I visited Hong Kong Council of Social Service’s annual Caring Company Partnership Expo two weeks ago, which is one of the grand annual events among local charities for comparing notes, sharing of ideas and experience where the sector’s best practices were recognized as well as being a one-stop shop for attracting support from the commercial sector. The scale and scope have been growing gradually since its inception. There were 130 charitable organizations at the showcase this year. However, I noticed there is one thing that has changed much. Presentation Skill.
Approximately 80 per cent of all the organization representatives I talked to had begun their introduction by telling me what their organization do before proceeding to how they do this or that with lengthy technical details. For a few organizations which have a portfolio of diversified service, some of the delegates just keep bombarding me with what they do at every single service units without any attempt in getting to know which area the audience’s interested in most, which I have to stop them eventually. I presume they are trying to impress the audience, which happened to be me at that time; of how much they are doing in bettering the society, but I can tell this is not impressive and create no impact nevertheless. None of them had ever mentioned of the impact they made on their beneficiaries, not a single story was told, nor any of them talked about their plans or future. But just stick to what is doing currently from the organization’s own perspective.
I firmly believe all of us in the fundraising profession and nonprofit communication mavens have agreed that it should be the story and impact that lead the presentation, though. It is also true that we have to let the prospects to do most of the talking as a way to help to identify of what service, which area they might have an interested in before we pitch them with the relevant project or service. But what happened in reality? I won’t think naively that these organizations provided absolutely no training to their frontline staff at all. But the point is such training is normally centered on providing their new hires plainly any overview of the service and projects that the organization has on the plate, and that was done only at the first week upon the new colleagues’ arrival as part of the orientation.
Yes, it helps the new staff members to get familiar with the organization’s service scope in a short period of time. However, it lacks guidance on how to tell all these technical aspects in a meaningful and compelling way, which is when the skill of storytelling enter into the scene. Whereas recurrent training is not available typically in almost all organizations, which is not just an issue among nonprofits but in the commercial sector too. It’s deemed necessary to make sure the essential skill, content, and presentation structure were maintained. As time goes by, everybody would easily establish their own way of introducing and presenting their organization. I had once met my client’s frontline staff, it is not an issue each of them has their individual presentation style but they are in fact projecting quite a different organization. So it is another issue regarding corporate identity and communications, which I might have another article dedicate to it.
Anyway, back to the core issue of this article, when carrying out such trainings it should never be in the form of a one-way lecture where a senior give hours of talk to the freshmen telling them what to say and how to say but make sure to plug-in role-playing exercise and continuing practicing is compulsory and crucial. Last but not least, validate what is the focal point of your audience. Small to medium-sized organizations are habitually emphasizing of how long they have established, how unique their projects are, what’s their mission and these sorts of thing.
However, have you ever tried viewing your organization from the other side? Are all these things your prospects’ primary concern? If not, what should it be? In a lot of time, this is the exact moment to bring in an independent communication expert or consultant to lead and help to figure out what this message should be and provide training to your colleagues in telling your compelling story. Because such an outside does not have the same emotional attachment to the organization and hence least bias and able to see your organization in a way similar to your prospects. I will be at another similar but small scale event late next week which I finger crossed to meet a representation who tell me a story impressively, better to be able to do so to a degree that impulses me to bring out my Mastercard immediately.