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Have you noticed that people often get all hung up on credentials in this business. A lot of experts tend to have a bunch of extra letters behind their name.

But which ones really matter?

Does a paper on the wall mean that you’re truly better at what you do?

Yes — and sometimes no.

It all depends on which paper it is.

Let me explain:

Dancers can train all their lives, but in the pro dance world, your reputation often depends on which studio you studied at — that, combined with your actual performance skills.

Some actors just have natural talent and can radiate emotion, whether they’ve ever had an acting class or not. (This is the exception, not the rule, of course.) But actors who commit to their craft and join the Screen Actors Guild automatically are often poised to earn more than their peers who do not. Union base rates are roughly double the non-union rates.

But what about for professional speakers? I mean, everybody can speak. Right?

Hold up… Yes, everybody CAN speak. Not everybody does it well.

Hell, not everybody even teaches it well, because not every online guru out there is qualified to instruct (or certify) you.

So, does getting a paper that says you’re “certified” actually mean anything for your bottom line?

Let’s talk about which certifications might actually matter, and which ones aren’t worth the paper they’re written on…

We’ll start with the ones that don’t matter:

Basically, any certificate or certification that comes from a course that you paid for or an event you attended isn’t going to mean a damn thing to someone who’s looking for talent for their stage.

Talent buyers don’t look at the online courses you’ve taken any more than an employer looks at your college transcript during a job interview.

Talent buyers and event planners are looking at your media kit, not your transcripts.

The proof is in the pudding. You’ve either got the skills, or you don’t — and that is more than evident in your video and your past client list, not in some useless certificate you got at some guru’s class or event you attended.

So what’s one certification that might actually matter?

There’s really only one, if you’re looking at the US market, and that’s the CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) recognition that’s awarded by the NSA (National Speakers Association).

Wait… You mean that’s not a “trade secret”? Nope, that’s in the public domain, my friend! 

It’s right out there for you to find on the Internet, if you know where to look. I’m just helping a sister (or a brother) out by curating this content here, to make it easy for you to find!

So here’s what makes you a “pro” in the eyes of the NSA:

  • 250 paid presentations done in the past 10 years
  • Audiences greater than 3 people per event (Wow! So small? Who knew, right?! No more excuses for not getting started — and bye-bye, stage fright!)
  • Earnings (from speeches) greater than $50,000 per year for 5 out of 10 years
  • 20 past clients who will give an evaluation of your performance
  • Full-length video of your live presentation (anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes long)

Do those requirements surprise you? You might be even farther along toward those goals than you realized! If that’s the case, bravo to you!

And if you haven’t started yet, at least now you know where you need to direct that professional compass to find your heading.

Because the NSA is a membership-based organization, to become a CSP they also require you to be a professional member for at least 1 year, and to have attended one of their events in the past 10 years.

The last two requirements are that you take their online courses about professional competencies and ethics, both of which are available online and for a very reasonable price of $14 each.

Seriously though, professionalism and ethics are the backbone of ANY business — and so it’s brilliant that everyone has to take those two subjects as part of their core curriculum to earn the designation as a CSP.

And in the spirit of full transparency — those are not affiliate links. Only the NSA will make any money off of the membership fees or the course fees. But the links connecting you to them are my gift to you, free of charge!

Believe it or not, you can even work toward your CSP credential while you’re still a salaried employee.

So all that I’ve been saying lately about how performance mastery takes time and disciplined practice, even the NSA agrees with that!

You’ve just gotta get really good at documenting everything you do, to build that track-record.

So… Why would this certification mean anything to talent buyers or event planners?

This is one certification that you can’t cheat on.

The NSA requires documentation to support your claims, and it’s not something that you can knock out in a 1, 2 or 3-day event, or even in a year-long mastermind program. You must have truly paid your dues over time to earn this one, and that demonstrates your commitment to the craft.

Since a talent buyers’ success depends largely on how well your performance pleases a client, they’re going to go with a time-tested pro over a rookie any day.

Hope that helps!

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I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, so please — sound off!

Until next time, here’s wishing you every success on your journey as a thought leader! I can’t wait to see YOU on the stage of your dreams.