Lessons Learned From National Speakers Association Convention 2010

This year, I have committed to become a Member of National Speaker’s Association, which means I have to do a certain number of paid speaking engagements and also receive a number of testimonials. I believe that being able to speak publicly is a key skill for successful authors so focusing on improving speaking skills is high on my list of goals.

Last weekend, I went to the National Speaker’s Association Australia Convention on the Gold Coast. Here are some of the highlights from the lessons I learnt and also some of the people I met along the way. National Speaker’s is packed full of amazing and inspirational people, and you can learn a hell of a lot about business and marketing, as well as speaking skills. I highly recommend the organisation which has chapters all over the world.

(<– At left: Joanna Penn with Dan Poynter, from Para Publishing, self-publishing guru)

  • From Mike Rayburn, virtuoso guitarist and humorist speaker. “Set goals that don’t exist. Don’t start with what’s possible. Start with what’s cool.” Mike played a lot of very cool guitar but also inspired with his talk about huge dreams and big goals. Ask ‘what if?’ and then give it a go and see what the Universe has in store for you. You don’t need to know the first step, or the next step – just shoot for the stars. Mike had a goal to have his own show in Vegas, which he now has. What are your big goals? I want to be the world’s #1 female thriller writer, selling more than Dan Brown in my niche. What about you? Check out videos of Mike here.

(At right: Rachael Bermingham, self-published author of over 3 million books—>)


Rachael Bermingham from ‘4 Ingredients’ talked about her journey from being rejected by every publishing house in Australia to selling over 3 million self-published books. Rachael’s key tip is: “80% of the business is marketing”. She basically hustled the same message through all the  Aussie media aiming at Mums who wanted to cook easy, fresh recipes for their families. She wrote the marketing plan, and stuck to it, cold calling multiple times a day to media outlets all over Australia. From this basic premise, she and co-author Kim McCosker now have 3 books (with more coming), cookware products, a TV show, an iPhone app and more. Major publishers have been chasing the pair for several years now, and they continue to self-publish in order to control the product and the income stream. You can listen to a podcast interview with Rachael here. Her message on the podcast is basically what she spoke about, even using the same words. She is a testament to the power of repeating a message to get it to a target market.


  • Janet Lapp, keynote on tips for public speaking. This was one of my favorite sessions because Janet came across as amazingly authentic and her message resonated with me. So often, the big speakers are larger than life, rock-star types who I could never be like (and I don’t want to be like). But Janet was not a performer so much as a confidante and friend who just had some lessons to share. I felt her style was what I would like to model. I want to speak authentically and with real heart. However, she is also a professional speaker and shared her tips. As a flight instructor she talked about “Plan the flight and fly the plan” as a rule for speaking. Know what you are doing, prepare and practice so you control the situation. Be skilled enough to manage if things go wrong, but if you are that well prepared, the plan can be executed and your talk will go swimmingly. Your talk is not about you, it’s about the audience. So forget about focussing on you or your achievements, and get your message across to help them. However, you also need to “get out and live a little, so that it shows on stage” – you still need to be an interesting person! Combine the science of speaking (technical skills, presentation, handouts, products) with the art of speaking to create a beautiful but effective message.

From Matt Church (pictured at left), I learnt about the different personas that we all need in our repertoire in order to perform in different ways. He gave examples to do with speaking, but it also rings true for authors these days. You need to be “Lonesome Writer” sitting alone at your computer, creating and writing, communing with the muse. You need to be “Author Entrepreneur” and make a business plan if you are actually to make a living as a writer. You need to be “Marketing Guru” to get the word out about your book.  You also need to be “Author Speaker” to perform at festivals, events and book groups as well as give webinars, interviews and do TV/radio, plus “Geek Author” in order to cope with the technology these days – ebooks, blogs, podcasts, youtube… and the rest! Matt also focused on authenticity, calling it “exposing your jiggly bits to the audience”. You need to be real to connect these days. These personas are all valid sides of ourselves that we can use to express facets of our personalities and also use practically to get into state quickly. Matt’s site is  ThoughtLeadersCentral.com


I learned so much over the 3 days of the conference and will continue to share ideas from it in coming weeks. I would encourage you to check out your local National Speaker’s Association if you are at all interested in the speaking profession. They are an inspiring bunch of people!

National Speaker’s Association USA

National Speaker’s Association Australia



This is a reprint from Joanna Penn‘s The Creative Penn.

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