If you ask for the definition of a professional speaker, the common response is that it is someone who gets paid to speak. While being compensated for speaking is good, there is much more to being a professional than money.
As a physician, I learned the true qualities of a professional from James Winterstein, DC, the president of the National College of Chiropractic. These qualities are also found in the most professional of speakers.
A professional is altruistic, placing service to humanity above personal gain and profit. Professional speakers are driven by their concern for others and are interested in helping other people be happy, healthy, and successful. The motivation to get rich is not what professional speaking is about.
A professional has to have a unique, specialized service to perform. While authors, coaches, consultants, and entertainers have much in common with us, no other profession owns the spoken word as much as the professional speaker.
A professional has specialized training distinguished by a great deal of preparation and practice. A professional speaker devotes much time and effort mastering the science and art of professional speaking to deliver the finest presentation and most memorable audience experience possible.
A professional understands their industry. Through professional associations and mastermind groups, professional speakers network with peers to better help them understand the business of professional speaking and the service that they provide to corporations, associations, schools and other organizations that they speak to.
A professional is autonomous. Professional speakers act as thought leaders, thinking and acting independently so as best to apply their unique talents and perspectives while remaining accountable for their impact on their peers and their audience.
A professional has a body of knowledge. As thought leaders and life-long learners, professional speakers immerse themselves in education on their topic of expertise and stay informed of new research and theories to ensure that they provide the most up to date content.
A professional follows a code of ethics. Professional speakers hold themselves to a higher standard. The responsibility that they have to their clients and audiences dictate that they conduct themselves with honesty, integrity, and competency.
These qualities of a professional are reflected in the competencies of enterprise, eloquence, ethics, and expertise promoted by the National Speakers Association. This is why NSA is the premier organization for professional speakers. This is why I am an NSA member and proud to serve as the president of the Pittsburgh Chapter this year.