CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame: What Does It Take?

February 3, 2023

7 min read

CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame - What Does It Take

“Can you be amazing for people who know what amazing really looks like? That’s what the CPAE is.”

Brian Walter said that. He was referring to his peers, who inducted him into the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame® in 2013. Both he and they know what it takes to reach the top-tier of professional speaking.

Continue reading to learn more about the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame®.

CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

Induction into the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame® is a lifetime recognition awarded by the National Speakers Association (NSA). CPAE stands for “Council of Peers Award for Excellence.” The name indicates that the recognition comes from peers—other top-tier professional speakers.

Established in 1977, the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame® signals prestige among professional speakers. Five speakers are inducted into the Speaker Hall of Fame each year. This happens at a banquet that wraps up the NSA’s annual convention.

About 250 people have been inducted into the Speaker Hall of Fame®, including Zig Ziglar, Les Brown, and Colin Powell. If you see the letters “CPAE” behind a speaker’s name, you know they’re at the top of their field. (Often, you’ll also see “CSP” there, as CPAE inductees typically have NSA’s Certified Speaking Professional Designation, as well.)

Each year, NSA hosts a CSP/CPAE Summit for speakers who hold one or both NSA awards. CPAE recipients also enjoy online community through a Facebook group just for them.

What Does It Take?

If you make it into the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame®, it’s because you’ve demonstrated consistent excellence in five areas: message, presentation and delivery, experience, professionalism, and collateral material. (Note that your popularity, income, and quantity of speeches are not factors.)

Let’s take a look at each of these areas, with some examples from 2022 CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame® inductees Stacey Hanke, Mike Staver, Kelly Swanson, Mike Domitrz, and Meridith Elliott Powell. This way, you’ll get a good idea of what it takes to become a Hall of Famer.


An effective speaker consistently communicates a clear message. Each successful presentation has a singular message. And, each successful speaker has a primary message that comes through whenever they speak.

Stacey Hanke understands the importance of a clear message. Her business helps sales professionals make sure their message effectively speaks to customers. She connects consistent messaging with authenticity. The central message that she consistently and effectively shares is this: Communicate with influence, from Monday to Monday®. (As you can see, she’s so consistent with her messaging, she trademarked it!)

Mike Staver’s primary message is similar—and clear: When it comes to leadership, influence trumps position and title.

Kelly Swanson’s central message echoes her speaking style: Storytelling is a strategic way to persuade others.

For decades, Mike Domitrz’s message has been clear: There’s no substitute for respect in leadership and the workplace.

Meridith Elliott Powell built a successful business around her innovative message: Uncertainty can be an advantage. In fact, she confesses to being obsessed with the word “uncertainty”! Obsession is certainly one way to stay on message.

Practice Staying on Message

To practice staying on message, use the Yoodli AI speech coach to instantly see what words you used the most in your speech. The Top Keywords feature in the screenshot below tells us that Varun talked most about fear and confidence in public speaking.

CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame - What Does It Take - Yoodli

Presentation & Delivery

Presentation and Delivery relates to NSA’s competency of Performance Mastery. It’s all about the art and skill of using words, emotion, and body language to communicate to an audience.

When you watch these Hall of Famers in action, you notice that they all speak with a natural voice and use natural body language. “Natural” here doesn’t mean raw or unpolished. Quite the opposite. The speakers don’t come across as “trying too hard” or seeking to impress. They’re not putting on an affectation or focusing on what their hands are doing rather than what they’re saying. Nor do they seem as though they’re reading from a script. They’re natural and polished because they have a tremendous handle on what they’re talking about, they have a ton of speaking experience, and they prepare relentlessly.

Let’s consider some of the other elements that stand out for each of the new members of the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame®.

Stacey Hanke

One of the audience members said this about Stacey Hanke: “She made you want to listen to her.” That’s quite an endorsement! Hanke clearly wants people to take action. Of course, she provides concrete takeaways when she speaks. But, she also has a habit of looking people in the eye, asking them a question, and prompting a response such as a show of hands. Watch her in action.

Mike Staver

Mike Staver is known for being an engaging storyteller who makes complex ideas accessible. He helps his audience see things from unusual perspectives. He also gets his audience to participate in active ways while he speaks. Watch him in action.

Kelly Swanson

When you listen to Kelly Swanson, you’re hearing a good story. You feel like you know her personally. A motivational speaker who uses stories and comedy, Swanson effectively engages her audience and gets her message across. Watch her in action.

Mike Domitrz

When Mike Domitrz was in college, one of his sisters was raped. That’s what set the direction for his career. His passion to foster cultures of respect and consent is evident when he speaks. Domitrz artfully blends serious introspection and humor, and he knows how to reach both an audience of 15-year-olds and a group of senior military leaders. Watch him in action.

Meridith Elliott Powell

Meridith Elliott Powell is known for her energy. She’s also excellent with eye contact. That boosts her connection with people—and helps people hear what she’s saying. She doesn’t look out over the audience; she looks individuals in the eye. Powell’s obvious confidence in public speaking shows that she knows what she’s talking about and that she’s done this for years. Watch her in action.

Practice Your Presentation and Delivery

To practice your presentation and delivery, use the Yoodli AI speech coach to instantly get feedback on your speech. You’ll receive insights on your word choices (including filler words and weak words) and your body language (including smiles and eye contact).


All five of the latest inductees into the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame® lead successful businesses in which public speaking is a central element. They consistently demonstrate that their speaking skills are valuable.

Stacey Hanke, who’s been studying leadership for about 20 years, leads a successful consulting and training business. She’s also authored two books about influence and is an in-demand event emcee and keynote speaker.

Mike Staver has over 30 years of experience, reaching over 200,000 people and counting. He leads a successful speaking, coaching, training, and consulting business.

Kelly Swanson’s experience includes speaking, writing, and comedy. She’s a popular keynote speaker for conferences, including the Toastmasters International Convention.

Mike Domitrz is a sought-after expert on respect, particularly in the context of organizations and leadership. The author of three books, he founded and leads The Center for Respect, which trains tens of thousands of people every year.

In addition to building a successful business around her expertise, Meridith Elliott Powell is an experienced keynote speaker and best-selling author. She’s rated among the top business growth experts and motivational sales speakers.


Professionalism is one of NSA’s Eight Competencies. A speaker can’t truly be a professional speaker without establishing and maintaining a reputation for integrity and performance. The peers who chose the latest inductees into the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame® found ample evidence of professionalism in each one of them.

Professionalism is basically what Mike Domitrz trains others to cultivate—a culture of respect. Stacey Hanke grew up on a farm, so she’s well acquainted with a strong work ethic. She preaches that “Consistency equals authenticity” and drives home the importance of accountability and reputation (how others see you).

Collateral Material

This area is related to NSA’s competencies of Content Development and Product Development. Content Development is about curating valid content and creating original content based on sound research, critical thinking, and fair-mindedness. Also, successful professional speakers convert content into products they can sell. This might include books, videos, courses, or podcasts.

Take a look at the websites of each of the latest Hall of Famers, and you’ll see that they have a wide range of material to complement their speaking.

Wrapping Up

It should be clear by now that the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame® is filled with impressive men and women who’ve worked hard to get to the top of their craft. The recognition is particularly meaningful and special when you’re chosen by others at the top.

It’s worth repeating what Brian Walter, CSP, CPAE, said about the honor: “Can you be amazing for people who know what amazing really looks like? That’s what the CPAE is.”


Start practicing with Yoodli.

Getting better at speaking is getting easier. Record or upload a speech and let our AI Speech Coach analyze your speaking and give you feedback.

Get Yoodli for free