nonprofit storyteller

Dos and Don’ts for Sharing Stories On Stage and Online

As fundraising professionals, mastering the art of becoming a nonprofit storyteller and presenting a good message will help move the giving needle at events — in-person and online. Whether you are presenting the story yourself or have enlisted a guest speaker, it is important you both feel confident and prepared. A story told well could mean the difference of thousands of dollars. 

Many feel faint at the thought of having to get on a big stage or in front of a Board of Directors to share a story, but knowing the following DO’s and DONT’S can help you or others in your organization feel more confident when presenting one. I encourage you to read these tips and share them with anyone you may ask to share at your next event or webinar so that both of you feel more prepared.

DO: BE AUTHENTIC  

When you are in front of an audience, they want to hear from a human being. People don’t want to hear messages from stiff robots regurgitating words or over-excitable actors that come across as phony and over-the-top; they want to hear from someone they can relate to and someone they can get to know. Your audience craves authenticity. 

When telling a story in person, online, or on a stage, it is important to appear confident and genuine. This is where the notion of having a conversation with your audience instead of framing it as a performance can really come in handy. 

Remember to use:

– good eye-contact

– basic hand motions when necessary 

– grand hand motions when appropriate 

– good posture as you deliver your story

Try not to pace back and forth and avoid gluing your hands to your sides as you would probably not normally do these things in a real-life interaction. 

Additionally, remember to speak loudly and clearly. Whether on stage or during a webinar, make sure to ask the audience if they can hear you. No really, straight up ask them. This is a good way to establish two-way communication from the get go. Ultimately, remember communication is also about body language and not just the words being said.

DON’T: SKIP PRACTICE 

One mistake to avoid when delivering a presentation is not practicing ahead of time. Make sure to do a practice run beforehand so the speaker feels prepared in the setting that they will be presenting in. Sound checks and tech checks can help ease some of the anxiety ahead of time.

The presentation of a story should feel natural but it is important not to walk on the stage unprepared and rambling. The story needs a structure, but shouldn’t feel like reciting the poem you had to memorize in the sixth grade. Practice, practice, practice but give the speaker permission to be themselves. If things aren’t said EXACTLY as they were written, it’s okay, the audience will never know. However, plenty of practice will help ensure the key points are made.

DO: SHOW

A good story isn’t told, it’s shown. 

When it comes to delivering a story in person, on a stage, on a webinar, or anywhere someone can physically see you is to use your body to demonstrate the story.

Don’t put pressure on yourself to be over the top “Hollywood” with your acting and entertaining, but you should use your hands to show yourself “pushing a grocery cart” or “picking up legos” or “praying.” You can also show relatable pictures to help paint the picture for your audience and bring your point home.

Brainstorm how you can include “visuals” for your audience will make them more likely to actually watch you instead of:

– Stare at their phone

– Pick their fingernails

– Check the clock

– Pull lint off their clothes

– Open their Facebook

You see where I’m going? Make the story interactive.

DO: TIME THE TALK

A good story should be about 3-5 minutes. Giving the speaker a time-frame to work with will limit rambling and keep the audience’s attention. Make sure to time the story ahead of time. Additionally, don’t rush through the story. If time allows, it is okay to pause for effect. It is actually a great way to emphasize certain points. You can also repeat certain statements to make sure they stick. Rushing through a story is a sure sign of stage fright.

PRO TIP: If you struggle with stage-fright, try to reframe it. Butterflies, shaky hands, and a little pit-sweat are all signs of excitement as well as nerves. Tell yourself you are excited and passionate about the message and story you are delivering instead of afraid. 

DON’T: ASSUME

Don’t make the mistake of assuming your audience will get the point you are trying to make from your story. Be explicit in the moral or lesson of the story. A great method for being sure you drive your point home is the sandwich-method of storytelling. This three-step approach will help your point land with the audience. 

  1. Introduce the concept or belief you are communicating through your message to the audience. 
  2. Tell a story that supports the concept.
  3. Restate the concept or belief you want your audience to grasp.

After you have driven home the point, give them a very specific call to action. Decide ahead of time exactly what action you want them to take and then present them with the opportunity. 

How have you gained confidence as a nonprofit storyteller?

Madison Gonzalez

Madison Gonzalez

Community Involvement and Events Manager at Morning Light, Inc.
Madison Gonzalez is a National Public Speaker, Storyteller of the Year Award-Winner, Best-Selling Author of Dear Mirror, Events Manager, and Published Poet. As a non-profit storytelling coach and consultant, it is her mission to empower others to share their stories for impact and income. She can be reached at madison@toldcoaching.com.
Madison Gonzalez