3 Ways to Make Your Nonprofit’s Presentations Better

It was an early Tuesday morning when a group of us bright-eyed development folks arrived at our “Mobilizing Board Members to Raise Money” workshop.

Only we found ourselves with cold cups of coffee listening to a l-o-o-o-o-n-g morning presentation of chart and stats from someone whose delivery was eerily similar to this fictitious teacher from a well-known ‘80s movie scene.

Has anyone ever been in a similar situation? Anyone?


A Minute to Make It Happen

Wherever you next find yourself making a presentation (a workshop on mobilizing your board, perhaps?), you’ll have 60 seconds to capture your audience’s attention, says Darlene Price, president of Well Said, Inc., and author of Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results.

Remember: every audience and occasion, like staff retreats, board meetings, webinars or lunch-hour civic groups, will be vastly different. Each speaks different internal languages with different motivations, interests, expectations and reasons for being at your presentation.


1. Meet your audience where they are: During your prep and research, find out who your audience is, what their interests are, what they want to gain and any preconceived ideas they may have about your organization going into the presentation. Build your talk around them and that information, rather than centering it on yourself and your organization and what you feel is the best format or mode of delivery. Investing the time into this background research may feel too time consuming, but the result could be worth every minute.

2. Speak from the heart: Next time you’re giving a presentation, try this: Think of it less as a one-way flow of information from active presenter to passive receiver and more as a conversation among friends (who may become donors or patrons you haven’t met yet).

And instead of relying on slides to get you through, embrace your command of the subject (you know more than you think), draw upon the passion and importance of your nonprofit’s mission and celebrate your unique perspective and ability to tell the story.

Most important, always be yourself and deliver the message like only you can. Because that “aha!” moment when authenticity combines with authority can be powerful, enabling you to feel free and open to connect even more deeply with your audience.

3. Tell the story by painting the picture: People connect and respond through stories or invoked moods. Often, the fewer the words in your PowerPoint presentation the better, especially considering that people remember 80 percent of what they see versus 20 percent of what they read.

While it’s always best to use original photos and images that tell the story of your nonprofit’s work, several resources can also help craft your story in images, like free stock photo websites and Easel.ly, which creates colorful, easy-to-read infographics with hundreds of free templates.

Now, a few last words about making your next presentation even better:

  • Truly, your presentation isn’t about you. All eyes may be on you, but chances are your audience is still mentally focused on themselves and their organization’s needs. They want to know how your information relates to their work or will help them solve a problem. Make your audience the stars of the story: “It’s not what I’m going to show you, but how you can play a part …”
  • Stay in sync with what you say and what’s on screen. Always keep the slides moving at the same pace as you are, so what your audience is hearing is exactly what they’re seeing on screen. Reveal bullet points one at a time and move charts to their own slides for focused attention. This helps people organize and retain the information by “chunking” the images in their mind and relating them simultaneously to what you said.
  • A word about the slides themselves…
    • Stick to 1 main idea per slide, whether that point is made through words or images.
    • Use dark text on a light background. It’s easiest to read quickly.
    • Choose a sans serif font, like Arial, Helvetica or Calibri, for body text on each slide.
    • Please no clip art. None. Ever. Spend a little more time searching for original images or high-quality stock photography for greater impact.

Anything you’ve tried or use that makes your presentations better? Anything that didn’t? Let us know, because no two presentations—or presenters—are alike and we’d love to hear how yours went.

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