What do Bookers look for in a Speaker Showreel?

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In the competitive world of speaking, your showreel is more than just a highlight reel; it's your audition tape, your personal trailer, and the key to unlocking opportunities. But what exactly are bookers looking for when they hit play on your showreel?  Understanding what bookers look for can transform your showreel from a collection of speaking clips into a compelling narrative that gets you booked.  


I often compare showreels to movie trailers.  When a movie trailer is good, you’ll rent or buy the full movie, when a showreel is good you’ll want to hear the whole speech.  Your reel should show both your speaking skills and the journey you promise to take your audience on. But how do you ensure your trailer is the one that gets people talking, sharing, and booking?


Here's my booker’s guide to creating a showreel that will get you booked.


Connect – quickly

The biggest mistake I see in reels is that the speaker doesn’t connect with the person on the other side of the screen quickly enough.  Either there is some long musical intro, or there is a clip on a stage, where the speaker is far in the distance and filmed in profile.  On a showreel you need to speak to the viewer as soon as possible, get their attention so that they will stay and view the rest.


Your Best On-Stage Moments

Every memorable movie trailer has those epic scenes that become instant classics. Your showreel should feature your most powerful, engaging, and impactful moments on stage.  These are not necessarily where you got the biggest laugh or where you looked your best.   From a booker’s point of view these clips should share something unique, not generic content that has been heard time and time again, but something that will pique interest to know more. 


Different Stages

When starting out you may only have one useable video.  As you speak more and more often it’s good to show different stages and different venues.  If the event is not being filmed, take a small film crew with you.  It’s worth capturing as much footage as you can not only from a showreel point of view but also for you to review and improve.


Audience engagement

If you content is interactive, then show some audience interaction.  Be careful when choosing scenes involving the audience though, as they can let you down.  I reviewed a video recently where a speaker had just been introduced and as he went on to the podium and started speaking, the emcee came off stage talked to someone in the front row while standing with her back to the speaker, grabbed her papers and left the room.  Didn’t look good. 


Rave Reviews

A great showreel, like a great movie trailer, wouldn't be complete without some critical acclaim. Weave in testimonials and audience reactions to serve as your glowing reviews. Written testimonials work best.  Talking heads are, in my opinion, terrible for several reasons.  Often the quality is poor with lots of background noise, we don’t know who they are, and it feels like they have no choice but to say good things.  A written testimonial telling me how the audience has benefited from someone who has paid you to speak is far more valuable.


Show me who you are

Films have a signature style or element—maybe it’s a haunting melody, breath-taking visuals, or a charismatic hero. Your showreel should highlight what makes you, You.  If you are funny, show me, if you are a great storyteller make sure I experience it.  If you have incredible visuals let us see them.  Make sure the viewer comes away feeling like they know who you are, because people book people.


Is there a storyline?

A great trailer isn't just a collection of clips; it's a story in its own right. Your showreel should have a clear beginning, middle, and end, taking viewers on a journey that leaves them wanting more. Start with a strong opening that grabs attention, weave through your highlights and interactions, and conclude with a powerful call to action or statement that summarises your message.  That sounds simple but it’s not that easy to do, often speakers try to include too many messages and so it’s impossible to follow the storyline.  Keep it simple.


Duration and Quality

In cinema, in life and in your reel, timing is everything. Your showreel should be long enough to intrigue but short enough to leave audiences wanting the full experience—usually around 2-3 minutes (if it’s very good you can go to 4, but it must be very good).  Quality is critical, your footage needs to be high-definition, well-lit, and professionally edited. This is your blockbuster, every frame counts. 


Directing your showreel is about more than just showcasing your speaking engagements; it's about creating a narrative that captures your message and the unique experience you offer. Like any great film, focus on storytelling, pacing, and visual quality to create a trailer that not only highlights your skills but tells the story of why you're the speaker audiences can't afford to miss.


Here's to your showreel being the talk of the town!


If you already have a reel or a draft and would like my critical eye and feedback book a feedback call here - https://calendly.com/mariafranzoni/showreel-feedback


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