Presidential Acceptance Speech

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, was inducted president of the National Speakers Association on August 2, 2011, during the 2011 NSA Convention. What does this mean to NSA? What are her goals for her presidential year? You can view her acceptance speech and read the transcript below.

Laura Stack – NSA President Acceptance Speech from Laura Stack on Vimeo.

Friday is our daughter Meagan’s 16th birthday.  So John and I took our boys, James and Johnny, ages 10 and 11, and some of Meagan’s friends from NSA youth and went to the California Adventure in Disneyland to celebrate her birthday.  We told her that within reason, we would throw her the party of her dreams.  And I hope this doesn’t come across as “Goofy” at all, and I know this is Anaheim and not Orlando, but the fact that my daughter would want to take her NSA friends to a Disney princess party makes me believe NSA IS The Magic Kingdom. We are unlike any other organization, because we share our trade secrets with our competitors in the spirit of creating better opportunities for speakers around the world.  That’s the spirit of NSA, often called the Spirit of Cavett after our founder, Cavett Robert.  The spirit of caring and sharing is magic.  It is NSA.  It is our mission.

It makes me think back to my uncle’s wedding a several years ago, where I had a profound conversation with Brian, a close family friend. He’d had major flight delays and problems getting there due to the weather.  We’re standing in line at the reception and waiting for him to deliver a toast for the bride and groom.  I could only imagine what was going through his head, trying to get there.  I would have been totally stressed out, worrying that the groom was counting on me to be there to speak and here I was missing all my connections.  So I could really feel for him.  I lean over to him and say, “Oh I heard about all the craziness with your travel yesterday. I’m so sorry.”  “Oh, the flight was fine—I’m just delighted to be here.” I ramble on:  “What a drag…weather is so frustrating…several years ago we had a huge blizzard in Denver and it stranded people right at Christmas!”  “Oh, you know, it actually doesn’t bother me.”  (Long pause)   I don’t have an agenda.  I have a MISSION.”   

That conversation flashed in my mind again as I thought about what I could say as we start this new NSA year together and how I might encourage you to carry on that spirit of NSA.  So I invite you to go on a mission with me …for the speaking profession itself, for yourself, and for NSA. 

Admittedly, it’s been a rough road in speaking for the past few years. Many of us have worked harder and prayed harder in the past couple of years than we have in a long time, and perhaps your enthusiasm, excitement, and energy for speaking may be waning a bit. 

Since we were together at last year’s convention, a 9.0 earthquake rocked Japan, followed by a tsunami that swallowed everything in its path. Then, unrest in the Middle East culminated in NATO air strikes on Libya and violent uprisings throughout the entire region. The global financial markets continue to fluctuate wildly every day, eroding investor confidence and sparking fears of another economic meltdown in our own country. 

So much has happened.  If EVER there were a time we need strong leaders on a mission, it’s now.  If EVER there were a time we need strong citizens on a mission, it’s now.  If EVER there were a time we need strong SPEAKERS on a mission, it’s now!  People are looking for inspiration, advice, success strategies, ideas, guidance, your wisdom, and your coaching—all of the things that you provide. We have to remind ourselves that speaking is a calling and an obligation to serve.

Terry Paulson and I were talking about this concept of speakers being of service, and he reminded me of a speech given many years ago at a winter workshop by the late Charlie Tremendous Jones, who at another critical time of economic crisis, said to our members, “America is in trouble. Speakers, you are the hope merchants that influence and impact audiences. Speakers, do your job.”  You may remember that speech.  I’ve been asking myself: HOW do we do our jobs? 

I believe we do our jobs when we use our words to inspire people to action!  The world is hurting, and we can deliver optimism, encouragement, and tools to help people make positive changes in the midst of their pain.  Our mission as speakers is to improve the lives and the organizations we serve by providing our expertise.  Focus on your mission to serve, and light the fires in your audience members with your words! 

What about as individuals?  With all the focus on making money and running the business, it can be so easy to get away from why we do what we do.  Let’s stop talking about the recession and talk about our passion for speaking! If we only focus on the business, we lose our spirit of service.  Let’s focus on how our business SERVES others, rather than just how to CONDUCT business.  We are so blessed to be even sitting in this room and to have the opportunity to control our own destinies.  Find the excitement again!

My first convention was 1996, in Orlando, FL, when Jim Henning was president. I remember sitting in the back of the room, so excited, and thinking, “Wow, he’s so good!  I would love to do that some day.”  Back then, Cavett was around, and the air fairly crackled with electricity.  As we saw in the opening video montage, many great speakers have gone before us to blaze the trail and build our profession.  We owe it to them to keep the passion and the excitement for speaking alive—the reason we got into this business in the first place!  To help build a bridge to link the traditions of the past and the next generation of speakers, I’ve specifically appointed a young gun to run next year’s convention, who also happens to be the son of the late, great Robert Henry—Patrick Henry.  You can be sure those traditions will be honored as we navigate the future. 

NSA also has a mission to serve.  As it has always been then and as it is now, we are the National SPEAKERS Association.  We are focused on serving professionals who use the SPOKEN WORD to enlighten and inspire their audiences.  Our mission is to offer relevant programs and services to our members, whether to one of the veterans who started this great organization or someone who’s only been in business for a few years.  We want every expert who uses the spoken word to present content to an audience for a fee to belong to NSA. I want every single working speaker to say, “I can’t imagine a world without NSA!” We are the world leader in providing the education, the community, and the entrepreneurial business knowledge needed to be successful in the speaking profession.

As your president, my mission is to continue to move forward our three-year strategic plan, with Ron Culberson after me, and Ron Karr after him.  To give you the Productivity Pro efficiency version:

  • We plan to enrich your membership experience with our brand-new online learning center and a new website.
  • We have hired a new Director of Marketing to implement an exciting new marketing plan to potential members, to the meetings industry, and internally to our own members.
  • We’ll continue to distribute relevant research through our e-magazine Speaker Info, Speak EZ white papers, and books like Paid to Speak.
  • We’ll continue to work on our chapter initiatives this year to enhance relationships, and we’ve just hired a new Manager of Chapter Relations.
  • We strive to provide more targeted products and services to our various membership segments.  In a few weeks, you’ll see an email come through for a new membership survey.  I would ask you NOT hit the delete key and please take a few minutes to respond.  We plan to use the results to provide targeted products and services for the various segments of our membership, so it’s critical we hear from everyone to get an accurate picture.
  • You’ll see more focused meetings, with the majority of our efforts focused on our sweet spot—the full-time working level speaker.  I’ve asked Alan Weiss to coordinate an Elite Retreat in December in Key Biscayne, FL, just for those members grossing over $500K in the business, limited to 30 people.  Bill Stainton and Ruby Newell-Legner are going to help you monetize your expertise at our February winter conference in Dallas, TX.  Suzanne Bates and Mike Staver will develop a special Business Development lab in April called ChaCHING, limited to 80 people, to help you develop speaking streams of revenue.

So I hope you agree with my friend Brian and me. This year, have a MISSION:

  1. Connect with your mission as a professional speaker to serve.  Be a positive force in the world by using your words to inspire your audiences and move them to action.  Audiences need your eloquence and expertise during this difficult time.  Light the fire in their hearts.
  2. Individually, get excited again about your mission—as Naomi Rhode would say—by the awesomeness and the privilege of being on this platform.  Put your mouth, heart, and effort behind what you’re saying.  Remember what drove you to start speaking in the first place.
  3. Each of you has a role to play in making NSA stronger for all of us and continue to thrive, so get involved and give back to the important work here.  Together, we can create programs that equally excite our legacy speakers and inspire emerging speakers.

Your NSA staff, board of directors, and I will focus on our mission to serve YOU and help you be more successful. If we all do our parts, NSA will continue to be the Magic Kingdom.

Thank you, for the honor of serving as your president.

 

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