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There are a number of organizations that are relevant to speakers. Let me give you an overview of each. Before I do that remember not to spend all your time commiserating with your peers. It may be fun, but it seldom generates revenue.
National Speakers Association
Here is an area that my frank talk will get me in hot water. But as you can probably guess, I don’t care! NSA is the only association of professional speakers in the country.
It costs around $500 to join.
The stated goal of the association is to advance the cause of professional speakers. I’m sure that the original mission of the organization (from talking to some of the earliest members) was honorable.
I’ve been a member for a number of years. In the first couple of years of my membership, I found a lot of the information that they gave at their conventions fairly helpful. Soon thereafter, the conventions and events got a little old.
I would hear the same stuff, over and over again. One of the more annoying things is that people took themselves much too seriously. Someone has yet to tell a number of the speakers out there that they aren’t movie stars or celebrities. If you go to a convention, you’ll see what I mean.
Another area where I had a problem was that quite often the organization proved to be a triumph of contacts over competence.
Many speakers selected to address the group were neither good speakers nor possessed any good content. BUT, they knew the right people. This is ridiculous. An organization of speakers shouldn’t have weak presenters on the platform. This is a travesty.
NSA also has two professional designations which they grant to certain select members. Again, the members who have these designations think they are of vital importance. I have yet to see any correlation between these designations and income or competence of the speakers. It also tends to be a very cliquish group. True of many groups, not just this one.
Here’s a couple of specific examples. In 1995 or so I was supposed to address the local chapter of an organization in Northern California. They then disinvited me less than two weeks before the date. Anyone in the speaking business knows this is completely unacceptable behavior.
The group has a very hard time dealing with people like me. The “in your face” individual who has a lot to offer but won’t put up with the BS that organizations like this tend to be filled with.
Why am I still there? Because I believe that the best way to TRY to change an organization is from within. It will be interesting to see what happens as I become even more successful.
I have a number of good friends who are members, but the group as a whole is hard for me to take.
So what’s my suggestion? Join it for a year. Go to a convention or two. See if it works for you. After that point, if you like the camaraderie, continue to go. If not, do what I do. Keep your membership intact, but don’t waste your time or money on the conventions. I don’t mean to be cynical, but I am speaking the truth. I have a hard time doing it any other way.
Local Chapters of NSA
There are also local chapters of the NSA. These vary dramatically around the country. Some are very active and helpful and some are not. Early on in your speaking career I suggest you attend some of your local events as well. Remember that these chapters are often run by some very power-hungry individuals who have egos the size of a small planet.
A former friend of mine now doesn’t even return my phone calls in one chapter. Why? I have no idea, but it gives you the idea of the politics that are involved here.
Toastmasters is a training organization for new speakers. If you are just starting out, it may be worth looking for a chapter near you.
They have a specific curriculum for you to go through if you’re just starting out. Check the resource section for their number and address. I mentioned them earlier. They can be reached at www.toastmasters.org.
The American Society of Training and Development is an organization geared to those who do training. This organization is worth looking into. Contact them and find out if they have a local chapter in your city. If they do, go to a meeting.
You may also hear about a group called the International Platform Association. I cannot recommend them. I went to one of their meetings once and found it completely useless.