Yes, it’s a strange blog title but let me share with you a story.
One of the largest events I produce each year has event chairs. And these event chairs are professional speakers. Now you may ask yourself, what’s so crazy about that that it warrants blogging about? Many events have chairs that help advise and shepherd programming, right?
Well, most speakers are entertainers. Their events tend to be big, even when it’s not scheduled to be because most speakers are fun people with big personalities and big hopes and dreams for the events.
And this year was no different.
This year, the chair desperately wanted a “REALLY BIG NAME” *(heretofore to be referred to as RBN) to speak on what we’re calling Celebrity Sunday. We started tossing RBN’s name around last May as a, wow wouldn’t it be great to get, but no one was really serious.
Except that event chair.
Who kept on about RBN, and kept on about RBN, and then promised me a statue once I landed RBN.
That’s right, my very own statue, in the event chair’s yard, no less.
So of course, I was like #ChallengeAccepted. And when the event chair followed up with a notarized statement re: statue, I knew that I couldn’t back down. Even with the particular challenges that lay ahead.
See, here’s the other really interesting thing about this particular event. Speakers (for main stage or breakouts) have not historically paid. We value their time, content, and presence; it’s just that we consider them speaking to this particular audience a peer to peer sharing, professional working speaker to professional working speaker, if you will. And it’s almost always worked for us. It makes it for a wonderful community driven by the spirit of the association’s founder, but it also can make it very difficult to attract certain levels of speakers because they’re not part of the active community.
RBN is what we call a level 7 speaker. He’s more celebrity/actor and has many access layers to work through to even contact. Or so we thought. On a dare, I tweeted his husband and got an email back within two days. Aside from the general awesome demonstration of the power of the interwebs for near immediate access to what could have taken months of red tape, we still had to play the email game until two weeks ago when RBN’s agency called me. And we began to negotiate terms, because RBN also charges a pretty steep speaking fee.
And that brings me to the 6 negotiating tips to get your own statute.
Tip 1: Know Your Total Sum of Get
In a classic negotiation class, they teach you to know the total sum of the get. Don’t fall prey to tunnel vision. Yes, my event chair wanted RBN on the main stage, but we’re potentially paying a very large fee. What else can we get in the total package, before, onsite, and post event?
Think of it as if you’re negotiating a salary at a new job. It’s not your base salary (though that’s important), it’s the benefits package, the time off, the perks at the office, the telecommuting etc. Same thing goes for negotiating with speakers, suppliers, or other partners. And if you can’t tell me what your total get is, you’re not ready to negotiate well
Tip 2: Know Where You’ll Hold and Where You’ll Fold
You’re not going to get everything. Well, I’m too old to be saying you’ll never get it all. BUT, it’s very unlikely, especially with the bigger the fish/contract.
We were able to negotiate in some added bonuses in addition to the main stage appearance, which stretches the overall time that RBN will be appearing and adds considerable ROI to our potential considerable investment. But we had to give up a few things we originally wanted in exchange for the extra time. And to us, that was worth it. Whereas if they had balked on all of our concession asks, we likely wouldn’t be able to make the deal work. We recognized to that, on RBN’s end, he’s also giving up time he could be doing something else potentially making him more money.
Tip 3: Get It All in Writing (In Some Sort of an Official Capacity)
It’s the reason my event chair notarized my statue offer letter. He was verifying to me in a public and transparent way this is what I would get if I delivered RBN. It wasn’t just words, and you should do it in an official channel so that it holds up. Not everything has to be notarized or on letterhead, but it’s got to be more than a napkin.
Tip 4: Keep the Decision-Making Pool Small
The more people you have to involve in making negotiating concessions, terms, and “final” decisions, the more time it will take to make and keep to a decision. It also makes the finger-pointing parade (in case the contract doesn’t work out or there is negative push back against it) larger. Sometimes you don’t have any control over this, but I prefer a team of four or less. It makes you more agile, gives you feedback boards to represent differing opinions and devil’s advocates, but doesn’t limit your turnaround time much.
Tip 5: Use and Leverage Your Relationships Wisely
This is a tricky one and involves knowing, reading, and understanding all the players in the negotiating game. I had originally made contact with RBN’s husband, formed a relationship with him over email and social media, but ended up negotiating contract terms with RBN’s agent. My co-decision makers wanted me to go back directly to RBN’s spouse to work around some of the agent’s terms. Ethically, I technically could have done it (big risk but potential big reward if my relationship paid off and we were able to get direct results without the RBN’s representation payout) but, it could have compromised the deal because my behavior could have been seen as a breach of trust by RBN’s team.
I ultimately made the decision to work within the system (or the rules set by RBN’s team) because we didn’t have any other leverage to counter with and an email relationship does not make for the strongest without another voice to vouch for you. That’s not always the case, especially in this industry where the ecosystem is much smaller than you might think. One only has to look at the continuing ripples from the #Sony hack and know how interconnected we all are.
Tip 6: Be Okay With Walking Away
This is a tough one. No one likes it when a proposed negotiation fails, but not being wiling to leave the table puts you at a disadvantage. More than likely you’ll fold on everything you want in order to get the contract signed, which means you’re giving up what you’re paying for and getting only the very basics of what the other is wiling to give you. You deserve more than that. Negotiating is not a game of chicken, it’s a game of chess. Be deliberate with your moves and know that if you don’t sign, you’re not swerving, you’re making a smart business decision.
And if you’re wondering, the word is still out on my statue. I’m expecting a contract on Monday morning. Keep your fingers crossed for me.