Professional Competencies

NSA’s Professional Competencies

NSA is committed to helping its members achieve their highest levels of competence as professional speakers. To fulfill that commitment, the NSA Board of Directors has adopted Professional Competencies to be mastered by Association members. These competencies guide the selection of program topics for NSA’s educational meetings and publications and form the core curriculum for NSA’s Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) program.

The competency areas are: Expertise, Eloquence, Enterprise and Ethics.


This competency refers to knowledge, skills and experience in a specifically defined area, with a particular emphasis on the application of this knowledge, these skills or experience. It entails knowing which body of expertise is ideal for you, as well as researching and developing the content of your speaking presentations/ performances. Expertise also requires you to maintain advanced knowledge of your chosen area(s). The set of competencies for this area include:

  • Selecting and developing significant and meaningful topics within your chosen area of expertise
  • Building topic expertise
  • Staying on the cutting-edge of topic development through research, updates and development of content
  • Demonstrating the ability to make your topic(s) and expertise uniquely relevant to your audience through customization
  • Developing skills enabling you to communicate your expertise in various medium (e.g., recording, writing, online education and other innovations)
  • Taking necessary precautions to protect your intellectual property


This competency refers to the art of speaking and the use of powerful and persuasive presentations. It embodies the knowledge and skills of presenting, performing, theatrical methods as well as techniques for creating the proper setting for an effective presentation. The set of competencies for this area include:

  • Developing an effective and unique communication style
  • Mastering the art and craft of presenting and performing
  • Understanding and affecting the presentation setting (e.g., speaker introductions, room setup, proper staging and lighting, knowledge of audio/visual equipment and technology)
  • Implementing techniques to understand, connect with and engage audiences, including those made up of diverse members
  • Acquiring the skills for different delivery methods (e.g., keynote addresses, workshops,
  • Internet, seminars, emceeing, panelist, and after-dinner speaker)


This competency refers to the skills needed in the purposeful undertaking of a successful speaking business venture. It involves business management, sales and marketing
knowledge, and the skills and techniques needed to generate income through speaking engagements and other revenue streams. The set of competencies for this area include:

  • Operating a profitable speaking business (e.g., purchasing supplies, managing inventory, cost control)
  • Creating and organizing office systems (e.g., use and knowledge of office equipment and technology, information flow and management, record keeping)
  • Establishing and maintaining financial systems and records
  • Selecting and working with staff
  • Developing a brand/image
  • Managing financial aspects of the business
  • Negotiating contracts, fees and royalties
  • Scheduling/tracking speaking engagements
  • Planning business travel
  • Developing effective sales strategies
  • Developing productive marketing strategies
  • Developing and successfully marketing products
  • Designing brochures/promotional materials
  • Developing profitable market penetration
  • Establishing relationships with bureaus, agents, meeting professionals and other distributor options/channels
  • Developing productive sales and marketing contacts
  • Learning about other associations in the meeting and convention industry
  • Expanding one’s speaking market (e.g., speaking internationally)
  • Earning client loyalty and providing customer service


This competency refers to the principles or standards governing the conduct of the members of the speaking profession. It is the foundation and the summation of the three other competencies. It is about whom you are as a person in your personal life and in business. It encompasses your reputation, character, integrity, honesty and the building of trust with all of your stakeholders. You may excel in expertise, eloquence and enterprise, but if you are perceived as unethical, your career and your membership in NSA are jeopardized. The set of competencies for this area include:

  • Understanding and adhering to the NSA Code of Professional Ethics (link to code of ethics)
  • Presenting information and images of self and business that are true and current in every way
  • Working ethically and collaboratively with individuals and groups with whom speakers often interact
  • Taking responsibility to know what is considered appropriate and ethical in each market the speaker serves
  • Demonstrating the ability to ask ethical questions before acting in order to make better decisions and, when in doubt, to tap into the wisdom of their peers