How to Get The Speaker Presentation You Want

Speaker Guidelines for Your Charity Auction

I’ve been an auctioneer for 25 years and I’ve been involved with thousands of charity auctions and witnesses many amazing speaker presentations that were likely responsible for increasing revenue by thousands upon thousands of dollars. A properly worded talk can inspire supporters to engage with all the profit making activities and even become involved in future events as sponsors, volunteers, board members and activists. I’ve also witnessed some talks that are neither inspiring or worthy of the organization’s message and need. In fact, the wrong speaker with a poorly thought out or self-serving speech can damage an event and hurt attendance for future fund-raising functions.  

Self-Interest Always Rules.

What I mean by this is that every human in the room is wired to think about themselves and how every action affects them first.

The Only Message That Matters is the One the Organizer Wants Emphasized

Enough said.

Know the audiences sensitivities

It is rare the person who will overlook a speaker’s offense so it’s better to avoid any topic that might trigger a WTF reaction. Notice how you reacted to WTF. WTF doesn’t bother me but now that I’ve written it three times you might think I’ve over stated the point. It would have been better if I had used a OMG or nothing at all when trying to make my point. Better to just make the point. And it’s this. Religion and politics and vulgarity rarely are welcome topics at a charity auction even if the belief is that the room is filled with similar beings. You might see all Democrats, Catholics and heterosexuals but I can just about guarantee that the guest list includes Republicans, Socialists, Mormans, Atheists and a range of gender identities. Planners invite people from all persuasions and they want those people to feel welcome.  It’s the speaker’s job to make people connect guests with the cause and inspire support for that cause.

Know the Power of Your Influence

Speakers are chosen because of their ability as in great oratory or because of their connection to the cause and message. The belief is that because of their talk the organization will raise more money. Anything they say or do that takes the minds of the guests off topic likely reduces revenue. The speaker that draws the room together and recognizes their generosity will stir emotions and cause greater commitment.

Never Stray From the Planner’s Vision

All speaker presentations serve a purpose. Long before they take the stage the Executive Director, Development Officer and possibly the Board of Directors have hashed out what they want the message and motivation to be. Going off topic and off script rarely is a good idea. For that reason all speeches should be written down and approved in advance by the planner. I’m a big believer in reading speeches.

Stick to the Timeline and Get Off the Stage

The best speech is the short speech. Rarely have I seen any benefit to speaking off the cuff or passing the microphone off to someone in the audience to add their two cents. If the speaker wants to use the technique of asking people to stand for different reasons, that time needs to be included as part of the speech.

Silencing The Audience

The best way to silence a charity auction audience is with a supporting slide that says something like, “May we have your silence as we welcome our Board President April Brown to the stage”. Prepare a slide for every speaker and Segway. Audiences appear rude because they are having a great time and it’s difficult to stop a conversation. Remember self-interest rules. A carefully planned event that includes socializing, alcohol, good food, music and fun, naturally causes guests to talk out of turn and loudly. Trying to get them under control for long periods is futile. Better to grab their attention in spurts and use slides and marketing materials to fill in the information they tune out.

I suggest that all of my clients share this to anyone who will be speaking from the stage. This includes the Priest, the President and the Profit.  I will meet with all the speakers before the event starts to add extra emphasis to the importance of their role in helping us raise more money than they ever dreamed possible.