Putting a fine point on the speaking industry
Why are there so few minority speakers in NSA?
Good question. When I heard Michael Lee’s answer—and his suggestions for what
we can do to improve the mix—I asked him to write this month’s “Sound Check”
column. —Mark LeBlanc, 2007–2008 NSA President
Hispanics, Blacks and Asians
are now more than 33
percent of this country’s
population, and it’s estimated that by 2050 the “minority”
population will be more than 50 percent. Isn’t it vital in an increasingly
global society to have a representative
percentage of minorities in NSA? This
would help us understand the diverse
audiences whom we speak to and the
people who hire us.
I think there are two reasons for the
unrepresentative mix of minorities in
NSA. First, there are fewer minorities in
the speaking profession. Speaking is an
entrepreneurial business, and while
there are many multicultural, independent business owners, most new immigrants lack familiarity about American
business opportunities when they arrive.
Oftentimes they opt for traditional jobs
and encourage their children to aspire to
professional positions in
Fortune 500 companies.
However, as immigrants
become more acculturated they often
The second reason for the dearth of
minority professional speakers is that
with few role models on the platform, it
may never occur to minority subject-mat-ter experts that they could become one!
And therein lies the opportunity to do
something about the shortage of multicultural speakers in NSA. To bring in
more speakers of color we must make
sure they know how joining our association can help them grow their business.
One of the best ways is to personally
talk to such speakers at conferences
you attend; that’s because we non-
Caucasians come from
a greater impact
on the purchasing
Minority speakers need to feel welcome
in NSA. Our association can be very
imposing with all its celebrities and
successful business people. Belonging
is important to everyone, but especially
for minorities. If you see guests or minority members standing by themselves at
chapter or national meetings, please go
out of your way to say, “Hi.” What
appears so simple on the surface is appreciated more than you can ever know.
Finally, recognize that it’s okay to ask
people about their culture. Questions you
want to ask but are to shy or afraid to ask
create “cultural static”—and keep you
from relating to others on a deep level.
We know we look different from white
Americans and we’re happy to talk about
our culture; we want to help you get past
the outside differences to see how similar
we truly are on the inside.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Michael Soon Lee,
MBA, CSP, was the first Asian American
to earn the Certified Speaking Professional
designation in NSA. He is a past-chair of
the Diversity PEG and Voices of Experience.
He currently chairs NSA’s Member
Acquisition and Retention Committee.