New Orleans Blogs

Shortly after retiring from the Coast Guard and starting my consulting business, I was blessed to have happened upon a notice for an upcoming meeting of the New Orleans Chapter of the National Speakers Association (NSA). I went to that meeting, and was immediately hooked. The quality of the speakers, and the willingness of everyone to share what they know about growing a business as a speaker, or an expert, blew me away. I quickly became a member, and I make it a priority to attend every national convention. Of course, you have to implement what you learn, and I happen to be very good at that. I owe much of my success to NSA, and so, I was proud to have been installed as the New Orleans Chapter President in June of 2015. If you are interested in professional speaking, or marketing yourself as an expert, you couldn’t have found a better place than the National Speakers Association.

-Kevin Gilheany

How many engaging conversations will you have this month with those successful entrepreneurs in your top 200 (or top 20%)?

What we’re talking about is making a simple commitment to identify your top clients and get in front of them. Drink a cup of coffee with them. I would strongly suggest to not setting an unrealistic goal. If you haven’t been terribly engaged, start with one person in your top 200 (20%) every day. Just one person. You’ll end up with 20 customers that you’ve seen by the end of the month because the average month only has about 20 business days in it anyhow.

Conversations make a very important element in making effective business agreements. Every transaction or business contract can only be reached through a conversation. Many corporations make business communication a requisite training to all their employees. Sales people and insurance agents are professionals who are involved constantly in negotiations or making business deals. Business meetings could be quite disastrous if not adequately planned. When planning to meet a potential client or partner, one has to adequately prepare. There are a number of things that should be considered. Having a checklist would be an effective way to ensure crucial insights are discussed.

Having a good conversation requires careful planning. Following simple guidelines can be an effective way to ensure your target is well engaged and you get the best out of the meeting. Most business leaders, insurance agents and entrepreneurs have to develop great business communication skills to enable them to build relationships, attract new customers and access funding.

Understand your target

To develop a good and engaging communication one should clearly understand the audience. The audience can be a single individual or a group of many people. Having a clear picture of what such a target would need is very necessary. Key questions that will reveal if a person or entity is a qualified prospect for your product or service offering is always well worth the time spent.

Ask many questions

These are very important because they give the other person an opportunity to talk about him or herself. This can be a very effective way of getting to understand and know the other party. Listen attentively as the person answers such questions and continue probing if necessary. It is important that you remain polite and direct. Most people would love to talk about their interests, goals and passions. The rule of thumb dictates that the initial questions be very generic and light then one can continue inquiring about issues that are more specific. Your interests should be as genuine as possible. This can be done by maintaining eye contact and appropriate body language.

Active listening

Listening is an aspect that is often forgotten in many conversations. It is important that one should listen when the other person is talking. Listening helps one develop the appropriate questions and other relevant issues about the conversation. Active listening can help one paraphrase some ideas or issues. Such aspect sends important insights to the other party that one is actually listening. It also encourages the other person to talk more.


When talking with other people it is important to be focused on what the dialogue is all about. Most people would be so distracted by other issues like how they are dressed and the appearance of the other person. Such issues would only draw one away from the dialogue and in a short while, the conversation will certainly break down. In essence, it is important that people forget about themselves and concentrate on whatever the conversation is all about.

Disagree with respect

It is a common phenomenon for people to disagree on one or two issues while having a discussion. This is indeed a critical point of any conversation as it may break or make the conversation continue. The way one shows disagreement may greatly affect the conversation. Some people may opt to walk out of the talk or show disrespect. It is important that people who are involved in business politely and with lots of respect raise a point of concern.

Marvin LeBlanc, LUTCF, CNP
Entrepreneur – Best Selling Author – Leadership Coach
National Member of the National Speakers Association

Just over twenty years ago I read an article in our small, 10 page weekly newspaper. It said that a woman speaker named Connie Podesta was going to present at our local high school. With less than full understanding I felt compelled to attend the event, making me the only non-school employee, non-student present.

Connie gave a great talk and afterwards I introduced myself as a sales engineer and community volunteer and thanked her. Connie accepted my praise, and then introduced me to something that would change my life. She asked me if I’d heard of the National Speakers Association, which I hadn’t, and she suggested I should attend a New Orleans Chapter meeting, saying she was moving to Dallas, TX and wouldn’t be there, but she assured me they’d make me feel welcome.

I did attend a chapter meeting soon after and will never forget that month’s speaker, Larry Winget. Anyone who knows him is aware of his skill and flamboyance and both certainly made an impression on me, along with his exceptional content. I was hooked and joined NSA soon after. I felt like I’d received an amazing gift.

Connie had been right. Bruce Wilkinson, Jean Gatz, Cathy Harris, Billy Arcement, Debra Gould and many other chapter members made me feel right at home. Luckily for me Bruce had just initiated a Mentor Program. I joined it and Bruce himself became my personal mentor. I continued to attend chapter meetings, received his coaching (and patience), created a couple of talks and some marketing materials and gained at least a little confidence that someday I might truly become a professional speaker.

It didn’t all happen the way I expected, but today, twenty years later, I am proud to say that NSA changed my life. In 1996, even though I’d never been paid a dime to speak or train, I was hired as one of only 30 product and sales trainers in the country by Chrysler Motors. It was a grueling eight month hiring cycle but worth it. Without question NSA gave me the skill and poise required to make the team. I stayed on the team, as a contract trainer for eleven years and contributed to the team receiving recognition as the best in the entire automotive industry eight times.

Today I still own my own speaking and consulting business, own and operate a franchise for the world’s largest sales and sales management company, Sandler Training, in Louisiana. I also get paid significant fees for keynotes and half-day workshops and have confidently spoken to thousands of people. In addition to sales coaching I speak on leadership and worker engagement to companies as small as sole-proprietorships to Fortune 100 corporations and absolutely love what I do.

I also teach at Louisiana’s flagship university, LSU, in the College of Business and am head coach of the universities sales team, which competes against up to sixty-five other colleges and universities in national sales competitions. The team’s success has led LSU to create a new Professional Sales Institute which will help students prepare for excellent careers for years to come.

When “opportunity knocked” in the form of Connie Podesta and NSA I not only recognized it, I took action and it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. So if you believe you or someone you know is willing and able to become a professional speaker please “listen to the knock” and take action! It could very well become one of the best decisions you’ll ever make too.

– Carl Herrick

Make It Easy for Meeting Planners to Choose YOU!

by Jean Gatz, CSP

Busy meeting planners are inundated with speakers’ unsolicited calls and materials. How can you stand out from the myriad of choices they have when choosing a speaker? If you are as good on the platform and at the same fee level as the other speakers with whom you are competing, how can you gain a competitive advantage? If you are easy to work with and add value at every opportunity, you make it easier for them to choose YOU. Here are two strategies to deliver added value to the meeting planner long before you deliver your message to the audience.

1. Help get sponsors to underwrite your fee.

Planners always want to hire good speakers, but budgets are often being squeezed from every angle. If you can help get sponsorship to cover your fee, you are several steps ahead of the other speakers being considered who are not offering such help. Some planners might overlook their exhibitors as income generators. Most conferences have vendors and exhibitors with money in a marketing budget to help sponsor something. Why not suggest they sponsor YOU? Send them your Sponsor Guide to help them through the process. If you don’t have one yet, here are the three steps to create it.

Page 1 is a script you create for the planner to use – by phone, in a letter, or in person. It tells potential sponsors about you and why you have earned the right to present at their event. It’s your “credibility piece.”

Page 2 provides a generic list of possible sponsors. Depending on the association and the nature of the event, these may include local and regional newspapers, insurance providers, computer systems companies, CPA firms, law firms, banks and credit unions, equipment suppliers, airlines and car rental companies, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and medical facilities, printing companies, trade associations and mortgage companies. I always suggest that planners think of specific companies they can invite to partner with them. You have to get the process started by making some suggestions to get them thinking creatively. This sponsor process has worked every time my clients use it. And it often helps me get the job.

Page 3 lists what you will do for your sponsors. Perhaps you can do a book signing at their booth, or have some of your giveaways at their booth instead of at the back of the room after you finish your presentation.

2. Qualify your session for continuing education credits.

Most conference attendees have to earn a certain number of education credits every year to maintain their professional status. If your session qualifies, this may give the meeting planner another reason to hire you. A credentialing committee will review all course outlines to see which ones meet their exact specifications. No matter what your topic, you must be able to define the expected learner outcomes in measurable operational and behavioral terms. To help get your session approved, you should know the buzzwords committees love to hear. These are some examples: define, identify, list, name, relate, compare, apply, examine, implement, utilize, analyze, contrast, correlate, demonstrate, balance, facilitate, outline, and increase. Ask your planner to fax or email you a sample form from previous years, and keep copies of all your certification forms that are accepted, to use as a ready reference for next time.

By adding value, you can stand out in the minds of meeting planners as they narrow their speaker choices. And remember, meeting planners talk to each other all the time. They warn each other about speakers who were difficult to work with – the ones they would never hire again. But they also love to spread the word about the speakers who did a great job for them, both on and off the platform. If you deliver extra value at every opportunity, YOU can be one of those speakers!

© 2004: Jean Gatz, CSP, keynote speaker and author. To learn more about Jean and see how she practices what she preaches, visit her website:

Seven Steps To Creating A Successful Speaking Career

By Billy Arcement, MEd. 1994-95 Chapter President

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” These words from Proverbs 29:18 are powerful and have important meaning to speakers who desire to build a successful speaking career. Some speakers talk on any topic and position themselves as all things to all audiences. The secret to real success is to develop a focused vision of what type of speaker one wishes to become and on what subject area one wishes to concentrate. Yes, there are exceptions to this concept. Some speakers can make a living with a scattered focus, but they rarely ever become outstanding in their profession. Focus brings clarity. Clarity makes your messages powerful. Powerful messages can build your business.

Determine Your Vision. Ask yourself these three questions: Who am I today? Who do I want to become? What must I do to fill the gap? By answering these important questions, you dramatically improve your ability to achieve whatever destination you choose. You will have determined your true calling and a vision for your career and life. Defining vision brings focus and clarity to our messages.

It’s Time For Action. It’s not sufficient to just develop a vision. We must act on that vision. And, all our actions should drive us closer to our vision. If we fill our time with meaningless activities that cannot move our speaking career forward, we will never achieve our vision. The rule to follow is: “If it doesn’t support the vision, it should not be done.”

Commit To Excellence. A half-hearted effort pays very little dividends. We must follow the advice of Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, who said, “The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.” The stronger our commitment to excellence in marketing, platform skills, and topic development, the stronger we position ourselves. Excellence in every facet of our speaking business will place us among the elite in NSA.

Learn To Solve Problems. Use every setback as a lesson learned. Break it down into its smallest component and learn how to analyze the bits of information gathered. Reflect adjust and introduce new action. Test new ideas until you discover the best ones to use. Constantly adjust and correct your course and soon your problems will turn into opportunities.

Use The Baldrige Award Standards. The Malcolm Baldrige quality award is given annually to outstanding businesses in the United States. A rigid criterion of excellence in business practices serves as the guideline for the Baldrige winners. The seven areas of excellence are: leadership, strategic planning, customer and market focus, information and analysis, human resource development, process management and business results. How does your business rate in these areas? If NSA awarded the Baldrige, could you even qualify?

Use Teamwork. Your team includes bureaus, meeting planners, printers, designers, researchers, clients, staff and anyone else you meet in the course of doing business. Embrace a cooperative relationship with everyone you interact with on a daily basis. Develop a clear set of ground rules by which you will run your business.
Cooperation gets results. High egos and an uncooperative spirit produce chaos and failure. Which do you want?

Develop A Passion. We must have a passion to do our job right. Our audiences are too important and sophisticated to receive anything less than a passionate message. It doesn’t matter if your message is 100% humor or 100% content. There must be a passion driving your delivery. Commit to the process of building your career. Process is a long-term commitment that demands unrelenting attention. We must love what we do. If we don’t, you will shortchange your audiences and more importantly, you will shortchange yourself.
Where there is no vision, the people perish-powerful words for powerful people. However, they are meaningless words to those who are blind to the opportunities of life. Whey type of person are you?

Well, how did you do? How many of the seven steps do you have firmly ingrained in your business strategy? If things are not going as well as you’d like them to be, perhaps you are simply not working the right processes. Start with these steps and add your own. The business of professional speaking requires lots of hard work and an unwavering commitment to succeed. But the payoff is a wonderfully appreciative audience and the satisfaction that perhaps, in some small way, you have helped others bring more success into their life. What a way to make a living!

© 2004. Billy Arcement, MEd.-Speaker, Consultant, Author. To learn more about Billy’s services, visit his website,

I’ll Take the Feast, Hold the Foot (in Mouth)

By Cathy Harris, 2000-01 Chapter President

As speakers, our passion is to share our gifts with others. Sometimes we forget that our clients, meeting planners and audiences are made up of people of different faiths who worship and celebrate in many different ways. With Thanksgiving, November opens holy celebrations followed by numerous holiday feasts and sacred observances in December.

“Peace on earth, goodwill toward men” is one of the primary themes symbolizing the birth of Christ. It’s a time of the year when most of us celebrate some type of holiday. As Christians prepare for the upcoming holidays, Jews celebrate Hanukkah, Muslims reflect on the Ramadan (the holy month which ended November 15th), some Africans and African Americans (of all faiths) prepare for Kwanzaa and Hispanics prepare for LaNoche Buena, the Holy Kings or the Epiphany. Many of these holidays are symbolized by gift giving and partaking of favorite and traditional foods. The holidays we celebrate and how we celebrate them can unite us or further estrange us from those who practice different ways of worship and celebrating.

Holidays provide an opportunity to pause for inner reflection and renewed connection with those we love and fellow humans with whom we are in contact. One small way of understanding and accepting each other-especially those who are different from us-is to learn how and why others’ celebrations are important to them. Holidays afford us new opportunities to gain better understanding of one another. Do you mail Christmas cards to all of your clients and prospects? Have you considered that some may not celebrate Christmas? Maybe well-wishes for a happy Hanukkah for a Jewish client or acquaintance are in order. Who are people you know at work, or who belong to a group or civic organization with you that celebrate a different holiday? How much do you know about how and why they celebrate? And don’t forget your audiences. If you give away prizes for participation, everyone may not want items that depict your holiday, such as an ornament, a Santa, a nativity, etc. However you celebrate, and even if you don’t celebrate at all, be cognizant of differences. Here are some holiday briefs to get you started:



Hanukkah means dedication. It begins this year on the evening of December 7th. [Festival of Lights commemorating the Maacabean recapture and rededication of Jerusalem Temple in 165 b.c.e.; observed with special readings and praise songs focusing on liberty and freedom and the lighting of the menorah.] The menorah is a special candleholder used for the most important Hanukkah ritual, the candle lighting. A rich set of rituals, traditional foods and games accompany Hanukkah. For more information, visit

La Noche Buena

Many Hispanics commemorate La Noche Buena at Midnight on Christmas Eve. La Noche Buena is a religious, cultural and traditional celebration with family and friends, characterized with foods, gifts and Christmas trees. The birth of Christ is observed, usually beginning with a visit to church. Then gifts are opened and family and friends enjoy an extensive meal of traditional foods that were prepared earlier.


For over a billion Muslims throughout the world, Ramadan is a special month for inner reflection, devotion to God and self control. Ramadan is accompanied by intensive worship, fasting, reading of the Qur’an, doing good deeds and giving charity. Fasting is considered the third “pillar” of religious obligation to Islam. Islamic people believe that fasting has many benefits, particularly a way of learning self-control and coming closer to God.


Kwanzaa is a spiritual, festive and joyous celebration of the oneness and goodness of life, which claims no ties with any religion. The focus of Kwanzaa is centered around the seven principles (Nguzo Saba) with particular emphasis on the unity of our Black families. It is a time for gathering of our families, and for a rededication to manifesting the principles of Kwanzaa (Nguzo Saba) as a way of life for Black Americans.
Take the time to be kind to your fellow human beings who share space on this ever-shrinking planet of ours. It’s a lot easier to prepare than to figure out how to take your foot out of your mouth after you have offended or failed to include someone.

© 2004.Cathy Harris
Cathy Harris specializes in helping people make the critical connections in their lives. She is an effective keynote speaker, workshop and seminar presenter and a catalyst for improving workplace performance, productivity and profits. For other value-added, FREE articles visit her website: ttp:// Be sure to subscribe to her FREE monthly newsletter, CONNECTIONS. Go to