Monday, February 21, 2011

Industry Trade Associations And Why I Think They Are Important

A professional speaker asked me why I am active with the National Speakers Association. He had never participated in a local or national NSA event, but had two reasons why he was not active -- although he admitted had never investigated the benefits of membership.

I hear these same rationalizations for not participating from people in many walks of life. While there is validity to parts of any excuse, I do not think that anyone should throw the baby out with the bath water. Look at the three excuses and see if they sound similar to reasons you are not supporting your own trade association:

1. "Competitors don't hire me... I only go where prospects are". While time is limited, and going where the clients are is a good plan, one cannot spend their whole life being a "Pork Chop Man" (A pork-chop man is someone who sees everyone else in life as if they have a pork chop hanging around their neck and themselves as a hungry wolf who has not eaten in a week). Everything you do should not be orchestrated around maximizing who can become your next client.

You should not view everyone in your industry as competition. In most industries your competitors can become valuable resources once you have built friendships and established understanding. Other speakers (or whatever your industry) can refer you opportunities. I have had this happen, and I do this regularly. I tell all my clients that when they need to find other speakers I can help identify options. My membership in the NSA is a resource for them. I know they cannot hire me for every event, and if I can be the conduit to help them find other professional speakers, then I remain a valuable resource (and more likely to be hired again in the future). There are many times that prospective clients are

2. "I was told that the best do not participate and the meetings are mostly attended by amateurs". This statement was a bit arrogant. He admitted he had not investigated the statement, but he was sure he was "better" than others. There are many speakers who are active NSA members who have personal incomes in excess of $300,000. While it is true that there are many up and coming professionals in trade associations, educating newcomers is major purpose for these organizations. To discredit the organization group for it's dedication to all who work in the vertical is selfish.

I believe that everyone should surround themselves with people above them and below them on the ladder of success. Look for the hand to pull you up, while also reaching below to boost up others. Mentoring those who are aspiring to reach your level of success will almost always make you better.

I sat next to Brian Tracy at a recent National Speakers Association 2 day meeting. Brian is a legend, but was still an active participant in the gathering. He said that no matter where you are in your career path you can always learn something by attending these types of events.

I love my industry and support the purpose of my trade association. But I am a person who deeply believes in the power of association and engaging with people. If I was a locksmith I would be a member of the National Locksmith Association. I think that membership and participation in groups brings more success. Surrounding yourself with others who are living the same life as you exposes you to new ideas and best practices. Trying to reinvent the wheel alone will often have limitations.

Many people look to the uber-successful celebrities in their industries who are not involved and site that as the purpose for not joining their associations. Emulating those on the very tip top is not always the most realistic path to success. What those people do today is not the same thing they did in their early days. Someone in entertainment who only does what Oprah does on a daily basis might not have the same reality of success that Ms Winfrey had... as what she did daily "way back when" is not what she does today! When we try to skip steps in the path we can easily get lost.

Finally, giving back is an important part of success. When you are fortunate to have a career that you enjoy, I think that you owe it to the universe to mentor others who are coming along behind you. Being active in your association is a great way to give back to the industry that has allowed you to enjoy your life.

The interesting thing is this professional speaker who sparked this discussion regularly speaks at other trade and professional association annual meetings and conventions, where he praises the attendees for their support of their industry. (Sort of hypocritical? yes? no?).

What do you think about industry associations? Are you a member of yours? Have you found value?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

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