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If you don’t know who Cavett Robert was, you should

If you don’t know who Cavett Robert was, you should.

Cavett Robert (1907-1997) had many professions throughout his life. He taught school in a one-room schoolhouse. He was a gas line installer. He was a lawyer. Evan a judge.

Arizona Edison Power Company hired him to travel to small towns and speak to churches, Lions Clubs, chambers of commerce and Toastmasters.

As a member of Toastmasters, he won the International Speaking Contest and the Golden Gavel Award from Toastmasters International.

For 25 years, he was a professional speaker: before professional speaking was a profession.

In 1966, he decided speaking was a profession that needed more members. Instead of worrying that he would create competition, he contacted the few working professional speakers—only 3% of organizations hired professional speakers—and advised them, “Don’t worry about how we divide up the pie, there is enough for everybody. Let’s just build a bigger pie!”

Robert tirelessly encouraged people with potential—and someone else thought had potential—to join this new speaking industry. This encouragement led to the creation of the National Speaker’s Association (NSA), and the speaker industry we have today.

As part of establishing NSA, Robert set some firm guidelines for how a professional speaker should behave, including the following.

  • Demonstrating high ethical standards
  • Focusing on giving back
  • Providing genuine support to speaking colleagues
  • Taking time to connect, help, mentor or refer business to other members without any expectation of reciprocation

Robert himself once explained, “A desire to help others is our most noble attribute; it gives immortal “momentum to life and is our only certain path to heaven.”

To remind and maintain those standards, yesterday was NSA’s 4th Annual Spirit of NSA Day. Although the official day was November 14, NSA’s behavioral standards are good ones that all professional speakers, and those who wish to become professional speakers would be wise to follow.

As is the legacy of Cavett Robert, without whom, professional speaking would likely not exist.

First written on examiner.com – November 15, 2010