How are your public speaking skills? It’s an important skill in any business but in fundraising, it’s essential. Fundraising is about communicating vision through relationships. Sometimes this relationship building happens one-on-one or in small groups. But, more often than not, you are in situations which require you to speak in front of a medium to large group. This can manifest as donor recognition event, fundraising events, board meetings, volunteer training sessions and conference presentations.
If your job doesn’t require much in the way of public speaking from you, find a place to practice. Write a presentation for your local Association of Fundraising Professionals chapter. Send in a proposal to present at the next Council for the Advancement and Support of Education district conference. Join your local Toastmasters group. The more you practice, the better you will get.
Practicing your skills as a public speaker will pay dividends for your career and for your organization. Everyone has their own process for preparing and practicing. For me, I begin with an extended outline. I put it all into Powerpoint, trying to use more images than words. I keep the wordy outline as notes for me. I like to extemporize during a presentation somewhat. I’ve never been one for reading from a text. So, closer to the actual event, I shut my office door and run through the entire presentation standing up at full vocal power. (In dance, they call this doing it “full-out”.) I fully visualize my audience and anticipate questions that they may have. I also try to insert as much humor as possible.
The other practical tip I have in this area is to focus on your posture. The impact of excellent posture on public speaking cannot be overstated. Your posture is the root of both your voice and your confidence, both essential to getting your message across. It’s not just about standing up straight. It’s about relaxing in the right areas and the position of the chin. Good posture is about opening the chest to vulnerability while standing on a firm foundation.
The biggest personal benefit you will get from more public speaking experiences is more confidence. No matter whether I nailed it or bombed, every speaking gig I’ve ever done has ultimately built my confidence. If you mess up, you learn more about what not to do.
If you nail it, well, you confirm your awesomeness.
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Jessica Cloud, CFRE
I've been called the Tasmanian Devil of fundraising and I'm here to talk shop with you.