Derek Arden, professional speaker and author and Immediate Past President of the Professional Speaking Association reflects on the organisation’s tremendous growth last year during his Presidency:
The PSA is the professional association for anyone who is involved in public speaking, from professional speakers through to senior staff who are required to present regularly. The organisation offers a regional network, events, training and information for the speaking community. It is a volunteer-led organisation. Over the past year it has grown by 45% from 220 to 320 members.
The challenge for me on taking up the Presidency was to make positive changes which would be sustainable for the next President to take forward. And all of this was set in the context of a volunteer-led and run organisation; there was only so much time everybody could give.
So I assembled a small team of willing volunteers and made a number of changes which we felt would help make membership more attractive to new members and also removed some of the barriers to joining.
These changes included:
- Redefining our USPs and producing a marketing brochure which promoted these USPs and membership.
- Making it easier to join as an Associate, which could then be upgraded once experience and expertise in speaking had been established, rather than requiring members to demonstrate this on application.
- Encouraging the re-invigoration of some of our less active regions; we know that members value the opportunity to learn and network in person.
- Making changes to our internal systems to ensure the efficient processing of membership.
- Introducing standing orders in order to make it easier for members to continue paying their fees.
Like most organisations ‘recommendation’ was one of the top reasons as to why people joined the PSA. The new brochure helped us to spread the membership message. I also spent time attending regional meetings to promote membership and incentivising people to sign up on the night. A number of existing members brought contacts to these meetings with them which also helped to increase numbers.
We also offered free membership to all UK 2012 Olympic athletes, as a number of sports professionals carve out careers as speakers. This helped us raise our profile and gain some publicity.
I, along with everyone that helped achieve the membership growth, am very proud of what we did. It took lots of hard work and effort, but we believe that the changes mean the PSA has a solid base on which to grow going forward.
Like any volunteer-led organisation, attracting and retaining volunteers will always be a challenge for us. Amongst our members are lots of big personalities, so we need to harness their willingness to help and ensure it is directed in the right way.
We also need to ensure our internal systems and processes result in a good experience for members.
I, and all those that lead the organisation, feel really positive about the future for the association. We plan to grow the PSA to 600 members over the next 2 years and I believe we can achieve this.
If you are involved in public speaking, I would urge you to consider joining us.
How to contact the PSA
Should you be interested in joining the PSA or finding out more please visit: http://www.professionalspeaking.biz/