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.

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*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