National Speakers Association
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|John B. Mollidor, PhD, CSP|
NSA was founded in 1973 by Cavett Robert who was born 14 November 1907 in Starkville, Mississippi and died in September 1997. The members hold to a code of helping one another known as "The Spirit of Cavett" and  in honor of Cavett's birthday, NSA celebrates the "Spirit of NSA" day every 14 November. Even though he suffered from stage fright in his younger years, Cavett Robert joined Toastmasters International and went on to receive his first paid speech at the age of 61. Cavett's idea for NSA began with just 35 attendees of the Phoenix Summer Sales Seminar in 1969. After years of work, the National Speakers Association was incorporated on 12 July 1973. Cavett Robert's hope was to build a bigger pie so everyone could have a bigger slice. In July 1979, Robert was honored with NSA’s first Member of the Year Award, later renamed “The Cavett Award.”
Organizational structure and operations
NSA has its national office in Tempe, Arizona, and 37 regional chapters throughout the United States. NSA's first 10 chapters were officially chartered at the 1981 Convention. Even though many of the names have changed, these 10 chapters still exist today. NSA's professional competencies were adopted in June 1985 and continue to drive all facets of NSA today. These competencies are known today as the four E's: Eloquence, Expertise, Enterprise and Ethics. In January 1991, the NSA staff moved into the new headquarters building at 1500 South Priest Drive in Tempe, Arizona, and have been there ever since. In July 2014, they changed their name to Platform, but abandoned the change for multiple reasons. There was public dissent among NSA members as cited in various blog posts and social media discussions. In addition the brand appeared to conflict with the branding in use by author Michael Hyatt.
In order to join the National Speakers Association, professional speakers must document that they are regularly paid to speak professionally. This may be demonstrated in one of three ways:
- Been paid for giving 20 or more presentations in the prior 12 months.
- Given 20 or more presentations to sizable groups in the past 12 months as part of a salaried position.
- Have earned $25,000 or more in the past 12 months from speaking presentations.
NSA holds an annual national convention each summer featuring some of the most successful speakers in the industry, such as Steve Forbes, Sally Hogshead, Erik Wahl, Nancy Duarte, Walter Bond, and Penn Gillette. NSA's first Convention was held 1 June 1975 with 62 attendees gathered at the Scottsdale Camelback Inn.
NSA holds several intensive labs throughout the year featuring a deep-dive on speaking business, marketing and eloquence topics to help professional speakers grow their business and perfect their speaking craft. Past labs have included: Leverage Lab: Creating Multiple Streams of Income, Stagecraft Secrets Lab: Presentation Power to Ignite Any Audience, Laugh Lab: How To Funnier (Even If You're Not That Funny Now), and Platform Profits Lab: How to Sell Before, During & After Your Speech, and Media Lab: The Deep-Dive Lab on Broadcast, Print & Social Media. NSA's first lab was held 30 April 1994 at the International Center for Professional Speaking. NSA continues to host a lab every year to offer speakers an intimate learning environment with labs capping at around 200 attendees.
Local and regional chapters
The 35 individual chapters are led by an elected president and a board of directors. Chapters usually hold monthly meetings featuring a speaker and networking time. Nationally, NSA has a Chapter Leadership Council composed of past presidents who serve as resources and volunteer consultants to current chapter leaders.
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame
In February 1977, the Association established the Council of Peers Award for Excellence (CPAE) Speaker Hall of Fame. This lifetime award was created to honor the organization's top professional speakers for their speaking excellence and professionalism. Inductees are evaluated by their peers, and must excel in five categories: message, presentation/delivery, experience, professionalism, and collateral material. The award is not based on celebrity status, number of speeches, amount of income or volunteer involvement in NSA. To date, 232 men and women have been inducted; there are currently 172 living members. Up to five new inductees are named each year at the National Convention. The association conferred an honorary CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame award on General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.) in 1999, D. John Hammond in 2007, and Joe Larson in 2012.
Certified Speaking Professional
Conferred by the Association, the Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation is the speaking profession’s international measure of professional platform competence. Only a little more than 12 percent of speakers worldwide currently hold this credential. In 2015, NSA recognized 51 professional speakers, the largest class of individuals to receive the designation at the Annual NSA Convention.
In order to be considered for the CSP designation, the candidate must:
- Be a Professional member in good standing of NSA or a member association of the GSF for 12 continuous months (1 year) immediately prior to submitting your application. Salaried employees may be eligible to apply.
- Attend either NSA's national conference or member association GSF's national conference once in the past 10 years.
- Attend the Professional Competencies session and Professional Business Ethics session, or purchase and listen to the session recordings within 10 years prior to submitting your application.
- Document 250 presentations and fees paid given in the past ten years. A speech is defined as a live spoken presentation delivered to a live audience of three or more attendees. The speech may be delivered in person, or virtually.
- Document earnings of $50,000 per year for five of the ten years (years do not have to be consecutive). The fee paid for a presentation and/or revenue generated from same day product sales are considered as income.
- Provide names of individual clients willing to complete an online evaluation on the candidate's behalf; NSA needs 20 completed evaluations.
- Submit link to a Public or Unlisted YouTube video recording of a full, in-person, unabridged presentation, 60 minutes in length, but no longer than 90 minutes, or a continuous unabridged 60 minute excerpt from an appreciably longer presentation, such as an all day workshop or training, for review by a four-member CSP panel.
Academy for Professional Speaking
The association launched the Academy for Professional Speaking in January 2004 to teach those exploring a career in professional speaking. The Academy consists of eLearning and the one-day Cavett Institute, named after NSA founder Cavett Robert, CSP, CPAE. This meeting is held prior to NSA's annual national Convention and features programming for people who want to turn their passion for speaking into a full-time profession.
Speaker Magazine, is published 10 times annually in print and digital formats and includes the latest marketing strategies, tips, information and innovative ideas from top professionals worldwide. NSA's magazine was rebranded and renamed to Speaker magazine in January 2007. A year later in June 2008, Speaker magazine went digital. In 2013, NSA launched SpeakerMagazine.com and introduced a mobile application 
With the help of 34 working NSA members, NSA published its first book, Paid to Speak: Best Practices for Building a Successful Speaking Business. One year after publishing Paid to Speak, NSA published its second book, Speak More! Marketing Strategies to Get More Speaking Business. A commemorative 40th anniversary volume, National Speakers Association: Celebrating 40 Years of Conventional Wisdom, describing the history of the National Speakers Association, highlighting the individuals, events, initiatives and programs involved in the association's growth and influence was published in July 2013.
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