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VT readers ask questions about volunteer management and administration. Ask Connie, an experienced volunteer manager, consultant and trainer, provides the answers for all to see.
Send questions to AskConnieP@cs.com

~ December 2006 ~

Volunteers Speakers Bureau

Dear Connie:

We are organizing a volunteer Speakers Bureau. The speakers will make presentations to community organizations, businesses, senior centers, etc., to promote our organization and the services it offers. I’m preparing to do a workshop for the speakers on public speaking or platform skills. What tips can you share about public speaking that I can use in the workshop?

Many thanks for all your help!

Dear BC:

I believe that a volunteer Speakers Bureau is an excellent way to engage volunteers and promote your organization to the community. Many institutions have a volunteer Speakers Bureau, from museums and orchestras to health and human services groups. Volunteers can convey their enthusiasm and passion about your organization while they inform the community about the valuable services you provide. Here are my favorite tips for effective public speaking:

Know the room. Be familiar with the place in which you will speak. Arrive early, walk around the speaking area and practice using the microphone and any visual aids.

Know the audience if possible. Greet some of the audience as they arrive. It's easier to speak to a group of friends than to a group of strangers.

Know your material. If you're not familiar with your material or are uncomfortable with it, your nervousness will increase. Practice your speech over and over and over. Practice really does make perfect!

Don't apologize. If you mention your nervousness or apologize for any problems you think you have with your speech, you may be calling the audience's attention to something they hadn't noticed. Keep silent.

Body language is important. Standing, walking or moving about with appropriate hand gestures or facial expressions is preferred to sitting down or standing still with head down and reading from a prepared speech.

Dress appropriately so that your clothes are not the center of attention. Don't wear elaborate jewelry, especially bracelets that make noise as you move your hands. Avoid clothes that aren't comfortable because they will affect your posture or how you deliver your messages. Choose clothing that is simple and appropriate for the audience to whom you are speaking.

Speak to your audience, listen to their questions, respond to their reactions, adjust and adapt. Remember that communication is the key to a successful presentation. If you are short of time, know what can be safely left out. If you have extra time, know what could be effectively added. Always be prepared for the unexpected.

Pause. Allow yourself and your audience a little time to reflect and think. Don't race through your presentation and leave your audience, as well as yourself, feeling out of breath.

Add humor whenever appropriate and possible. Keep the audience interested throughout your entire presentation. Remember that an interesting speech makes time fly, but a boring speech is always too long to endure even if the presentation time is the same.

Vary your voice tonality and speed during your presentation. Convey energy when you need to, and slow down to 'draw them in close' when it's appropriate. Speak clearly and at an easy-to-understand pace. Don't race through your presentation.

Know when to stop talking. Time your presentation when preparing it at home so that you know exactly how long it is. Then keep an eye on your watch while speaking so that you don't run out of time

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Do you have a question? Now you too can ask an expert!

Connie Pirtle, of Strategic NonProfit-Resources, has 15 years' experience in working with volunteers. She has consulted and/or trained for such organizations as the Washington National Cathedral, Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music America, and the Association for Volunteer Administration.

Send your questions to Connie at AskConnieP@cs.com.
Connie Pirtle
Strategic Nonprofit Resources
10103 Edward Avenue * Bethesda, MD 20814 * VOICE: 301-530-8233 * FAX: 301-530-8299

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