For 23 years Maria Franzoni has been booking thousands of speakers for corporate and business clients. Globally, she has worked with the good and the great of the speaking world, including first man on the moon Neil Armstrong, Body Shop founder and environmentalist Anita Roddick and business magnate Richard Branson.
Before finding her space in the speaker industry, her career journey included a lot of business experience, from being a business owner, to working in retail management and management consultancy. Seeking a more balanced working routine, she eventually shifted her professional aspirations in pursuit of ‘having a life’.
In fact, her speaker journey was set in motion by what she says, was a very cryptic advert about negotiation skills at senior level. Having sparked her interest, it was through this that she discovered the world of speaker bureaus and from there she was hooked.
Maria’s very first mentor made a very strong impact on her approach to the Speaking Industry. His approach focused very much on understanding the value expert speakers could bring to organisations and the importance of putting the right speaker into each opportunity. At the same time thinking longer term and building relationships that went beyond just one speech. He had high expectations and she notes that having someone see great potential in her and set high targets was the driving force that contributed to her rising in the industry.
Any speaker will agree that the ‘corona-coaster’ wiped out a lot of business and very fast. The virtual world has changed a lot for our industry and Maria has seen first-hand how her speakers and team have had to adapt through these challenges to suit the virtual environment. The ‘new normal’ wasn’t going anywhere fast.
Despite the initial shock to businesses caused by the pandemic, in June 2020, having stabilised her business after the first 3 pandemic months, Maria split the bureau in two; with half the team supporting clients while she and the remaining half focused full time on helping speakers rebuild their speaking businesses. And now has focused 100% of her attention on helping and supporting speakers to drive their businesses forward.
Maria’s advice to any speaker in these times is that you must get very close to your customers, engage with them and who they are. Don’t get distracted by social media and clutter but rather hone your attention to your clients, customers and relationships. She also reminds us to be human and always communicate honestly. Don’t ever stop communication, this way you will avoid surprises during a change. Take your business relationships with you on the journey.
At this year’s conference Maria will be doing a double header with well-known media coach Alan Stevens. She says both are amongst the oldest in the speaking industry. They know what’s happened in the past, but they’ve got insight into the future and know what works to stay ahead of the game.