Course Code: COMM1
In this course, you will learn basic communication skills in order to boost your volunteering action. This will involve learning and how to 1) improve your performance in public speaking and 2) build in the relationships with external organizations, and 3) create an effective multipurpose database. to optimize your efforts in terms of communication goals as a volunteering agent.
Duration: 45 m.
Author/Source: REVEAL Staff
Tags: communication, courses, training, volunteering
Starting: 21/11/2012 Ending: 01/01/2014
The do´s and don´ts in public speaking as a volunteering agent
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Speech is power, speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.”
The ability to speak well in public is something we can learn, just as we learned to ride a bike.
Nervousness is natural and not only to be expected, but very necessary. Nervousness, or “butterflies in the stomach” are the by-product of adrenaline, which can drive you to deliver your
speech with passion.
The key to conquering your fear and mastering your nervousness does not lie in famous tricks like imagining your audience naked (Winston Churchill technique) or the tot of whiskey before standing up (Churchill again actually). Instead, your best options are the following:
Be prepared and be a master of the subject: Nothing helps with nervousness like the confidence that you know more about the topic than your audience Don’t try to do too much in one speech or presentation. Decide on a few (less than five) main points you want people to remember. Repeat them often. Say them in different ways. Use stories and examples the audience will remember. If you use numbers or statistics, interpret them so they make a point or tell a story. Consider giving handouts that the audience can take with them.
Know yourself. If you’re not comfortable with public speaking, don’t try to start by giving a speech to a hundred people. Start by first speaking in small groups, and then gradually challange yourself to talking in larger meetings making short public presentations; and finally giving speeches. Get used to groups of people wanting to hear what you have to say. Always use language that you’re comfortable with, and talk about things you know. Wear comfortable and professional-looking clothes.
Know your material. Practice your speech and revise it if necessary. If you´re not familiar with your material or are uncomfortable with it, your nervousness will increase. Organize your speech in a logical sequence, such as following a time line. Speak clearly and audibly. Use simple sentences, make clear transitions, avoid digressions, and reduce the use of potentially confusing pronouns. Speak slowly and deliberately and use pauses.
Know your goals. What do you want to accomplish by speaking? To provide information? To change people’s minds? To get them to act? Be clear on your goals, and shape the speech to achieve them. Generally, it’s a good idea to keep to a few straightforward goals: don’t try to do too much.
Know the room. Be familiar with the place in which you will speak. Arrive early, walk around the speaking area and practice using the microphone and any visual aids.
Know the situation. Different situations call for different speaking styles: casual or formal, brief or in-depth, funny or passionate. Adapt your message and style to the specific situation. Also, be sure you know how much time you have to speak, making sure that your speech does not run over the alloted time, taking 25% less (speeches generally take longer than planned). Different speeches have different goals, so you should shape your message in different ways.
Know the audience and how to connect. Greet some of the audience as they arrive. It´s easier to speak to a group of friends than to a group of strangers. Use language, examples and stories that make sense to your listeners. Assume that your audience is a group of smart, decent people with common sense. Use reasonable arguments and passionate examples to connect with both their hearts and their heads. Be positive, avoiding negative sentiments, such as shame, criticism, anger or fear, as these often backfire on the speaker. Know what level of experience your audience has with your topic, so you don’t talk down to them or speak at a level that will go over their heads. Also relate your topic to what they care about, so you can show that it has meaning for them. When you speak, you are speaking to people, so connect with them by using eye contact, comfortable body language and gestures that keep their attention on you. Use pauses when you speak allowing the audience and yourself to breathe for a moment.
Work from your personal brand. (Try the exercise) Mainly, your speech should represent you — as an authority and as a person. Don’t copy gestures from a book or other speaker, just be natural.
Use visual aids relevant to your topic. Research has found that when knowledge is shared just by speech, message retention after three days is only 10 percent, but increases to 65 percent when both speech and visual aids are used. Visual supports will help your audience remember your message for a longer period of time. This means they will remember you for longer, which will help your promotion and future opportunities.
Visualize yourself giving your speech. Imagine yourself speaking with your voice loud, clear, and assured. When you visualize yourself as being successful, you will be successful.
Concentrate on the message - not the medium. Focus your attention away from your own anxieties, and outwardly toward your message and your audience. In doing so your nerves will calm down.
Focus on the audience, not on yourself: Talk much more about ‘You’ the audience, rather than ‘I’ or ‘me’.
Start by making contact with several individuals within the audience (one at a time through your speech), rather than looking down at your script or casting your eyes across the audience without connecting with anyone in particular.
Remember that the audience wants you to succeed and are willing you along: Even an audience that is hostile to your message does not want to see you give a bad speech or presentation. They don´t want you to fail. Audiences want you to be interesting, stimulating, informative, and entertaining. They are on your side! It is a paradoxical element of human psychology that works to your benefit. Visualize the audience clapping – it will boost your confidence.
Don’t draw attention to your nervousness by talking about it, or wrapping your arms protectively around yourself. This can make things worse. Even if you are not confident, pretend to be.
Don´t apologize. If you mention your nervousness or apologize for any problems you think you have with your speech, you may be calling the audience´s attention to something they hadn´t noticed.
Open your stance and your arms and your audience will relax with your confidence, which will motivate you and make you feel better. Every hand gesture should be a total body movement that starts from the shoulder – never from the elbow. Half-hearted gestures look artificial.
Relax and smile.
For instance, while you wait to give your speech, clench your fists and hold for 3-5 seconds, then release. Notice how releasing your hands relaxes your shoulders and jaw. Repeat three times. Likewise, before the introduction, breathe deeply, inhaling slowly and exhaling completely. Do this three times.
Turn nervousness into positive energy. Harness your nervous energy and transform it into vitality and enthusiasm.
Gain experience and practice. Experience builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking. You’ve never learned how to do anything which is difficult without practice, and speaking is the same way. Practice the experience of speaking by frequently talking in groups or meetings. Practice a speech or presentation several times before you give it: practice with your group, with your friends or family, and in front of the mirror. Practicing often feels awkward, but nothing else will build your skills and confidence. Rehearse out loud with all the equipment you plan on using. Revise as necessary. Work to control filler words. Practice, pause and breathe. Practice with a timer and allow time for the unexpected.
Think about what you liked about your experience and what you could improve on. If possible, record your speech. Review the tape and discover your strengths and weaknesses while speaking.
Communication with external organizations
The ABC of communication with external organizations for volunteering agents
When we study "communication issues", we hear people talking about senders, receivers, messages and communication styles, but sometimes they forget about people.
Actually, it is impossible for people not to communicate. We always communicate something, through voice or silence, through action or inertia. As a matter of fact, communication with external media has a "snowball" effect. When we start rolling the ball, we are aware that we are beginning something, but it is difficult to foresee the consequences.
Our basic aim in communication is to co-operate with others. That is why communication with an external organization is vital for volunteering action and should be based on common interests. We can define external communication as "the process of planning and executing the conception of an activity (product, service, idea ...), finding ways to promote dissemination and creating synergies that satisfy the goals of our NGO and of the recipients of that activity, involving them in the process.
External communication is concerned, therefore, with four complementary aspects:
The idea or action: What do we want to communicate?
The value: how important is this idea for our association and for those to whom it is directed. Why is it important to communicate that idea or action?
The media: how will we spread the information, reach our targeted audience. Which channels and systems are we supposed to use? How did we reach other people?
The exchange: how do we establish the liaison between our audience and the "product" we offer? How can they use it? Are they participants, customers, recipients, beneficiaries? Is it consistent with what we wanted?
When the exchange occurs, external communication takes place.
It is only by opening our NGO to external organizations that we realize what the degree of acceptance of our message is, what the results are and what reactions people have to our idea.
We must tell others what we do have. We need to "sell" our services and offer a certain image. We need to get people involved and increase our partnerships.
There are some aspects that we need to take into account while communicating with external organizations, this includes the following:
- in what context is my NGO active
- what do we tell others
- how do we tell it
- what do we want to achieve with it
- to whom are we talking
- what are they actually retaining
- what are the results of this communicational exchange
- how do we react to those results”
When we analyze all the implications deriving from these issues, communication might become a risk that must be faced. Sometimes we limit our communication to our groups and inadvertently stop growing, probably fearing that things can get "out of hand".
When we open up to communication things start happening ... so it is important that even accepting the risk, we start from a neutral concept of communication, where knowing and understanding our surroundings is the first key.
In order to succeed in our communication with external organizations there are some guidelines that might be useful:
Know your mission, vision and goals. It is the only way in which you can share your message with others. If you are not certain about your priorities and goals, it is very difficult to let other people know what you do. There is a difference between awareness campaign and fundraising. You cannot use "the same song" to spread your activities. Be aware of what you want to communicate. What is the purpose of your communication. In each case, the strategies and methods will be different.
Adapt to your target audience: The goal is to have a clear view of your audience, and you need to develop your strategy from there. You have to make the effort to find a common and simple language to meet their interests, getting them closer to yours. Your basic goal in communication is participation.
Complementarity. If you are interested in communication with other entities, you cannot start from the idea that you are the centre of your community and that others "must" support you, because you may generate more rejection than sympathy. The core idea is that we all have needs, so, state your needs for partnerships and your willingness to collaborate and listen.
Communication should be based on reciprocity. Your entity receives information and requests from external organizations, to which you must answer. This way you make sure that when you ask for dissemination of information you will receive the same treatment. "Leading by example" is a key aspect in establishing positive relations with external media. Therefore, remember to devote time and resources to contact and communicate with others.
Establish collaborative relationships. As a NGO, you probably have already established a relationship with your local media. Building these relationships ahead of time will make it easier for you to get your messages across. You should keep an updated list of news media contacts. Include their full name, news organization, phone numbers, fax number, and email address. This will allow you to make a quick phone call to the news editor at your local newspaper or a program director at your local radio station when the need arises. Human contact is essential: you may send emails and letters, but this is useless unless it is accompanied by personal relationship.
Adapt messages to different media. Information should be delivered differently depending upon the media we use, I.e. radio, press releases or television. We want to reach the maximum number of recipients. Therefore, combine communication messages and strategies (e.g. written, visual, oral, etc.).
Understand the media. The media are going to report what they think is news, not necessarily what you tell them is important. What’s more, part of a journalist’s job is to seek multiple perspectives, sources, and opinions on a news story. Do not expect journalists to do favours for you, such as reporting exactly what you ask them to, even if you have a friendly relationship. Make your NGO´s mission and story newsworthy. Our actions must be “translated” into news to make them appealing to the media.
Respect the media. Treat reporters, editors, media directors and any other organizations with the same respect that you expect from them. Let media representatives know that you want to help them achieve their goal of informing the public. Do not attempt to tell a reporter or editor how to do their job. Do not pay more attention to national or international media than to local media.
Know the news media’s deadlines and provide information for them on time. The 4 o’clock news is going to start at 4 o’clock whether you are ready for an interview or not. And the media are going to report something. So it is critical for your communication support team to be available to respond to reporters´ inquiries in time. You can help journalists and reporters by providing them with background information about your NGO. Communication will proceed more smoothly if much of the information to be transmitted to the media is written and clarified prior to an event.
Responsiveness and be willing to exchange. This is a task for the whole organization, which implies an attitude of permanent availability. If your NGO is open to others, it will be easier to achieve synergies. So, be open-minded. Moreover, make sure that any member of your NGO and your staff have copies of any materials you send out, in order to be able to provide answers if the need arise.
Select information and don’t forget the follow up. Organizing main information must be your priority. You need to separate the unnecessary information from the essential. Go to the point, otherwise people can drown among pages, clippings and recordings.
Again, the criteria for this selection should be closely related to your mission and actions, to the identity of your organisation. Press releases should be no more than one or two pages in length and should provide enough background information to provide context. A press release should clearly state your most important messages first, followed by supporting information.
Send your media advisory or press release to all relevant media by fax or email (or both, to ensure delivery). Identify, in advance, the people to whom you want to send your advisories and press releases. Address faxes and emails to these individuals directly, and ask to speak to them when you follow up. Be prepared to resend your advisory or press release to those who say they have not received it.
Basic use of IT in communication
How to create multipurpose databases for volunteering agents
Email has become an essential tool for many non-profits that need to cut costs when reaching out to donors and supporters. Considering the soaring expense of printed newsletters, and other related materials, email offers a way to communicate effectively while both reducing costs and helping the environment.
In addition to the large initial printing expense, many non-profits lose additional value when their paper materials become outdated and need to be discarded. Email offers the ability to deliver targeted digital newsletters, fundraising appeals, and other updates directly to a supporter´s email inbox. This largely eliminates paper printing costs, material obsolescence, and physical storage issues. But you need a good multipurpose database to reach your communication goals.
In your daily routine you may get in touch with lots of people and good contacts that might be useful for your future activities, so make sure you save and organize all these contacts, since each one of them can be used for different purposes (beneficiaries, policymakers, sponsors, media)!
A "database" can be many different things, but the one used by most of us is an address book (contact list) that includes names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, and other pertinent information about volunteers, beneficiaries, or business contacts.
Microsoft Excel is ideal for creating such a database, even though it is technically a "spreadsheet" program.
Begin by typing headings into the top row, such as First Name, Last Name, and so on. Use File>Save As to name the worksheet and you will be ready to fill in the various data below the headers.
One of the first tips to create an effective database is to gather the name of the people and organisations that you are interested in contacting and, if available, any other information that might be useful in the future.
You can also collect contacts from your website, facebook channel, social networks, blog, forum, emailing lists, newsletter recipients, fundraising events or any other events you have set up. The World Wide Web is also a good source of information even if these data sources usually require further efforts in terms of consolidating the contact, for example by calling and asking for a contact person in order to establish useful synergies. Avoid purchasing blind listings for email addresses, as this might include irrelevant or invalid addresses, Whereas collecting email information at community events and in response to newsletter requests ensures your email correspondence arrives in mailboxes of people interested in your organization. Buying lists of email addresses provides mystery people and a number of abandoned addresses from various vendors.
Your database should be divided into different types of contacts categorized in a Type field, so that you will be able to select only those that are relevant for each purpose.
Make sure you personalise your contacts by adding a contact person and other useful information like their role in the organization, their area of interest as an organization. This is because you might need to check if they have actually received the information or if they are interested in collaborating, and it is always nice to establish this contact by calling people by name.
Make sure you keep this information updated, since the results of your NGO depend on the effectiveness and the validity of your contacts. In this sense it is wise to send newsletters periodically, so we immediately know if contacts are still valid.
Summing up: your database should include the following information:
- First Name
- Last Name
- telephone number (both house and work)
- mobile phone
- zip code
- time availability for contacting/collaborating
- organization (Note: An organization might use a consultant, have more than one physical address, have more than one contact person, will have more than one "type" associated to it.)
- role in the organization
- area of interest
- type of contact (volunteers, media, beneficiary, policymaker, institution, donors, clients, provider, supporters…)
- priority (this is more an internal issue but gives you a ranking of the most effective contacts.)
- Follow Ups (this can be either a yes or no field or an open field)
- consent (whether or not your contact has given informed consent to privacy policies).
At some point you will want to sort (alphabetically) the information, probably by Last Name. Click the alpha character above Last Name to highlight the column. Then click on Data>Sort. You’ll be asked if you want to expand the selection to keep the other columns synchronized. Click Yes, and then choose "My Data Range Has a Header Row."
Moreover, you might want to filter by types, area of interest, state, city or even priority in order to make sure that your filtered database best suits your purpose.
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