How To Rock a Bureau Showcase

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Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson is an award-winning storyteller, author, and comedian who teaches you how to harness the power of your story to connect, engage, and get results. In this blog, Kelly focuses on the business of professional speaking. Kelly’s post day is Friday. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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How to Rock the 15-Minute Presentation

Got a bureau showcase coming up? Freaking out because you only have fifteen minutes including your introduction?

You’re not alone. I’ve been there many times, and it’s a grueling assignment. You almost feel like you’re being set up for failure, forcing someone to determine whether they should hire you in just fifteen minutes or less.  You struggle with whether to deliver a mini speech or an actual sales presentation. Do you choose this story or that one? And how do we even begin with the Power Point? And to make things even harder, you’re speaking in a line up of twenty other speakers, all wanting to be the one remembered at the end of the day.


Again. Brutal.  I’m not a fan of showcases, and have yet to determine whether they are a good fit for my business model and worth the investment. But that’s beside the point. Today I just want to share some tips to make this process a little easier for you.

Who Is In The Audience?

When we are booked to speak for a company, we prepare our content to fit their needs and objectives. But in this case, we have a room full of diverse buyers.  If you can find out who is in your audience, even if you’re doing it the day of the showcase, then it will better help you craft your content to fit.

I always accept that there will be certain people who do not need what I am offering.  I don’t try to be something for everybody. I try to be everything for a few. I prepare my presentation knowing and verbalizing exactly who I am a good fit for based on their needs.

What Are They Looking For?

Put yourself in the seat of the meeting planner. What are they looking for? While we certainly can not read their minds, there are certain things that they will be looking for:

  1. Are you a good speaker? Are you entertaining?
  2. Will you be able to connect to their audience?
  3. Do you teach something they need?
  4. Is your fee in their budget?
  5. Do they perceive your value to be equal to your fee?
  6. Do they like you?

What Do You Need Them To Walk Away Knowing About You?

When you prepare your showcase, you need to know EXACTLY what you need them to know, and make sure it is verbalized in your presentation.  In my case, I need people to know:

  1. I am a great fit for keynotes – especially the big ones
  2. My content will be customized
  3. I am funny and I use stories to teach
  4. I am entertaining
  5. I am motivating
  6. Strategic Storytelling helps them with customer service, leadership, team building, sales, and marketing
  7. What Strategic Storytelling is and why is it so popular right now
  8. The kinds of companies who have booked me in the past
  9. The something different I bring to the table
  10. I’m excited about my content
  11. I want to show instead of tell – PROVE instead of give a data dump

This list is not “the right” list. This list is my right list. You need to create your own.

What Are The Best Things You Do To Create an Experience?

We all know that we are being booked for more than data and content. We are being booked to do more than give a lecture or share 500 tips. We are being booked for the way we wrap our content and deliver our expertise. We are being paid for the experience.

In addition to everything you want them to know about you, you also want to deliver the type of experience they can expect if they book you. What are the things you do as a speaker that create the experience audiences love? Is it a particular story you tell? A game you play? Audience interaction? Comedy?

Even though you only have 15 minutes, you must make it a memorable emotional experience-rich fifteen minutes.

Have You Clearly Stated the Problem You Help Fix, and the Solution You Provide?

Be careful not to use such clever creative marketing spin, that your audience can’t figure out the problem you will help them fix, and the solution you provide.  Even if their problem is that they need someone motivating to open up their conference, it’s still a problem. You want your meeting planner to go “Yes! We need that!”  I’ve watched many speakers deliver very passionate presentations with lots of powerful sounding promises, but at the end of the day I wasn’t really sure what they spoke about.

Every client has a pain they experience and a pleasure they seek. Tap into that.

How Are You Different In The Line Up?

Let’s face it. Nobody’s content is that original.  It may be dressed up in new language, but there are thousands of speakers speaking about the same thing as you. And some of them may be in that showcase. How will you be the one they remember in a line up of twenty speakers going back to back all day long? Are you doing anything different from the rest of the pack? People remember different.

The Goal Is Not Getting the Most Bookings

As speakers we tend to compare ourselves to the others. Who got the most bookings?  Who did they like the best?  This is foolish.  Booking a speaker is a personal decision for that meeting planner. Just as we don’t all love the same music, we won’t all love the same speakers.  If you do a showcase and get poor reviews, it’s not always a sign that you’re a poor speaker. If you don’t get booked, it doesn’t mean you suck and should change your branding. It just means you weren’t a good fit. Period. Let it go.  Here are some things to consider:

  • They may already have the speakers booked for this year and even next year. They aren’t ready to make a decision yet.
  • They love you but can’t afford you.
  • They just had a speaker talk about your topic. They need something new.
  • They love you but their audience is all men and you talked about Spanx and boobs.
  • They aren’t the only ones making this decision. They have to take you back to a committee of people who are all bringing their own names.
  • They love you but you are just “too big” for their event – meaning you’re better on a big stage instead of their small one.
  • You are exactly the speaker they would want to see, but not the kind of speaker their people want to see.
  • They need a trainer, not a motivational speaker.
  • They don’t want a trainer, they want someone more entertaining and motivational.
  • They didn’t think the problem you solve is a problem they have.
  • You’re a woman and they need a man this year.

Or Maybe You Really Weren’t That Great

In the theme of staying honest, sometimes they don’t book you because you weren’t a good speaker. You were boring. You just threw out a bunch of teaching points. You didn’t have stories or humor or anything that kept their attention. They just weren’t that into you.

So what do you do about that?

Get better.

I am absolutely amazed at how many speakers already assume they’re great. They think they have a marketing problem when what they really have is a product problem. People buy speakers to give good speeches. Period. Don’t let fear of not being good enough stop you from trying, but never stop pushing yourself to be better, because you might not really be as good as you think you are.


Here is one of my recent showcases. Still lots of room for improvement. It’s certainly not perfect. But here is how I did everything I suggested in this post: