Monday, July 20, 2009

The Best Professional Speakers In The World

Having seen over a dozen of the top professional speakers in the country present at the National Speakers Association annual conference this week, I am inspired about the industry. Over 2000 people were in attendance in Phoenix for the international gathering of those who earn a living speaking.

Present at the conventions were famous authors and entertainers, and others who are not household names. Some were three decade veterans on the platform, while others were just exploring the business. Most were strong personalities (in a good way!). The majority have a servants heart and soul with a burning desire to help change the world for the better. A couple were stuck-up ego-maniacs (oh well, every group has a few!). Overall it was an inspirational group of really great people. I feel lucky to have been in attendance.

Day Two was a good day full of seminars, presentations, serendipitous connections, networking, and "ah ha" revelations for my own speaking career..

The two best speakers of the day (I saw many people present) were Josh Sundquist and Brendon Bouchard. Both men are young, driven professionals with strong speaking styles. They have interesting personal stories that have brought them success, but additionally they are both genuine people who care. That comes through beyond the words they uttered from the stage. (Note to people hiring speakers.... get to know the person beyond their brochure and websites, as the person's inner being makes a difference in how they connect with your audience!).

Josh lost his leg to cancer when he was a kid and went on to compete in the Parlympic Games as part of the US Ski Team. He weaved his personal story in with his contagious enthusiasm and humor to keep the audience laughing and learning.

I first met Brendon two years ago when I saw him speak at another conference. At the time he struck me as an amazing talent and I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with him and his staff. I wrote about him here after we met the first time. This time I just had the chance to say "hi", as he had a line of people out the door wanting to shake his hand and talk to him. I try never to take up too much time from a speaker after their talk... but I would have welcomed having more of a catch up with Brendon, as he is a good guy. He does a great job of sharing valuable information in his presentation without blatantly trying to sell the audience on his larger coaching programs, etc... He is naturally generous.

There were several other great speakers, but Brendon and Josh were head and shoulders the stand outs on Day Two (just my opinion, but I have spent several years studying thousands of speakers that I have witnessed on stage. I call it "Speaker's College" every time I get to see anyone deliver a presentation - - professional speakers or not. I go beyond listening to their words and witness the whole persona. While opinions are subjective, these two gentlemen were really good!!!).

Lunch was spent with the NSA XY Group. This congregation of speakers from Generations X and Y has involved a lot of open discussions, best practice exchanges and high energy people. The folks who have organized this sub-group have been the most welcoming and friendly that I met at the conference. Being new to the association, I did not know what to expect from attending the convention.... but from the moment I got there I encountered people who made me feel at home (in NSA XY and beyond!). Those participating in this group are both new to the business and seasoned industry veterans. All in the room were excited and willing to help their peers expand their success as professional speakers.

I had dinner with Tony Simons, Raeus Cannon, Bill Jawitz, Erik Lehmann and Tim Koch. The group all met floating in the "Lazy River" at the hotel pool, and took advantage of the chance meeting to network and share information, ideas, and best practices. The conversation covered everything from the status of the speaking industry, our NSA experiences, options available to publish, produce and write a book, politics (U.S. Government politics and NSA politics), and every other imaginable topic. The best value I have received from attending this conference came from the conversations I had with others whom I randomly encountered.

I have always believed that it is imperative for those who want to succeed in any industry to participate in professional organizations. I had some other speakers and trainers, whom I know, ask me in advance of the conference why I had joined NSA, and why I was attending the annual convention. One told me; "I don't market or sell myself to other speakers... why would I spend money to go to a meeting with 2000+ speakers? -- What does that bring to me?". Well the answer is so complex that it will take another whole blog post (maybe I will write that in a few days!). Lets just say that if someone does not see the value in a strong network of peers, then I know a good book for them to read!

Have a great day.


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