Strong Presentation Skills Increase Donations

Last week, David offered a webinar titled, “Keys to Managing the Major Gifts Process: It’s All in the Execution.” As with many of his webinars, people appreciate his voice almost as much as the content.  And, while he does have a great radio/webinar voice there is more to his presentation skills than his voice. And, it is something many fundraising professionals need to learn.  It’s the combination of enthusiasm, a smile (people can hear a smile), an optimistic attitude, and an ability to be in the moment. In other words, strong presentation skills increase donations. Let’s break those down and understand why they could help you improve your annual appeal, capital campaign and just about every other donor meeting.

Sometimes, nerves get the best of us.   The problem is not that someone might see that you are nervous.  Rather, it is that what you are saying will get lost.  The enthusiasm that can accompany your invitation to a prospect to join you in your campaign is contagious, as is fear of failure, desperation or nervousness.

Practice on your co-workers, practice in your mirror, practice in your head.  Record your presentation and listen to it.  Do enough prep work to eliminate anything that will inhibit you from having  confidence to exude excitement when engaging an audience (written, in person or over the phone).

A Smile
Presentations – whether in person or on a webinar  – are best performed standing up with a smile on your face.  The energy will be palpable, even over an internet connection.  And, your content has a better chance of being heard when people are actually listening instead of checking email or dozing due to a droning speaker.   Something as simple as a smile and remaining vertical will remind you that you are in charge of the way you present.

Optimistic Attitude
One might question whether an optimistic attitude is the same as enthusiasm but I liken it to the difference between cheering vs. coaching a game.  Cheering requires enthusiasm and often, a hope for success that everyone in the crowd and all of the cheerleaders try to offer the players.  But, a coach must offer a pervasive sense of optimism that the team can win, that they have trained hard and have the ability to win,  that they will win. Because if the coach doesn’t believe it, neither will the players.

To bring the metaphor back to development, if you believe you can achieve your financial goals during your campaign you have a chance at success.  Don’t sit on the sidelines and hope others will achieve your goals – because without your cheering and coaching (whether you are a volunteer or staff), they won’t.

Being in the Moment
The idea of being in the moment is not a new concept, but it is more and more essential as distractions increase.  Whether you are thinking about how your presentation is being perceived (it will be worse if that is what you are thinking about) or what’s for dinner (drifting to other problems will not help you achieve your current goals), keeping focused, present and attentive will offer a positive impression.  But getting distracted will definitely leave a negative feeling and reduce your chances of success.

There are, I’m sure, many other ways to improve your mental state to increase your success rate.  For more ideas, pick up a top rated sales book.  You may not be selling widgets, but you are selling an idea of a better world. And an idea is only as good as the people who are advocating on its behalf—who are selling the dream.

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