Tips on Speaking with Groups

The following tips have been included here with permission of the authors.

  • Deliberately select the groups before whom you wish to speak. There are two types who are most helpful: those groups whose membership regularly participates in helping out in the community (Rotary, service clubs, etc.), and those groups whose membership as individuals are likely to have a common interest with your cause. Schedule these types of groups first.
  • In seeking entry to speak to the group, consider going through a group member. The member can serve as your authenticator to his/her peer group, paving your way to a more receptive audience. They can also make it more likely that you will be invited to speak. Many groups have program chair who is often desperate to find speakers.
  • Try to time your speaking to meet with the group's process and your needs. Find out what other projects the group is already committed to and time your talk to coincide with their need to develop a new project. Determine how much lead time they need and make sure that your request is not too precipitous for them to meet.
  • Pick your presenters carefully. Make sure the person who is speaking can explain what your agency does and exactly what is needed from the group. Consider sending a volunteer who can speak forcefully about the worth of the effort.
  • If possible, utilize a visual presentation, with slides, pictures, etc. to increase interest. If your presentation is boring, the group may assume that your jobs will be too.
  • Be prepared for people to offer their services. Take along brochures, examples of jobs for which they are needed, sign-up sheets, etc. If someone expresses interest, don't leave without their name and phone number and commit yourself to following up with them. Follow-up as quickly as possible.
  • Be prepared for too much success. You may need to have a back-up plan to handle the entire group wanting to volunteer together to help you out, not just a few individuals. If several group members decide to volunteer, you will need to consider ways in which they might work together while performing the volunteer work.
  • Remember that at some point during your presentation you should directly and unequivocally ask the audience to volunteer. Very few people will insist on volunteering for your program without being asked to do so.

Source: Vineyard, Sue, and Steve McCurley. 101 More Ideas for Volunteer Programs, Downers Grove, IL: Heritage Arts, 1995, p. 12.