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Turning a message into a speech and then marketing that speech is a big job and this is the job that faces anyone who decides to become a speaker.
Although it seems like many speakers do it alone because they face the audience from the stage alone, they really do not. Ask people who have been on the speaking circuit and they will tell you that they’ve had a variety of people assisting at many stages of their speaking journey.
The Virtual Speaker’s Assistant (VSA) is a very important partner to the successful speaker with many roles and important tasks that the speaker usually has little skill or inclination to do for himself or herself.
If you have virtual assistant experience, and we expect that you do, you will probably find that the first few sections in the course may be a review for you – how to answer the phone and emails, how to organize the office, etc. The main reason we have included this in this course is that speakers are very particular about how these things are done in their offices and we want to make sure that you have these conversations and not make any assumptions about doing these things as they have been done for other clients you have. The other reason for inclusion is that new technology will change the way we communicate over time, and we wanted to include a place where we could update and inform you about these changes as they happen.
We also don’t expect you will do everything in this course for a given speaker client. But in order to familiarize you with the various possibilities we have included more instructions than you may use at first. When you need information you will know where to find it. You can always come back to this site to get new information or refresh your knowledge. For instance, most VSAs won’t be writing articles, only submitting them for the speaker. But we included information about what makes a good article, so you can help the speaker maximize the article’s impact before you submit it.
The work of the VSA is variable depending on the needs, wants and sometimes budget of an individual speaker. The more speaking engagements a speaker has each year, the more the speaker will count on you to handle everything else.
The Work of the Speaker
Becoming a speaker is a lifetime achievement for many people. People from all walks of life have a story to tell and at some point in their life they decide to share that story or that message with others. Many have an innate sense of wanting to teach others what they’ve learned. And this usually happens with people who have had success in their lives.
The professional speaker doesn’t just speak – he or she runs a speaking business. Some are natural entrepreneurs and know what this entails. Many speakers have little or no experience in running a business, especially those who have left a full time job or academic position to share their message or expertise. Many speakers also provide professional services in addition to speaking and related products. Therefore, the VSA’s role can depend on what the speaker can and can’t do on their own.
The value of the speaker’s intellectual property is dependent on their ability to take those ideas and turn them into speeches and other products from which others can benefit.
The role of the speaker in developing the speech, is deciding the message and the key points that they want to make. It is also in story selection. The speaker has the obligation to rehearse and make sure that stories have good segues, that the speech is well constructed. The speaker must know his or her audience and create a speech with a message that resonates with that audience. The speaker is in charge of humor, the tone of the speech, body language and movement and tone of voice they demonstrate on stage to carry the message.
A committed speaker will put in substantial time to hone speech, craft, and rapport with the audience to maximize opportunities, reach and fees.
The Vital Role of the Speaker’s Assistant
One of the ongoing challenges of a virtual speaker’s assistant is to establish a great working relationship with the speaker. It is likely that speakers – if they are just starting out – have done much of this work themselves, or had a spouse or intern to give them some help. Because it is likely that the speaker has never worked with a speaker’s assistant before, it will be up to you to set some guidelines and some boundaries. Because speakers need so much help, they have tendency to throw the kitchen sink at the assistant and say “Just do everything I need.” There are seven primary roles the speaker’s assistant plays in working with speakers.
1. Manage relationships, starting with the speaker and then with bureaus, meeting planners, media, prospects and clients. A VSA can be a wonderful gatekeeper for prospects who are not serious, because successful speakers are going to get a lot of inquiries. Then there is much follow up after the speech, thanking people properly and looking for new business opportunities.
2. Manage inventory and accessing the intellectual capital of the speaker. The VSA may be in charge of making sure none of the speaker’s trademarks are violated, research to make sure permissions are acquired and up to date, and creating handouts, one sheets, PowerPoints, bios and more. This allows speakers to access anything they need easily and eliminate surprises after the speech, such as cease and desist letters from other speakers.
3. Run the day-to-day office operations – something that speakers really rely on. Setting up and/or documenting how the speaker wants the office to work with leads, contracts, paperwork, emails, industry certifications and more.
4. Manage the speaker’s logistics, including coordinating and managing the speaker’s calendar, travel, events and more.
5. Keep track of the sales and inventory of the speaker’s products – books, CDs, DVDs, downloads and more.
6. Coordinate the marketing process. You can be integral in so many areas that will help speakers succeed at promoting their speeches such as connecting with the media, running virtual product and other campaigns, article placement, scheduling media interviews, simple updates on the website, auto responders and social media.
7. A seventh critical role is to give aspiring speakers the right information to know what’s involved in the process, what to do, when to do it and how much it will cost. Launching a speaking business is not for sissies, and so if the VSA can be a reality check on the operations, even to say to a new speaker, “It’s likely to take 12 months to launch this not 6 weeks.”
Sometimes speakers want to be really hands off – they want you to do all the prep so all they have to do is suit up and show up. You will have to work out what your availability will be with each of your clients. Do they want only certain services or everything you offer, soup to nuts?
What a Virtual Speaker’s Assistant Is Not
Because of the speaker’s need for so much help, they also need very clear boundaries. Speakers are so charming and so charismatic, it is easy to feel sorry for them if they have had a compelling story. Don’t feel sorry for the speaker! It is very easy for a speaker to talk the VSA into taking on responsibilities that the VSA is not trained or experienced enough to do. The speaker doesn’t know they’re not supposed to ask and the VSA doesn’t know that they’re not supposed to do it. And that’s where the wheels can fall off of the working relationship. The speaker may be spoiled because they had a spouse who just did everything. Previous relationships are not a good bench mark.
You need to be prepared with language such as, “That really isn’t an expertise I have, but I’d be glad to start a search for someone who could do a great job for you on that.” This is your opportunity to provide guidance to the speaker, you can say, “I can help you execute the marketing campaign,” or “I can send over the RFP’s” which is not the same as making cold calls and pitching the speaker. The more specific you are in what activities you can help with, the clearer and more defined the speaker’s expectations will be. What you are is an expert on tactics and coordination.
Part of your role is that you are always looking for new ideas and new things that will enhance the speaker’s life and work. But the real job is to run interference between the speaker and the real world, so the speaker can create and maximize the reach, the opportunity and the fees. The speaker wants make sure everything is taken care of while they’re out on the road. A lot of speakers feel isolated and they like to talk, so agree with the speaker beforehand on how much time you want to spend on “updates.” Speakers will thank you later (when they get your invoice).
The virtual speaker’s assistant is not:
- An agent
- A bureau
- A marketing strategist
- A cold caller
- A speech writer
- A speech coach
- A topic expert
- A brand strategist
- A publicist
- A web site designer
You may have some of these skills yourself and if you do, you should charge a higher rate for them and make clear that these are in addition to what you do as a speaker’s assistant. The process is so new for the speaker, the speaker needs so much and so many speakers are trying to bootstrap that it all leads to speakers asking too much of their VSA unless they are careful. Especially in this economy, everyone’s trying to get the most bang for their buck.
The work of the VSA can be very rewarding as you watch your speaker clients see their opportunities multiply, their fees increase and the power of their message explode. The VSA is there first and foremost to help speakers realize their dreams. You can be a big part in of helping personal, professional and career ambitions become reality for the speaker. We hope this training program will help you prepare for all the exciting challenges ahead and a lucrative career or specialty for you as a virtual professional.