NSA’s Certified Speaking Professional Designation

February 2, 2023

6 min read

How big of a deal is the National Speakers Association’s Certified Speaking Professional designation? How hard is it to obtain?

Let’s answer those questions in reverse order. Getting a Certified Speaking Professional designation is a huge achievement. You must satisfy prerequisites, complete coursework, and provide proof that you’re already growing a successful professional speaking business. And, that’s just Phase 1 of the application process.

Now we can answer the second question: Because it takes tremendous effort and serious verification of your skills and experience, getting a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation is a big deal.

Continue reading to learn more about this designation, its benefits, and the process to achieve it.

Certified Speaking Professional Designation

The Certified Speaking Professional designation is the highest level of recognition in the speaking profession. Conferred by the National Speakers Association (NSA), only 17% of NSA members carry this designation.

The CSP designation is an indication that you’re at the top of your field in ability, experience, and success. It’s an annual recognition; each year has its own CSP class.

The CSP certification is good for five years. You may renew it every five years by earning 24 education credits, completing the CSP Application Coursework, confirming the Applicant Oath, and paying a $200 administrative fee.

Speakers who are 65 years old or older are eligible for CSP Emeritus (lifetime) status if they’ve renewed their designation at least one time.

Professional Competencies

When you get a CSP designation, you demonstrate that you’re competent in four categories. NSA calls these categories the Four Es, and each one includes sub-competencies.


Speaking is an art, and eloquent speakers show expertise in this art. They clarify ideas, use their imagination, persuade people, and make an impact. This competency includes the sub-competencies of Platform Mechanics and Performance Mastery.


Successful speakers know what they’re talking about. They’re experts on budget travel, neuroscience, hopscotch in the 14th century, or whatever their chosen field. They effectively share that expertise with their audience. This competency includes the sub-competencies of Content Development and Environmental Trends & Impact.


Just because you’re a good speaker, it doesn’t mean that you’re a good business person. But, if you want to get your Certified Speaking Professional designation, you’ll demonstrate proficiency in business skills and provide evidence that you’ve grown and maintained a successful speaking business. This competency includes the sub-competencies of Business Development, Strategic & Operational Business Management, and Product Development.


To be a credible speaker, you must conduct yourself and your business in an ethical and professional way. The CSP application process requires you to agree to an ethics statement. This competency includes the sub-competency of Professionalism.

Your CSP application will be denied if you commit an ethical breach in any of these areas:

  • Intellectual property—If you use material or stories from someone else, you must do so legally and ethically, with proper credit and/or permission.
  • Representation and business practices—Don’t try to bump up your presentation and income stats with shady arrangements.
  • Requests for special consideration—Don’t look for shortcuts in the application process or ask for any breaks. Follow the policies, and meet the deadlines.


Obviously, holding a Certified Speaking Professional designation is valuable, but even the application process has merit.

Benefits From the Application Process

During the application process, you’ll receive feedback, providing insights on where you can improve both your speaking abilities and your business practices. Also, because of the requirement to contact current and previous clients, you have an opportunity to generate some new business.

Benefits of Holding the Designation

Here are just some of the advantages of having a Certified Speaking Professional designation:

  • Your skill, experience, and commitment receive serious validation. The process is difficult. Only the best pass.
  • You stand out from the crowd with a certification that’s recognized all over the world.
  • You enjoy more (and more significant) speaking opportunities. Some organizations hire only speakers with a CSP certification, so it opens up new doors of opportunity.
  • You can charge higher fees.
  • You make more professional connections and increase your networking opportunities.
  • You have access to educational sessions exclusively available to CSP/CPAE individuals.
  • You may attend CSP-only events and participate in CSP-only social media channels. These experiences build your speaking and business skills.
  • You meet one of the requirements of the Global Speaking Fellow (GSF) designation. This certifies your ability to maintain a speaking business across multiple countries and cultures.

How to Earn a CSP

Basically, you earn a Certified Speaking Professional designation if you sufficiently demonstrate that you’re a successful professional speaker. However, as you’ll see from the application process outlined below, this isn’t a cakewalk.

Keep in mind that you might already be qualified if you’ve been a professional speaker for at least five years. Start keeping track of when you speak, what you’re paid, and how many people were in your audience. That will make any future application process much smoother.

How to Apply

The application season opens on September 1. Applications are due by January 10. The entire process takes several months to complete. You must successfully pass each phase before continuing to the next one.

Phase 1

Before starting the process, note this prerequisite: You must have attended (in person) at least one NSA or GSF national event in the previous 10 years.

If you’ve satisfied the prerequisite, the first step is to submit a completed Interest Form. Then, a staff member will contact you to review the requirements and process. At this point, you pay the application fee. This is $375 for members and GSF affiliates in the U.S. and $750 for nonmembers in the U.S. Fees for non-U.S. applicants vary by country.

During this phase, you provide a description of your business income model and complete the CSP Application Coursework. This takes about four hours to complete. It involves videos and an eLearning module. The topics include business ethics and professional competencies.

NSA wants to be assured that you have a successful speaking business. So, you must submit proof that you gave at least 250 paid presentations during five of the previous ten years—and that you received the required income from these presentations. Not every type of presentation counts (for example, coaching and emceeing don’t qualify).

Your speaking income must be at least $50,000 per year for at least five of the previous 10 years. NSA is looking for evidence that you got paid the same or more for later presentations, showing consistency or growth over time. They’re also looking for speaker fees of at least $500, which should demonstrate a sizable attendance count.

To provide proof of your presentations and income, you must submit information such as event attendance confirmations, videos of your presentations, and an employment verification letter from your employer if you’re a salaried or contracted employee. You must provide contact information for at least 20 clients who are willing to complete evaluations of your speaking. The Applicant Oath you sign indicates that all of your submitted materials (and what they demonstrate to prove) are valid.

The Most Important Part of your application

You also submit a video presentation during this phase. This is the most critical piece of your application. It should be a good representation of your primary speaking work. NSA is looking for certain elements in your video, so be sure to acquaint yourself with the requirements.

To get immediate feedback on your presentation before you submit it, upload it to Yoodli. You’ll get instant analytics on your filler words, top keywords, weak words, eye contact, smiles, and more. This screenshot shows you a bit of what to expect with the Yoodli AI speech coach.

NSA's Certified Speaking Professional Designation - Yoodli
Phase 2

At least 20 external reviewers or clients complete standardized evaluations of your presentations. You must receive a passing score to advance to the next phase.

Phase 3

Several internal reviewers (who are CSP-designated) complete standardized evaluations of your video submission. You must receive a passing score to advance to the next phase.

Phase 4

The NSA Board of Directors reviews and votes on your application. They’ll contact you with the results.

Wrapping Up

As you can see, earning a CSP certification is a major achievement that can set you apart from the crowd. It can provide a serious boost to your confidence, your abilities, and your business success. Learn more from the National Speakers Association and see if this is the next step you should take in your professional speaking career.


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