WHEREVER THERE ARE third parties and commissions, there are ethical questions, and the competitive speakers industry is not immune. Some speakers bureaus are upping their commissions for marketing, negotiating, and other go-between services from 25 percent to 30 percent.

“In most cases, it is the speaker who pays those fees,” says T. Scott Gross, who makes his living speaking about customer service. Gross notes that speakers are expected to offer to planners who book them directly the same rate that the bureaus charge. But that could change. “Some bureaus could be pricing themselves out of the market, and speakers might have to up their fees correspondingly. Or there may be a trend toward planners booking direct with speakers for net fees.”

“I think some speakers will choose not to work with those 30-percent bureaus, but there will be plenty of speakers who will,” says Scott Friedman, CSP, a motivational humorist and national vice president, National Speakers Association, Phoenix. “I think some more-established speakers and celebrities will move to a net fee plus add-on commission type business model. Not a significant number, though.”

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