Working directly with the speaker is the number one job of the Virtual Speaker’s Assistant. Your support of your client is what we will talk about in this section. Some of your speaker clients will be newer to the entire industry, but you may also be working with very experienced speakers. It is possible that the speaker has come to you because things have fallen through the cracks, and there is a high degree of frustration. “If only I could just focus on my speaking, my career could really take off!”
The speaker is looking to you to change everything (but keep it just the same), make life easier and have answers to all his or her challenges. With expectations like that, how can you succeed?! We hope this training will help.
Very simply, the speaker will assume the office is running smoothly when:
- Speaking engagements are regularly coming in
- There are no complaints from anyone
- They don’t have to deal with any travel or event logistics
- They are making money
- Things show up where and when they are supposed to when they arrive to speak
- They can hand off a task to the VSA and don’t have to ask about it
- Things get done without their involvement (maintaining their website and social networking)
Will all these things be under your control? Of course not. But you do need to know that fair, or unfair, these are the speakers’ expectations. Problems will come up, and you may have a speaker prone to drama and not problem solving, but it will be up to you to figure out how to prevent and solve all the problems you can.
But your speakers’ expectations don’t stop there. Your speaker expects you to take initiative in problem solving, to be motivational with all members of the team, to take a leadership role and to be innovative when you see opportunities for the speaker. This is not only a big job, but much of it is not spelled-out. You are the wind beneath the wings and only when there isn’t much “lift” does your job fall flat. If the relationship between you and the speaker doesn’t work out, it probably won’t be because things aren’t getting done – it will probably be because the speaker doesn’t feel you are bringing in new ideas and a sense of enthusiasm. Your speaker wants a champion and many times that will be you.
Interview the Speaker to See Where You Fit In
Especially if the speaker has had some help before, paid or unpaid, it will be very helpful if that person can take you through what the norms have been for the speaker and the speaker’s office.
You will also want to interview the speaker about needs and wants in your work together. Use the Speaker Client Prospect Interview form (in Section 6-2) to ask questions like:
- How many hours a week have you had or do you need help in your office?
- What were the main things that have been done?
- What do you wish you had more help with?
- Have you established any procedures and do you have any written down?
- Who helped you before? Did you do everything yourself or were you helped by a spouse or intern?
Types of Speakers
As you begin or continue your virtual practice working with speakers, you will probably be able to identify four types of speakers:
1. Celebrity Speakers (make a good living speaking and appearing at events)
2. Professional Subject Matter Speakers (making a good living speaking, consulting, and teaching)
3. Aspiring Professional Speakers (working to leave the day job)
4. Part-time Speakers in order to sell products and services (income comes from another primary business)
While you may be working with some celebrity speakers, they may have an entourage of publicists and others who take care of their needs.
For most VSAs, the primary clientele will be the professional subject matter speaker and aspiring professional subject matter speaker. These are the individuals who have the budget and are willing to make the investment in working with you, the virtual speaker’s assistant.
Many professional subject matter experts have had some help in pulling together their speeches, speaking businesses and logistics. But that help probably came in the form of an in-office administrative assistant, a spouse or an intern. So much of what has been done has been catch as catch can.
Delight the Speaker
Speakers will expect that inventory will be there when they need it, travel plans will not have glitches, they won’t hear any complaints about you, and that they won’t have to deal with any logistical issues. They will not be delighted if these things happen, they will just assume that is business as usual. That might give you a C+, B- or B grade at best.
Speakers want to be delighted with the things you’ve thought of that make their lives easier and more fun. While few would say it, when they are on stage delighting their audiences, they want to feel the same way. If you can always make sure they have their favorite snacks, drinks, flowers and anything else that will make them smile before they go on stage, you will probably have a client who considers you indispensable.
Take initiative to listen to what gets them down, and give them a cheery phone call and check in when they need it.
Always Make the Speaker Look Good
It doesn’t matter if the speaker double-booked, got lost on the way to the event or if the speaker called someone by the wrong name – the speaker is never wrong. I am not suggesting you make yourself look like you can’t handle your job, but instead find ways of saying something neutral so that you always make your speaker look good. Loyalty to the speaker is the essential ingredient in creating a great relationship that will last. The words “I’m sorry” are the most important words you have in dealing with the speaker and others. With the pace at which things tend to move, arguing who is right does not serve anyone well. You should always be in problem-solving mode with a smile on your face. Plenty of time for Monday-morning-quarterbacking later.
You Are Never Expected to Take Abuse….From Anyone, Including the Speaker
Although arguing in the moment is never productive, you are well within your rights to decide how you will be treated. Good VSAs set boundaries and fire speaker clients when they resort to emotional abuse to get what they want. Don’t let that happen to you – it will only undermine your sense of confidence in working with other clients over time. If you do fire a speaker client, you should tactfully tell them that it just isn’t working out and that you will recommend another VSA (if you can).
The work of the VSA can be very rewarding as you watch your speaker clients opportunities multiply, their fees increase and the power of their message explode. The VSA is there first and foremost to help the speaker realize his/her dreams. You can be a big part 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.