Talk about a tough crowd. When the National Speakers Association selects speakers for its annual conference held July 17 to 20 in Phoenix, it has to impress a particularly discerning audience — the 3,500 professional speakers in the delegation.

So what does the NSA look for in speakers? “Expertise and eloquence,” says Mark Sanborn, president. “We don't just want a speaker with great platform skills, but also expertise and ideas that will directly benefit our members.”

This year a key objective was to showcase the diversity of speaking styles and subjects. The lineup reflects that with Terry Savage, a personal finance expert; Seth Godin, columnist for Fast Company; Larry Winget, “the pit bull of personal development”; and Joe Calloway, a branding authority. Sanborn picks speakers based on programming needs, not celebrity. “The hardest part of our selection process is matching speaker to specific need and getting not just a great speaker but the best speaker.”

For meeting planners, Sanborn has two pieces of advice: one, see a speaker live (or on video) before hiring him or her, and two, don't “stretch” a speaker who isn't the right fit. “I never want to be in front of the wrong audience.”