Interview with Gerd Kulhavy
The renowned speaker agency Speakers Excellence is clearing up the confusing world of speaker placement and booking with its new live booking platform "Expert Marketplace". Anyone looking for first-class entertainment for roadshows, conferences, meetings or other events can now breathe a sigh of relief. Expert Marketplace puts an end to time-consuming artist searches, confusing billing and uncertainties when booking acts for the big stage. Gerd Kulhavy, CEO of Speakers Excellence, explains how the idea came about, what's special about Expert Marketplace and why the event planning industry has been waiting for this tool.
Mr. Kulhavy, please explain to us what Expert Marketplace is exactly?
Gerd Kulhavy: In principle, we wanted to create a simplification with Expert Marketplace. For event planners, congress providers, hotels, mediation and management agencies and other event professionals who regularly work with speakers, presenters and show acts. Of course, our platform should also serve the speakers and artists themselves. There are plenty of websites that list stage professionals. But we go one big step further. Expert Marketplace offers an interface on which the buyer can search for his desired topic or his favorite speaker, optionally combined directly with date and location. He can see at a glance which expert is available and what fee he should expect. He gets hints on travel expenses and can option or book immediately.
Expert Marketplace is a live booking platform. What do we have to imagine by this?
Gerd Kulhavy: This means that as soon as the customer has found the perfect speaker for the event, he can make a firm booking with just a few clicks. Live, that is. What we have known and appreciated for a long time from the hotel industry or travel booking has now found its way into the event industry. As soon as you find a person or a show troupe interesting, you receive information about availability, conditions and ratings from other customers. In the first step you can then option for a week if you are still unsure. Or you can book directly. Instant availability and instant booking is the motto. There's no more annoying back-and-forth phone calls, everything is immediately visible in the screen. We have used digitization to create something that helps all sides. A win-win-win!
You mentioned reviews that the customer can see on the speaker's profile. What kind of reviews are these?
Gerd Kulhavy: We work with ProvenExpert. All reviews that the speaker has received on Amazon, Facebook, ProvenExpert itself and other social media or platforms are shown here in bundled form. This way, the customer can be sure that nothing is manipulated. What he sees is what he gets.
Let's talk about the costs. Until now, fees and travel expenses were agreed individually. How does that work on Expert Marketplace?
Gerd Kulhavy: Exactly, that was the second big thing that took a lot of our time and nerves so far. On Expert Marketplace, we therefore work with flat rates. The customer sees all costs directly on the results page of his search before booking! The travel costs are calculated by the Google algorithm. The basis is the distance from the speaker's regular office location to the venue. So it doesn't matter if the moderator, entertainer or speaker is in Hamburg, Austria or Bali beforehand. The customer pays the travel costs from the usual location.
And what about accommodation and food?
Gerd Kulhavy: We have also made significant improvements in the area of expense reporting. You know how it is: the speaker travels to an event in the morning, gets stuck in a traffic jam, runs out of time, then needs a cab, drinks a coffee on the way, etc. The customer is always on the edge of his seat, especially with events that take place early in the morning. Firstly, the customer is always on the edge of his seat, especially for appointments that take place early in the morning, and secondly, it often takes an unnecessarily long time after the end of the event for all invoices and receipts to be collected and settled. Therefore, for bookings made via Expert Marketplace, a flat rate for expenses and accommodation is applied for appointments before 11 am and after 4 pm. The speaker is punctually on site and well taken care of and the customer has a much easier accounting. Theoretically, it is even possible to settle the invoice in advance or on the day of the event, thus completing the entire invoicing process directly at the end of the event.
What other advantages do you see?
Gerd Kulhavy: We have included an option called "Best Deal". Let's assume an act is booked for a specific date in Munich. Now, if a second customer books this speaker for another event in Munich, before or after the first date, both the first and the second customer get a 10 percent discount on fees and travel expenses. So it pays to check back often and keep an eye on bookings for a particular speaker. To make this easier, we have built a watch list into our booking platform.
That almost sounds like an Amazon for speakers?
Gerd Kulhavy: Of course, we took our cue from the big players on the market. But we didn't just copy them, we adapted elements from successful platforms to fit our event world. Digitalization is changing not only the retail sector, but our entire society. It was high time that the mediation industry followed suit with such an offer. For us, customer benefits and making daily work easier are our top priorities. That's why we will also offer the platform as a white-label solution.
What does that mean in concrete terms?
Gerd Kulhavy: Event professionals and major customers such as hotels or agencies can integrate Expert Marketplace as a tool directly on their own website. The interface is individually branded, and the CI appears in the front end of the platform. Thus, these customers, who not only frequently book and procure artists and speakers, but often have some under contract themselves, have the opportunity to conveniently enter their own speakers into the databases and do the procuring on the side. Expert Marketplace eliminates all the annoying tasks. What remains is a round thing, which helps speakers to more orders and agencies as well as companies to a fast completion.
Are there any other features planned for the future?
Gerd Kulhavy: In the VUCA world, nothing stays the same. Of course, we are continuously working on making Expert Marketplace even better. First and foremost, we ask ourselves: What is still causing uncertainty? Where can we optimize from the customer's point of view? For example, we are planning to launch an app in the fourth quarter of 2018 that will further simplify billing. We will also set up a GPS tracking system. This will make it possible for customers to locate their booked speaker from 90 minutes before the start of the event. Similar to what we already know from Uber or MyTaxi. In this way, we take the tension away from the customer on the day of the event. Everyone can look forward to the performance with confidence.