GSA – Great Speakers Association Convention!

Hello!  Kristin Arnold reporting in from the GSA convention.  You would think “GSA” stands for the German Speakers Association – covering Germany, Austria and Switzerland.  Yes, you are correct.  It also stands for the Great Speakers Association convention this year in Munich!

At the Houfbrau House - Cheers!

I have never been to Germany before, so I had to sample the Bavarian cuisine, pretzels, and beer! President-elect Gaby Graupner and her partner Oliver showed me the town – we must have walked all over Munich (which is a great way to fight off the jet lag!)

We started out strong with the the Global Speakers Network (GSN) on the afternoon of September 8.   I continue to be impressed with the caliber of outside speakers.  In Holland, we heard from Microsoft, and in Germany, we had the guy in charge of social media for all of BMW.  Very cool!  We learned that they are trying to:

  • Extend their reach through a comprehensive social media integration
  • Be more relevant through personalizing the experience.  (the site becomes smarter as you interact with it more!)
  • Pull customers in with interaction and quick access to their offers
  • Be 24/7 on multiple devices
  • Use a speedy high end performance platform.

It’s interesting to note that they don’t have this all figured out yet, either.  And the social media guys aren’t connected yet to the CRM – so they face the same challenge we do – how do you KNOW if you social media investment is actually paying off?

Here’s BMW’s general rules for suitable content:

Trying to figure out how to take the BMW 123 Cabriolet home with me!

  • Tell a story
  • Know your community
  • Content should not be seen as a commercial
  • Add a call to action/ask a question to inspire dialogue.

Sounds good to me!

The actual 2-day convention started on Friday with 450 attendees – many of whom are NOT professional speakers – yet.  GSA is climbing hard and fast, surpassing Canada to become the second largest association in the GSF.  They are doing a lot of things right – largely on the sheer will and personality of the President, Lothar Seiwert.  He has been president for two years now, and just passed the gavel on to Gaby Graupner.  I have no doubt that Gaby will continue to grow GSA into a formidable association.

During the convention, you don’t even have to listen closely for the acknowledgements about NSA-US.  We are the benchmark that GSA is trying to live up to.  We have a huge contingent of GSA speakers who come to our national convention – and they were actually apologizing that they weren’t able to make Anaheim!  GSA President Lothar Seiwart made a special effort to recognize me as the NSA Past President and NSA Representative.  Thanks, Lothar!

The mainstage set up was well done and the A/V crew was excellent.  Not only was there two imags on each side of the mainstage, but there were two additional imags on the side midway into the ballroom!  All of the microphones worked, house lights went up when a speaker walked into the audience, and the TWO cameras followed the presenters.  Very impressive.  I kept thinking:  they can’t be making any money off of this convention…

Equally impressive was the mainstage talent. The opening speaker was a classic German speaker – Gerhard Conzelmann who showed powerpoint with a white background, lots of bullet points, and just a few pictures of Shaolin monks.  (BTW – love having simultaneous translation so I can follow along!).  Jeffrey Gitomer was the next speaker.  What a contrast!  And the audience LOVED him.  Frankly, I think that was the best I have ever seen Gitomer.  Not as abrasive and in your face – just good, solid content delivered in a way they could hear him.

We had some concurrent sessions, more mainstage with Tim Gard, Dale Irvin, a fascinating one-way chat with Boris Grundl, a superstar in the German market, and an interview with German politician Dagmar Wohrl.

Their version of the CPAE Banquet is on Friday night – the first and only “night” of the convention.  Three speakers were inducted into the German Speakers Hall of Fame.  Founder Sigi Haider and our very own Naomi Rhode received honorary lifetime memberships for their support during the GSA’s formation.

The disco after the Gala Evening was just amazing.  Very european and people were pretty bleary-eyed the next morning! Day two of the convention started off strong with Dale’s recap, GSF President Janelle Barlow told the Global Speakers Federation story, Anne Schuller gave a great overview about marketing, Warren Evans talked about and modeled platform Mechanics, Naomi Rhode shared the privilege of the platform and leaving a lasting legacy.  Then Richard de Hoop from Holland was FABULOUS using musical instruments as a metaphor.  Hope we see him at the Global Speakers Summit in Vancouver!  Our emcee, Gerriet Danz gave a brilliant talk on creativity, Shelle Rose Charvet talked about the language we use with our customers (commanding or inviting?) and Hans-Uwe Kohler closed the convention talking about the “perfect speech”.

Oh yeah.  And I did a concurrent session on Boring To Bravo: Making your Presentations more Engaging and Interactive.  Even got a standing ovation at the end – so I must have done something right!  🙂

For dinner, most of us went to a beer garden which was great networking time.  Don’t ask me where it was, but it was a short walk from the Hilton Munich Park, somewhere in the English Gardens.

I was asked several times why there wasn’t more international speakers presenting at the NSA convention.  I explained that we have over 3100 members, all vying to be on our mainstage – and yet there are only a few spots (and they are getting fewer and fewer due to our change from workshops to conferences and Influence ’11 had fewer spots).  We have the talent to fill those spots with our own people – although we have a few from other countries.

I firmly believe the national conventions should showcase their own talent.  The fact that they ask NSA people to be on the mainstage and concurrent sessions is their own decision.  I believe the Global Speakers Summit should showcase the member association’s talent.  So that’s my story.  And I’m stickin’ to it.

Final point here: GSA had their first youth convention for kids from 12-16 years of age. Wooo Whooo!  55 kids attended and I hear it was a blast!

This is the last of my trips around the globe representing NSA-US.  It has been an honor to represent you nationally and internationally over the last year.  Perhaps you gained a bit of insight into what happens without actually traveling with me!

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