Article Category: Interviews

Interview with Kristin Arnold, National Speakers Association President

I recently read Boring to Bravo, an impressive book on audience engagement written by Kristin Arnold. (You can find the Six Minutes book review here.)

When I found out that Ms. Arnold is also the President of the National Speakers Association (NSA) for 2010-2011, I approached her to see if she would answer a few questions about the NSA.

I’m delighted to be able to share her interview with you here.

Question: How did you come to be a member of the NSA?

I had already been in business as a professional meeting facilitator and was drawn to “speaking” as a way to get the message out to people who might hire me – and I realized I could make money at it as well.

Question: Why did you eventually seek to become the NSA President?

Not sure I went looking for it, but as a strategic thinker, I was drawn to serve our members as I truly believe NSA (and many other associations) are at a strategic crossroads – where relevancy and value are of utmost importance.

Question: Can anyone become a member of the NSA? What are the qualifications? Do you have to be a United States citizen?

No, you don’t have to be a US Citizen, but you have to reside or have a business in the United States (BTW, the same holds true for CAPS, but make that Canadian – I know this to be a fact as I am married to a past CAPS President, Joe Sherren!)  You need to have made a minimum of 20 paid speeches, OR earned at least $25,000 in speaking fees in a twelve month period, OR  as a part of your salaried position, presented at least 20 times to audiences of 15 or more – all of which needs to be accomplished in the past 12 months.

[Ed: CAPS is the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers.]

Question: Membership dues ($175 initiation fee + $425 first year annual membership dues) are significant. What are the specific, tangible benefits which justify these dues?

In comparison to other professional societies, our annual membership dues are quite reasonable and we are quite averse to raising dues.  We work very hard at keeping additional expenses as low as possible so our members can participate in the three things NSA delivers:  [1] Education and professional development, [2] connecting with like-minded individuals in the professional speaking community, and [3] tapping in to the research and the commitment to the profession that supports our livelihood.  All of which support our members to be able to speak more, speak better, and speak with confidence that they are the leading edge of this profession.

Some examples include:

  • Attend Meetings (Convention, conferences, labs) for exceptional education and community.
  • Read Speaker magazine and search Online Publications for more information about how to speak more and speak better as a professional speaker
  • Listen to our audio magazine, Voices of Experience®, Log on to a webcast or webinar, Download Audio Recordings and Watch Video Recordings to learn more about the art and business of speaking
  • Join Professional Emphasis Groups and Get Involved in a Special Interest Group so you can get connect with other like-minded professionals
  • Explore the Global Speakers Federation so you can speak more and speak better beyond the US borders
  • Update Your Online Directory Profile so meeting planners can “find a speaker”

We also have a new strategic initiative around “Commitment to the Profession” which is centered around research and pushing the latest trends and information about the speaking profession and meetings industry out to our members.
We are currently reviewing our products/services mix to ensure we are providing exceptional value to the working level professional speaker.

Question: There are 39 NSA Regional Chapters across the United States, with separate dues, services, and mandates. What do (most) regional chapters provide that the national organization does not, and vice versa?

Actually, the mandate is the same; however, each chapter is an independent entity and currently carries out their mandate as they see fit.  We are currently engaged in a robust dialogue with the chapters about strengthening our relationship to ensure a more consistent experience for our members and those new to NSA both at the National and local levels.

As the front door for people new to NSA, Chapters are best at offering local community support and mentoring.  National is best at leveraging the talent and resources within the organization so that all may benefit.

Question: I have heard that NSA members are not allowed to disclose their speaking fees publicly. Is this true? If so, why is this a forbidden practice? If not, why do you think this myth perpetuates?

NSA members can disclose their speaking fees to anyone they care to; however, in a NSA meeting, we refrain from discussing actual fees so there isn’t a perception of marketplace collusion.  So what most presenters at NSA do is to make a hypothetical allusions to a fee as an example.

Question: One statement I’ve heard many times is this: “You go to Toastmasters to learn how to speak. You go to the NSA to learn the business of speaking.” How would you assess this comparison?

True, but pretty general.  We assume you have the ability to speak in front of an audience about a topic that you are passionate about.  NSA leverages that talent and passion to extend the eloquence of your message, establish your expertise, enhance the business enterprise, while embracing our standard of ethics.  These are the four Es – our four competencies which are the cornerstone of our mission.

Question: Suppose there is a Six Minutes reader who is very curious about joining NSA, but isn’t sure she’s “ready”. What advice would you give her to know when she is ready?

Call us and we’d be delighted to chat with you.  For those who aren’t ready to take the plunge yet, we have a robust Academy program at the National level and many of our local chapters have “fast track” programs to jump start your professional speaking career.

For More Information

You can find more information here:

Also, check out our Six Minutes article about professional speaker associations around the world.

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  1. Mohammed Khokhar says:

    impressive. gave an insight into importance of being associated with a speakers association…. can do wonders for your professional career.

    however, i did not see an association in india. i am bascially from india and would be interested to know of any speakers association active in india… could you guide.


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