Presentations

7 Lessons Learned (Because I Failed)

Posted by on Jun 8, 2014 | 0 comments

Recently I’ve been on a speaking binge. I’m not sure why the flurry of activity, but within the past few months I’ve received invitations to speak at several national, state and local conferences and to a variety of nonprofit organizations.  I’ve enjoyed each opportunity to share my thoughts and meet new friends. I’ve been especially grateful for the excellent references and reviews I’ve consistently received from the groups I’ve been speaking to. It’s been a confidence-inspiring whirlwind of activity.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday I failed.  It was a comedy of errors from beginning to end, but it wasn’t really funny.

My presentation fell flat. It was disjointed and probably confusing to the audience. It’s a wonder they didn’t ask me what I was talking about.  Following the presentation, I couldn’t remember anything I said.

This experience has taught me seven important lessons to remember if you find yourself speaking to a group:

  1. Arrive 30 minutes early.
  2. Preparation cannot be underestimated.
  3. Know your venue.
  4. Never assume.
  5. Anticipate what might go wrong.
  6. Punting is OK.
  7. Say “No” When Your Gut Tells You To
  8. Sleep the night before, no matter what.
I learned these seven important lessons the hard way. I failed on every one of them. Considering my speaking experience, there was and is no excuse for the comedy of errors, and more importantly, that I didn’t rebound well once they happened.
I learned these seven important lessons because I made these seven critical mistakes (and I knew better!):
  1. I arrived early, but not as early as I should have. A few extra minutes would have given me time to gather my thoughts, reorganize my notes and give a logical presentation.
  2. My preparation time was cut short. I managed a lot of non-essential tasks during the week prior to yesterday’s event: I should have spent that “free time” fine tuning my presentation and visiting the venue.
  3. I had not visited the venue prior to speaking: knowing the room set up helps prepare you to stand in front of your audience.
  4. I assumed there would be a podium – there was not. This was a first, but it’s now a question I will always ask: “Is there a podium?”
  5. And although I had asked for a projector and screen, I had not anticipated a lack of connection chords, the inability to connect to my MacBookPro, and I most certainly did not anticipate the sudden SNAP of the screen as it tore from the frame and flopped to the floor just before my presentation. I mean, who would EVER anticipate that? (The organizers actually tried to flop the screen over the top of the screen’s frame and for a few minutes my PowerPoint was beamed onto the flopping, buckled screen until my OCD took over and I asked them to turn it off).
  6. My presentation was tightly linked to the PowerPoint slides, and I attempted to give the same presentation without the slides…not smart. What I should have done was reorganized in my mind and hit the high points unscripted and without the crutch of slides. I probably could have done that if I had been better prepared.
  7. This was a very short notice request by someone I know and respect. I said “yes” when my gut was telling me to say “no”. I knew my time was tight and preparation would be tough.
  8. I only had 3 hours sleep the night before the presentation. I was exhausted, which undoubtedly added to my inability to rebound as I normally can.
Failure isn’t fun under any circumstances, but if we can learn from our mistakes, failure can become a springboard to greater success in the future. Remember the saying: When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I resembled that remark yesterday.
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Your Board and Fundraising

Posted by on Nov 25, 2013 | 1 comment

Next week I will be facilitating a 3-hour Board Training workshop in Washington DC. Our focus is on the board’s role in fundraising and how each unique member can be effective in helping with a nonprofit organization’s fundraising efforts.

As I’ve prepared for the training, it’s become very apparent to me that many board members don’t see themselves as fundraisers. Even more concerning, they don’t want to be involved in fundraising.

There are differing views on a board member’s role in fundraising for a nonprofit organization, to be sure. But to me, it seems like a no-brainer. Of COURSE they should be involved.

Your nonprofit board is not staff. They are not paid representatives of your organization (typically), but they are a critical part of your organization’s team. They have signed on as ambassadors by agreeing to serve on your board. They have often signed agreements to donate hours, money, resources. If nothing else, they have allowed you to attach their name to your organization. They are important. They are influential. They are key players…and not just in policymaking decision, but in fundraising.

Not every board member is able to donate funds to an organization, although all should be asked. But every board member can help with fundraising in many ways, including the following:

  1. Recommend your organization to their friends and colleagues
  2. Identify their personal and professional circle of influence and recommend potential donors based on their knowledge of the person or organization
  3. Sit on your organization’s development committee
  4. Attend your organization’s events and participate in the storytelling
  5. Attend civic and community events and share your organization’s story
  6. Join the CEO in potential donor visits
  7. And the list goes on….
Signing on as a board member for a nonprofit organization is more than just adding a name to the letterhead, it’s a commitment based on passion for your mission and confidence in your efforts and leadership. It’s not a surprise that many board members don’t think of themselves as fundraisers, not many do. It’s not a role many seek after. But with training and a little information, there is rarely a better fundraiser than a motivated board member. It’s worth the effort.
We can’t expect board members to know how to fundraise, or to even understand their role in fundraising, without providing them some basic training and information. It should be part of every organization’s annual planning retreat.
If you are a board member, you are a fundraiser. You may never have to ASK, but you will always be carrying the message.
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4 Suggestions to Help You Be More Friendly

Posted by on Aug 10, 2013 | 0 comments

Do you remember the saccharin-sweet person you couldn’t stand to be around? Do you remember the always-a-downer person who never was invited to anything? Are you either of these two? If you are, or if you have someone on your staff who is,  take a deep breath and start to make a plan for change, because saccharin-sweet and always-a-downer personalities can take down an organization.

Literally.

Donors are looking for authentic. They want passion and enthusiasm. They want to feel good about what they are doing. How we approach them can make the difference between a “yes” or a “no”.  Our demeanor can make or break a donor relationship.

Friendly is defined as having goodwill. Friendly is not hostile.  Friendly is warm and comforting.

Are you friendly when you meet with donors? Or do your nerves take over and cause the meeting to feel tense (the opposite of warm and comforting)? There are four clues to improve your “friendly” factor, they are:

  1. SOUND FRIENDLY: Ease your voice: Don’t talk too fast or too loud. Practice the “prepared” part of an expected conversation before the meeting.
  2. APPEAR FRIENDLY: Sit or stand comfortably. Don’t fidget. Don’t furrow your brow. Don’t hunch and cross your arms. Relax your shoulders. Let your hands rest easily, don’t clench them together (or fiddle your thumbs!).
  3. SMILE FRIENDLY! Nothing says “friendly” more than a smile. (Don’t forget to brush your teeth and do a quick rearview mirror check for a clump of pepper or green flake, so you can smile confidently in the meeting – there’s nothing worse than wondering if you have something in your teeth). A genuine smile can rock the world.
  4. LOOK FRIENDLY: Make eye contact. Don’t look down and up and all around. Look at the person you’re talking to. This makes you approachable and also shows that you are interested in them.
To borrow something from my mother: Friendly is as friendly does. For a nonprofit fundraiser, friendly begins with a phone call or first time meeting and continues through follow up notes, thank you letters, requests for input, personal meetings and really never ends. Donors may irritate or disappoint, but it’s their money that’s funding your projects. Being friendly, even if we’re disappointed, stressed, or discouraged, is the least we can do to say thank you.
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