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Takeaways from attending National Speakers Association (NSA) conference

I just got back from attending the National Speakers Association (NSA) annual conference called INFLUENCE. For several reasons which I recently explained to my Speaking Professionally Toastmasters group in a recap meeting, it was a game-changer for me personally and in my speaking business. Hope you were able to attend our meeting. (We meet monthly on the first Tuesday - 12pm EST).

Hands down, and up, attending the NSA Conference was the best 'investment' in my speaking business I could have possibly made. First off, imagine being in a room at the Opryland Resort in Nashville, TN with 1,000+ other speakers ... the energy and comradery was crazay awesome, especially after 2 years of not having an in-person conference. I met just as many new friends as I did see old ones.

My first major takeaway happened before the conference even started!

I have an upcoming client who asked me for proof of license and permission to share music in my speech. In my 20+ years of speaking, I have never been asked to provide this upfront. Oh well ...

To keep the client happy (cardinal rule #1), I reached out to several other speakers inquiring about how to get permission to use "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey. Although many people responded, no one was able to help me get what I needed. So I was leaning toward not being able to use a song that I had beautifully woven into my speech for the past 5 years. I was irritated.

At the conference however, I had just checked in and was mingling around in the hotel lobby. Long story short, I bumped into one of the speakers who I had emailed for help about using the music. Right next to them was another speaker who is also a professional emcee who uses music all the time. So they introduced me to this speaker and asked how they use their music in their emcee work.

"Just buy an ASCAP license, Kevin," he said. "It's $400 a year and that's how you get permission to basically use any song you want."

Then he explained what ASCAP was and sat down with me to show how to apply for the license ... incredible. This would not have happened if it weren't for the conference. I do not believe in coincidences friends.

And keep in mind this happened before the conference even started.

So Takeaway #1 was learning about ASCAP for the very first time.

If you use music in your presentations, or want to, then you simply need to purchase an annual license from ASCAP. #Simple.

Takeaway #2 was the incredible sense of community, collegiality and belonging that I felt being with my speaker tribe for 3 days.

There are many different ways to get PAID for speaking. There are quite a few different business models. So having informal conversations with other attendees was enlightening ... it reminded me that there is still much to learn in this business and that it's also forever changing, especially now.

And not only a community, but also a support system. There are people who I met during the conference that I feel comfortable sending an email to or picking up the phone. I would not have had these connections if it weren't for the conference.

Surprisingly, being a speaker can feel isolating and lonely at times. Self-doubt can creep in. Frustration can build if you don't have the right people to lean on and reach out to when times get tough or confusing.

Do you have a community of speakers around you? Do you have other speakers you can reach out to whose advice you trust? This is another reason why I am involved with NSA and also Speaking Professionally Toastmasters. Each group is unique and I glean tremendous benefit from my involvement in both.

To find a local NSA chapter near you, click here.

Finally, to keep my takeaways in just 3 main points for simplicity sake, my 3rd top takeaway:

I met my new Speaking Mentor. (and they don't even know it yet - but it's going to happen.)

In the spirit of transparency, it's been a few years since I've had a speaking mentor who I wanted to model after and be more like.

I had a speaking mentor when I first started speaking and then another as I was growing my speaking. They served their purpose with and for me at the time and then I guess I just graduated up. My mistake is that I didn't find another speaking mentor who I could continually watch and be blown away by.

At NSA Conference, I found her ... and I'm not giving you her name - yet. We are meeting for the first time next week and I am so excited.

Granted, I'm involved with 2 different Speaker Mastermind Groups, I'm on the board for NSA Carolinas and President of Speaking Professionally Toastmasters. However these aren't mentorship relationships that I need for ME. Respectfully I have speaker friends and colleagues I can still support and learn from, but a mentor is an intensive 1:1 relationship where someone truly takes you under the wing and advocates for you and helps champion you as if you were them of sorts. It's somewhat complicated, but I hope you understand.

I decided this person would be my Speaking Mentor when I saw them speak. They had just received the CPAE Award (Hall of Fame Speaker Award) at the closing banquet. Unbelievable. They were recognized as a Hall of Fame speaker ... And rather than thank their team and all the people who impacted them and their speaking success, this person told a short, amazing and powerful story. Their style was so different. I loved it. I told myself, "I gotta find her after this banquet and do whatever it takes to meet with her." I couldn't find her that evening though. I tried hard.

The next morning I'm leaving my hotel room and guess who I bump into?

Yup. And she was all alone. As I talked with her and walked her toward the hotel lobby checkout, over an hour went by. We kept sharing story after story and finding more and more in common. It was amazing ... turns out she doesn't live but an hour away from me. There are no coincidences my friends.

Catch this ... she doesn't know she is going to be my speaking mentor - yet. Maybe we won't even formalize it much ... but when I do meet with her next week, I will let her know how much I'd like to stay in touch and I'll do whatever it takes to learn from her, support her and be a good steward applying her wisdom and crediting her along the way.

So those are my main takeaways friends ... and none of them have to do with actual content from the amazing conference presentations and speakers! I learned a ton from them as well ...

Below are some nuggets from other speakers I know you will find valuable as well.

A couple other one-liner takeaways to wet your noodle:
  • this was just my 3rd NSA conference. Last conference was back in 2019 when I had just joined NSA, so its been a few years. I was a late comer to NSA but wish I had joined much sooner.

  • roughly 1,000+ attendees! Check out some photos here.

  • attendees varied from full-time professional speakers to aspiring speakers. I met just as many new(er) speakers as I did seasoned professionals. The conference was welcoming to speakers of all levels!

  • affirmed by many presenting on the main stage that there are several different business models for speaking! Tune in this Tuesday to hear more.

  • Speaker Bureaus don’t want to hear from you … they want to hear about you.

  • speaker relatability is the new competence.

  • credibility doesn’t make you a great speaker; the relatability how you share it does.

  • identify the sole problem you want to help solve and then identify an audience who needs to hear it.

  • it's very tempting to compare yourself to other speakers; don’t get caught up in the trap.

  • it’s not so much about building a speaking business; it’s more about building relationships.

  • leaders manage energy, not people.

  • your return on investment equals your rate of involvement.

  • get smart about how you’re dumb.

  • you don’t get paid to speak, you get paid by delivering value.

  • your one way ticket to going out of business? Start assuming everyone should think like you.

  • speaking is not much different than baking cookies. You might be able to bake a damn good cookie, but owning a bakery is completely different.

Have questions what I shared?

Not finding the speaking engagements you know you're capable of?

Not sure where to start or what to do next?

Happy to discuss any and all with you ... click here if you'd like to schedule a session with me.

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Earn greatness today! Onward and upward!


Want to speak professionally, part-time or full-time?

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I've been honored to present for over 1,000,000 people through 1,150+ audiences in all 50 states and several countries. Whether I'm on a stage or in a training room with professionals or students, I absolutely LOVE motivating and inspiring people for higher performance. And in addition to my own speaking business, I have a passion for helping and coaching speakers learn how to catapult their speaking whether part-time or full-time. My book, PAID to SPEAK, outlines a proven model for speakers and is now an online course as well! Click here for online course info!

If you are serious about becoming a professional speaker, explore my coaching and mentorship options. I don't want you to flounder like I did and be frustrated.

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