Report of Leadership Academy III Project: Creating an NCDA Speakers' Bureau

By Gemma A. Williams

During the NCDA 2007 Conference in Seattle, Washington, the Western Region members held a meeting to discuss issues affecting them.  Three of the major issues discussed were:

  1. Maintaining Membership
  2. Recruiting New Officers
  3. Finding speakers for state conferences

These were some of the same issues that the Hawai`i Career Development Association (HCDA) faced and so, when I decided to apply for the NCDA Leadership Academy III, I decided I would focus on one of those issues.  Because we are so far off in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it has always been difficult for us to get speakers to come to Hawai`i.  One reason for this is that we were a small organization and did not have sufficient funds to pay for someone to come from mainland America to provide a workshop or conference.  The Speakers' Bureau seemed a fitting project to undertake.  When I consulted with Charles Lehman, our Western Region Trustee, he suggested that the Speakers' Bureau was definitely a need to be filled and that he would provide any assistance and support that I would need.  With that kind of encouragement, I decided to proceed with plans for the Speakers' Bureau.

Purpose and Project Process

The purpose of the Speakers' Bureau is to provide state career development associations, like HCDA, assistance in meeting the major challenge of finding qualified and affordable speakers that they can utilize for their professional development activities. 

Initially, I thought I would do a survey of the membership to see whether there was sufficient interest in developing this Bureau.  Will there be a number of individuals who would want to participate in it?  After discussing the survey with a number of NCDA leaders, it was decided that all we needed was a form for participants to fill out.  I proceeded to develop the form.  A review of other speakers' agencies gave me some ideas as to what to include in the form.  After much discussion via e-mail with the NCDA Leadership team, including my mentor for the project, Charles Lehman, we decided on Contact Information, NCDA Membership Status, State, National, and/or International Presentation Topics, Methods of Delivery, Formats Used, Length of Sessions, and Cost.  Other items also included were the Specific times during the year individuals would be available for presentations, whether handouts or workbooks were used, whether there was follow-up or assistance given following a presentation, and how much advanced notice was needed to schedule a workshop or conference.

The form was posted in the NCDA Announcements (a monthly electronic bulletin to members) in March and April 2009.  Twenty (20) individuals responded by filling out the form and submitting them to NCDA.  Once I received the forms, I requested additional information such as a brief biography and a color picture.  Eighteen (18) of the participants provided brief bios and a picture.  Participants came from eleven states in the US and from two foreign countries as follows:





District of Columbia








New York












International Members:







There is much interest in participating in this Speakers' Bureau.  I have already received several requests for the next sign-up period since many members missed the two advertisements.  As knowledge of the Speakers' Bureau becomes widespread among the membership, many other states and foreign countries will be represented.  Discussion of the project and possible follow-up with a few members yielded the following recommendations:


1. That sign-up be on-going throughout the year and that new members can sign up immediately.  According to our immediate past Membership Chair, this type of activity can "encourage more memberships and increase retention."

2. Testimonials-what individuals and groups say about the speakers be included on their bio page.

3. Short videos or YouTube clips could be included on the bio page to give prospective clients snapshots of the speakers' presentation. 


This has been an exciting learning experience.  I had the opportunity to communicate with and get feedback from a number of NCDA leaders.  I have also had the opportunity to interact electronically with a number of career development and career management professionals throughout the United States and some foreign countries. I have also learned of the excellent programs developed by NCDA members that are available for the members and prospective members. This has certainly helped to ease the isolation I sometimes feel way out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  I remain grateful to the following NCDA individuals who have provided assistance and support throughout the project: 

  • Charles Lehman---Project Mentor and Western Region Trustee (2007-10)
  • Deneen Pennington---Executive Director
  • Natalie Kauffman---Southern Region Trustee (2006-09)
  • Melanie Reinersman---Website Editor & Editor of Career Convergence
  • Mary Ann Powell---Special Projects Director
  • Debbie Osborn--- Past President, Florida CDA

Links for Members

To view the Speakers Bureau, login to NCDA and click on Members Only Resources (on the upper right, under your name).  Participation (via the online application form) is open to NCDA members. 

To learn more about the NCDA Leadership Academy, visit the website and click on Professional Development.  Applications for the LA are being accepted through November 1.

Gemma A. Williams, Ed. D. has been in education for over 20 years, having taught in elementary and high school in Trinidad & Tobago and also in community colleges in Massachusetts and Hawai`i. She received her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership at the University of Sarasota in Florida, a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Counseling, and a Masters Degree in History from Northeastern University in Boston.

Dr. Williams has served as a Career Counselor, Academic Advisor, Vocational Counselor, and Job Placement Coordinator. She is currently an Associate Professor/Counselor and the Coordinator of the
Maida Kamber Center for Career and Transfer services at Kapi`olani Community College where she received tenure and promotion in 1997. Dr. Williams is a member of the American Counseling Association (ACA), the National Career Development Association (NCDA), the National Rehabilitation Association (NRA), and the National Association of Multicultural Rehabilitation Concerns. Between 2000 and 2002, Dr. Williams held the position of Secretary of the Hawai`i Counseling Association (HCA) and she was recently President of the Hawaiian Career Development Association (HCDA). She is a participant in the NCDA Leadership Academy III.  She can be reached at gemma@hawaii.edu

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