit that
information—clients don’t have time to
do it themselves. They are looking for
the trust factor.
What kinds of
speakers do you
book most often?
I book mostly motivational keynote speakers for
women’s events sponsored by
hospitals. Even though my bureau
is very niched, there is great diversity within that niche, including
heart health events, cancer education
events, conferences about stress, and
women’s nights out. I also book men,
if they focus on health and wellness.
Last year, I had a request specifically
for a male cancer survivor and booked
someone who was fabulous.
What do you look for in a speaker?
I look for expertise—not necessarily
an advanced degree, although sometimes the degree is important for
clients who offer CEUs. I also look
for a compelling story. People who
have some kind of theatrical background are more likely to shine.
How should speakers connect
An inquiry by phone or email is fine.
Your website is the first thing that tells
me whether I’m interested. Video is
extremely important—Vimeo and
You Tube are great. I can link to those
from my website and send clients there.
I prefer not to receive paper materials or DVDs. Do follow up and, if
you’re on my roster, check in with me
How can speakers be resilient?
Practice what you preach. Take care
of yourself. Being on the road is not
an excuse to eat badly. You can buy
How do you work with speakers?
When I take on speakers, I invest
many hours getting to know them
personally, if possible. I watch their
videos, call their references, read their
books, spend time on their website
and subscribe to their ezines. When I
can, I attend their live programs.
Barbara Christenson is founder of The Speak Well Being Group, specializing in speakers for women’s groups and health and wellness
topics. Visit www.speakwellbeing.com.
Janet Bailey helps organizations improve focus and engagement hrough Precision Questioning & Answering, clear communi- cation, and mindfulness
training. Learn more at www.janetbailey.com.