April 22


Start Up or Shut Up: Getting Proactive at the Local Level

By Sara Canaday

April 22, 2010

austin texas, national speakers association, professional speakers

Several years ago, I became a member of the National Speakers Association.  After years of professional speaking, I knew it was time to formalize my credentials.  I was honored to qualify for this prestigious association and excited about the opportunities membership represented.  I adore the mix of leadership consulting, executive coaching and professional speaking that constitute my career.  But I get the most joy from my work as a presenter.  So it was high time to get involved at a higher level, engage with my peers in a professional community, participate in national and local NSA events, and learn as much as I could from this sound and education-rich organization.

You can imagine how disappointed I was when I discovered that the local NSA chapter was inactive and no other speaker organization in my city existed.  Though I had taken advantage of several national NSA retreats and conferences, I knew that my opportunities to leverage my membership locally were nearly nonexistent.

Austin, Texas, is a big city. And I knew it had to be populated with professional speakers.  How could a city so rich in talent lack a forum for presenters to gather, share and exchange?  So I began to investigate.

I met with several locals who were fellow national NSA members. I also met with locals who spoke professionally, but were not NSA members.  The feedback was positive. They, too, wanted to see something local form, and expressed sincere interest in being part of such a group. “If you build it,” they said, “we will come.”

Though conflicted about the time and energy it would take to found and develop a local group, I felt highly compelled — perhaps even obligated — to deliver.  After several meetings, phone calls and emails, we had our first exploratory meeting in January 2010.  Twenty people came to an after-hours session, to stand up and express their commitment to forming a group and building a community of local speakers that would gather to enhance the quality, continuity and success of our business.

For now, we would call ourselves the Austin Speakers Network. With time and patience, we would move toward becoming a chartered chapter of the National Speakers Association.  A few daring and committed individuals also signed on to be part of our group’s steering committee* and, owing to their passion and dedication, we can now boast the following:

•    We are now 103 members strong.
•    We’ve had four monthly meetings with guest speakers in attendance and are planning our first all-day special event.
•    We’ve got a website up and running.
•    We planned and distributed a member survey.
•    We even opened a bank account.

All in just under 4 months!

I have to admit that I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into.  And even now, there are times that I think I’m crazy for taking this on. But deep down, I know this was the right thing to do and the right time to do it.  I sense that the effort I’ve put in will come back to me threefold.  Already I’ve met some incredible people, had access to some brilliant experts, and am excited about the possibilities and connections ahead.

I look forward to sharing the progress of this group and hearing from others with similar experiences who can share their stories and, of course, best practices.

To learn more about the Austin Speakers Network, please take a look at our freshly minted website.


*Introducing our hard-working steering committee:

Patti DeNucci, DeNucci & Company

Sylvia Stern, Re-Image by Sylvia

Thom Singer

Marny Lifshen

Jim Bagnola

Lorie Marero, The Clutter Diet

Sara Canaday

About the author

Sara began her journey working full-time while she earned an MBA. As she climbed the ladder of corporate America, she repeatedly observed a surprising phenomenon: the most successful people weren’t necessarily the ones with the highest IQ or best job skills. She recognized instead that career advancement was much more closely linked with how people applied their knowledge and talents — their capacity to collaborate, communicate, and influence others.

Today, Sara is happily fulfilling that commitment as a keynote speaker, author, and executive coach. These venues have given her the opportunity to mentor and support thousands of people in diverse situations, inspiring many of them to move from insight to action with dramatic career results.

  • You have my utmost respect and gratitude for being the Chief Instigator and Visionary in this birthing process of a new NSA chapter, Sara. It has been such a pleasure to go on this journey with you and the other very smart, talented, and hard-working professionals on the ASN Steering Committee. This so follows the philosophy of “find a need and fill it.” Still can’t believe how much we’ve accomplished in four short months!

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