Kristin Arnold’s Swan Song

And so my presidential term has come to an end.  This past Tuesday, I handed the gavel over to Laura Stack, CSP who will continue speaking with you on this NSA Presidential blog.  As for me, I’m riding off into the sunset, sipping martini’s on the beach in Prince Edward Island – for a few weeks.  Then it’s back to work – serving on the Board as Immediate Past President.

In case you missed the convention, here’s my farewell speech:

Since becoming NSA President, the question I am asked most often is… “So how’s your year going?”  And I have to laugh, because being president is really a four year plus gig.  It starts with being on the Board for a few years and then you get elected as Vice President.

What do you do as Vice President? You spend that first year putting your team together.  It’s all about putting the right people in the right seats on that proverbial bus.  Did you know that the Vice President makes over 40 different appointments to various national committees?  40! On top of that, there are 39 chapters who ARE the heart of NSA.  Would those involved in chapter leadership or in any capacity at the national level, would you please stand? You are the right people on the NSA bus. With the help of staff, you are the people who make things happen and I personally thank you for all your hard work and sacrifices you have made.

The next year, as President-Elect, it’s all about putting strategy in place.  Most of this work is done behind the scene.  As a high stakes meeting facilitator, I really enjoyed creating our strategy and aligning our activities to meet our mission: To be the leading source for community, education, and entrepreneurial business knowledge – all done so that you can be wildly successful in this business.

Strategically speaking, at NSA, we have turned the corner and yet we still have much to By targeting our programs and services to real working level speakers, enhancing the overall member experience, implementing a focused and segmented marketing plan, sharing our research relevant to this profession, creating an inclusive culture, and fostering the relationships with our chapters, our members are seeing a difference in NSA.  Sure, my evidence is anecdotal at this point, but I believe they are right.

Yes, our numbers are smaller.  We’re currently hovering around 3100 members compared to 4,000 in our heyday.  But our members today are far more talented and truly qualified.  Look around you.  You are in darn good company.  We ARE the influencers. Most of us are not celebrities (well, we might be celebrities in our own minds!), but we’re in front of an audience on a routine basis – and we are making a decent living in this business.  We are not an association that focuses on the “I wanna be a speaker….now what topic should I speak on?”  These aspiring speakers are served well at the Cavett Institute, the Academy, and our local chapter’s protrack programs.  We are the National Speakers Association – a society for people who actually get paid to speak. Hey!  Great book title!

This year, as President, is about being an ambassador – visiting our chapters and our sister associations who are part of the Global Speakers Federation.  This is the part that you all see.  And I have some lovely memories – all recorded on Facebook – since speakers love to be friends with other speakers on Facebook!

As President, you have the distinct privilege to recognize three people who have gone above and beyond the call to service during your term.  This year, at the Board Dinner, I presented the President’s Award to:

  • Bill Cates who has done a hero’s job on Voices of Experience keeping the content rich and relevant
  • GinaNeen – Gina Schreck and Neen James are joined at the hip, so that counts as one, right?  They not only chaired the amazing UnConference, but raised the bar when it comes to social media outreach.
  • Randy Gage – who has changed our NSA world at this convention!  I still can’t believe he said “yes”.  Rock on, Randy!

There’s one more person we need to recognize: and that is our CEO Stacy Tetschner.  Stacy and I have worked extremely well together, making sure we were in complete alignment with all things NSA.  Of course, it does help to live in Phoenix, so we can catch up face to face every once in a while!

The President also chairs your Board of National Directors. I am extremely proud of this Board.  We have talented people with a diverse set of opinions and personalities that we manage fairly constructively.  We stay strategic and leave our egos at the door (for the most part).  We have made some difficult budgetary and staffing decisions to improve our ability to serve you better.  I am the first by-product of NSA’s decision to change the Board Nominations Process.  About six years ago, we went from the popularity vote to the current slate process.  Having run on both sides of that coin, and seen the short and longer term effects of that decision, I believe the change to the slate process has been for the better.  We are a vastly different and much more effective board.

The final year as Immediate Past President, you stay on the Board and are responsible for the Board Nominations, Board Orientation and CEO Evaluation process.  So there is still some work to do on your behalf.

Travelling around the United States and the world makes me realize that the world is getting flatter.  Six degrees of separation?  It’s more like three.  We are part of a global profession where the United States is the 800 pound gorilla.  We are the world’s largest and oldest association dedicated to the art and business of professional speaking.  Our sister associations of the Global Speakers Federation often times look to us for leadership and even to set the standards.  It is imperative that we are proactive and supportive in the Global Speakers Federation’s efforts to raise the bar around the world.

Another frequent question is: “Would I do it again?”  Absolutely.  Sure, there is a significant time commitment.  For every hour spent on NSA stuff, that’s one less hour you have to work on your business, spend time with your family and friends, and take care of yourself. The average time the President takes off the calendar is about 100 days.  Of course, that doesn’t account for the phone calls and emails that pour in…. but that comes in spurts. Good news is that my husband, Joe Sherren was the President of the Canadian Association for Professional Speakers and the Global Speakers Federation – so he knew full well how much time, travel, and resources this was going to take.  No grief from the homefront – just lots of love and support.   Thanks, honey!

But I gotta tell you, if there is ever a time to be president of NSA, it is during a recession when your calendar isn’t quite as full anyway!

Was it worth it?  Absolutely.  Since I speak about teams, additional experience in leading a team has been priceless. And the lessons learned, invaluable.  In closing, I’d like to share a few that might help you too:

  1. Don’t look at email after 7pm.  Anything you read after dinner – you’ll just stew on it all night.  It will wait.
  2. Mark LeBlanc was right.  When You Speak More, You Speak Better.  And you speak a lot at President.  Lotsa chapters, a few international gigs, and then you add in your own business, you are bound to get better!

Finally, when I first got elected as Vice President, Joe shared a bible story that has guided my thinking over the past three years.  Toward the end of his ministry, Jesus road into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey with crowds of people lining the streets, cheering madly and waving palm leaves in the air.  Can you imagine what the donkey felt and what was the donkey thinking that day?  He was probably thinking, Wow!  I am really important!  The donkey did not know the significance of who he had on his back.

When you get a title, such as President of NSA, or you are delivering a message of great importance and getting paid the big bucks – we have to remember that we are just the donkey.  It is about the greater purpose we serve – not the accolades.

The moral of the story is that I am just the donkey, delighted to be of service to you, and it has been my honor to be your President!

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One Comment on “Kristin Arnold’s Swan Song”


  1. […] teamwork, the lessons learned leading a 3,100 member organization is priceless!  You can read my swan song given at our business meeting at our National Convention last […]


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