While I regularly serve as a keynote speaker and / or "Conference Catalyst" at association conferences, my support of engaging with associations goes way beyond working as a speaker. I have been part of industry groups since early in my career, and connect my participation to the success I have experienced.
These days I am an active member of the National Speakers Association as well as other meetings industry groups (If I was a locksmith I would be part of the National Locksmiths Association!!!). I serve on the board of the NSA's Austin Chapter and on the board of NSA-XY. This engagement has exposed me to amazing experts who speak as part of their careers, and many of these people regularly inspire my business activities.
Some question if the membership trade association model still works in today's modern social media world. I think yes, but associations have to be flexible and willing to try new things to get people excited and involved in ways that inspire them to participate. I love it when I see things that are unique, and I am fortunate to participate in one "sub-group" in NSA that has been very beneficial.
NSA-XY is sort of an un-official virtual chapter. It is a "home" within the greater National Speakers Association community for speakers who are part of Generations X and Y. It began several years before I joined NSA as a peer group for younger speakers (at the time the oldest Gen Xers were still only 40-years-old. These days, however, some of us are closing in on 50... so it is not only about being young!). It is both an online discussion group and a live participation organization.
My experience with NSA-XY is that it has become an association within and association. It is a warm nest of friends where speakers of all experience levels share and support each other. While we fully support the cause and purpose of NSA (you must be an member of the National Speakers Association to be part of NSA-XY), we also have our own board, activities and a members-only Facebook page (130 members).
This group has become an important part of the National Speakers Association experience for many who participate. I have worked with several of my association clients to help them understand the value of autonomous sub-groups in helping get members involved, engaged, and connected. This is not a rouge or competitive organization, as we require people to be affiliated with NSA (or other international affiliates in the Global Speakers Federation). And while the group hosts its own events, it also contributes educational and social programming at the NSA Annual Convention.
Our "XY Meet-Ups" (small group brainstorming and sharing days) involve around a dozen people who come together on an occasional basis to share best practices and inspire each other. The participants vary based on geography and calendar issues, but the enthusiasm to serve each other is always present. These min-conferences are free (we pass the hat to cover any costs) and are held in a hotel or someones home. They are facilitated by volunteers and everyone gets the chance to learn and gain ideas for their businesses. I attended my first "Meet-Up" this year and found it to be one of the most powerfully focused events I have ever been to in my career.
Description from the NSA-XY Facebook Page:
THE FIVE REASONS you’ll want to join NSA XY:
1. COMMUNITY. Professional speaking can be a lonely profession. These people might be the closest thing you have to coworkers. (Your dog doesn't count.) Come here to get your fix of the energy, brilliance and brainstorming that will help keep your business growing
2. CAMARADERIE. We’re friends. We’re colleagues. We’re associates. All wrapped up into one. The best part is, we speak each others' language. In short: We get it. (Insert huge sigh of relief.)
3. CONTENT. We share. We divulge. We reveal. That’s the spirit of our profession. The pie is enormous, we all get a piece, and this website is the spork. Let’s break the bread of brilliance together.
4. COOL PEOPLE. NSA XY is specifically designed to serve Generation X and Y speakers and their businesses. Membership in this group is only for professional and affiliates of the National Speakers Association and partner organizations of professional speakers from around the world (e.g. CAPS, IFFPS, etc.). We also respectfully request that anyone wishing to join this group have a birth year of 1964 or later so that we can serve Generation X and Y speakers.
5. CALENDAR. The best part is, we’re big enough to have our own events. In January of 2010, our first non-convention group met in Chicago for a one-day retreat. Our souls, hearts, brains and notebooks overflowed with money-making and life-enriching practices. These events will be coordinated throughout the year. Once a summer isn’t enough. We need each other.
REMEMBER: NSA XY is coordinated by a volunteer committee so that we can best meet the needs of the X & Y generations of professional speakers now and in the future. We're planning webinars and networking at NSA functions, so be sure to check the events page. We welcome your suggestions and ideas as NSA XY grows as a community.
Creating small focused sub-groups within a larger association can help people feel more connected, but it can also create issues. Some who do not qualify for membership are not pleased that they cannot participate in the group. I have talked to many who are in the target demographic who do not understand the purpose of the group, or feel it is "cliquey", and have thus stayed away. But the purpose of NSA-XY is to be a welcoming and safe place for members. I found it gave me a "home" when I attended my first convention. I was lost in a sea of 1000 attendees before finding this group.
NSA-XY is not an "ageist" movement, but a peer group, much like other affinity groups that exist within corporations and associations. We are not seeking to exclude others, as much as to be inclusive of those who are part of these generations. As our we age, the focus of the group will change, but we think it has an indefinite longevity. And, yes, we are aware that there will come a time when a younger group of speakers will want to form their own group (NSA-Z?). I have often thought the Baby Boomers should also have a group!
Associations should not be scared of independent and self-governed sub-groups, as when they are done right it can create closer connections for members to the organization. There is a lot of talk about how to attract younger participants into membership organizations, and I think this model can work in any industry group.
Kudos to The National Speakers Association board and staff, as they have done a great job of listening to the NSA-XY members, and assisting the group to flourish. I am very proud to be part of this!
Have A Great Day