President’s Message – February 2017

20/20 Vision

Celebrate the past, execute the present, and prepare for the future

Celebrate the past

As our CAPS forefathers gathered to discuss the future of the speaking industry in Canada, I wonder if Jeff Mowatt, CSP, HoF, David Sweet, Brian Dalzell, and the late Warren Evans, CSP, HoF, Global Speaking Fellow considered the legacy they would be creating.

It would have been illuminating to be a fly on the wall and listen in as the pioneers shared vision and formulated the strategy to launch the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS), collaborate with the National Speakers Association (NSA), and eventually be part of the team to launch the Global Speakers Federation (GSF).

To establish CAPS, each benefactor endowed $4,000 of seed capital. This generous group included Donald Cooper, CSP, HoF, Brian Dalzell, Jeff Mowatt, CSP, HoF, Harold Taylor and the late Peter Urs Bender, CSP, HoF, and Warren Evans, CSP, HoF, Global Speaking Fellow. CAPS launch to stardom would not have been complete without the CAPS founding National board members comprised of Dave Kemp, Maggie Chicoine, Ross McKay, and Patricia Katz, HoF.

Thank you to all of the visionaries who contributed their time, insight, strategy, energy, leadership and yes, cash.  We appreciate your commitment to establishing a community that helps its members learn, share, grow and belong, while impacting local and global audiences.

On July 8, 2017 our forefathers’ vision is realized as we celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS)! Year over year CAPS strategy was built on and realigned to address the members and market demands while keeping the CAPS vision as the guide:  “To be the association of choice for experts who speak professionally.”

Execute the present

Today, we don’t rely on benefactors infusing seed money to grow CAPS. We do, however, rely on the leadership to do their due diligence and ensure we continue to be a thriving, vibrant and sustainable community.  A lot has changed in the meetings industry over the last twenty years including:

  • We have had a major recession where speakers had to rethink their own personal sustainability and growth opportunities.
  • Clients have been trending toward hiring content experts.
  • The lead times for hiring speakers has narrowed.
  • Technology has altered how audiences engage with speakers.
  • Content and expertise has become more readily available – for free.
  • Values have changed from one generation to another, from one audience to another.
  • Different generations like to receive information differently.
  • More people are taking the initiative to expand their knowledge on their own time.

There is a surge of experts who find themselves newly classified as solopreneurs. Some have received the golden handshake; others have hit the glass ceiling and/or are just tired of bureaucracy. These solopreneurs have a wealth of information to share with audiences, and many are pursuing a speaking career. In addition, with Canada being one of the highest educated countries in the world, we are also experiencing “experts who speak” entering this profession earlier than in recent history.

With all the changes, many professional speakers are responding with creating diverse income streams; realigning businesses to appeal to new audiences; investing in our own education; and seeking innovative ways to delve into and disseminate our expertise.

In the midst of all the meeting industry changes, associations are aware that if they don’t embrace the different demands of it’s members they too will be obsolete.

In 2016 I attended an event hosted by the Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE) focusing on “Associations in 2025”  The four fundamental drivers of association change that need to be considered are:

  1. Demographic shifts
  2. Economic shift
  3. Technological adaptation and
  4. Sustainability

These are realities and there are opportunities amongst them.

Prepare for the future

Simply put, CAPS needs to appeal to the members of today, and the members of tomorrow. According to the CSAE, Millennials want to be engaged beyond the face-to-face meeting or instead of it. Conversely, our CAPS members who invested their time, energy and insight into this association for years, tell us that connecting with the community face-to-face still continues to offer the most value for their membership.

So what now? How do you continue to respond to the members’ diverse requirements and yet appeal to prospective members anticipated needs?

CAPS conducted an in-depth survey in 2016 to ask its members their perspective. Now we are taking this diverse and important survey information and creating a strategy. However this still doesn’t address or account for the members we want to attract for tomorrow.

With 81% of our members over 45, and 28% over sixty, it is prudent we look into the future. Successful organizations often create a group of invested members to focus on this type of task, while the operating directors (national and local boards), keep steering the day-to-day direction, while continuing to focus on providing value to the members.

Under the direction of the National Board we have engaged a task force, called 20/20 Vision, led by Michael Kerr, CSP, HoF.

The mandate of the 20/20 Vision task force is:

“As CAPS celebrates its 20-year anniversary as an association, it’s the perfect time to look towards the next 20 years to ensure we continue to have a vibrant, sustainable, ROCKING association focused on providing outstanding value and service for our fabulous members and all stakeholders.”

The members of the task force include:

Michelle Cederberg, CSP

Lorne Kelton

Michael Kerr, CSP HoF (lead)

Martin Latulippe, CSP HoF

Jeff Mowatt, CSP HoF

Sunjay Nath, CSP

Toni Newman, HoF

Greg Schinkel, CSP

The task force will research, assess and strategize on the evolution of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers.

This is a huge undertaking and the National Board appreciates the time, energy and insight that the task force will be contributing to the vision and future of CAPS. 20/20 Vision project is not taken lightly, nor will it happen overnight. This will take time and diligence, but it is the right time, and right thing to do for the health of our association.

As members, we appreciate your cooperation when and if needed by the task force.  The National Board looks forward to hearing the task force’s 20/20 vision and then sharing it with our members.

Thank you all for your care and collaboration!


Suzanne F. Stevens, CSP
2017 CAPS National President
Canadian Association of Professional Speakers