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11 ways to give a great fundraising speech

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Alan Clayton shows how even the most nervous public speaker can deliver an inspiring fundraising speech

You have organised a wonderful event. The venue is perfect, catering is on time and itís packed with donors or prospective donors.

Now someone has to speak.

We all know what can go wrong now, so I wonít dwell on that. From analysis of over 100 fundraising speeches Iíve seen or worked on, hereís what works:

Prepare thoroughly

Preparing thoroughly and remembering your speech is about fundraising and not a general advert for the services of your organisation. Being Ďabout fundraisingí means you are focussing on three elements, no more.

1. Before the donation

2. The donation

3. After the donation

Donít make too many points

Great speakers have great content. It is well structured, and they make a very small number of points in every speech they make. Try the below 4-point structure. The secret is you prepare it from 1 to 4 - but deliver it starting at 4 and working backwards to right now.

1.     If you give now, this is what will happen immediately.

2.     This is how one personís life will be different tomorrow.

3.     This is how a group of people will be different in one year.

4.     This is how the world will change, eventually.

Make an emotional connection

Great speakers know that content is only 20% of the gig. They know that making an emotional connection is the rest. They know which emotions create the reaction they want from the audience and they focus on these. They know that emotion comes from tone, body language, stories and charisma much more than it comes from words.

Tell a story

Emotion comes from stories. Good stories have magic moments. Tell the truth and practice telling it well.

Focus on the audience

Great speakers focus on audience reaction, not their own image. They seek to create action, not build credibility.

Play to your strengths

Great speakers use their charisma to the max. Poor speakers focus on their weaknesses and try and make them better. Great speakers couldnít give a flying stork about their weaknesses Ė they focus on their strengths and make them so big and so good that nobody notices their weaknesses.

Donít let criticism put you off

Be decisive in your opinion and donít try and placate everyone. Action is the objective, even if a few people donít like you, or disagree with you. Great speakers focus on their target audience and are not bothered by jealous or aggressive naysayers.

Get physical

Great speakers turn their nerves to their advantage. Nerves can create paralysis if you focus on the words, perfect grammar and content. The fear of public speaking is in the amygdala Ė the oldest part of our brain. It is a fight, flight or freeze reaction. You must not freeze. Therefore the solution to nerves in public speaking is physical: Move around, get the heart rate up, breathe, relax and repeat. Physical actions focus anxiety into energy not paralysis.  And, when practiced, they look brilliant.

Use visuals sparingly

Great speakers use visuals only to emphasise key points, not to store the content.

Be yourself 

Great speakers find power in being great at being themselves. Poor speakers try and live up to someone elseís stereotype of a good speaker. Donít do that. Find whatís best about being you and focus on that. You will find this by exploring authenticity, and you will discover that authenticity comes from vulnerability. Find and exploit your vulnerabilities.

Be supported

Great speakers have a team to inspire and support them. Training and creativity are just as important in speaking as they are in any other form of communication.

Great public speakers inspire people, create action and raise a lot of money. Make sure you are one and so are your CEO, chair, board of trustees, project staff, fundraisers and all volunteers. Enjoy!

Alan Clayton is founder and creative director at Revolutionise


This article was originally posted on 06/10/2015.

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