Telling the inspiring story of volunteering

Recently I presented at a conference on a volunteering program I manage. The presentation took out an award for innovative practice. The presentation was up against several other presentations on innovative practice in a hospital setting. It was, I noted, the only presentation on volunteers during the entire conference.

I still get nervous before presenting. It’s the same with my stage work. Sometimes I feel physically sick before walking out on stage. Once I am out there though the nerves settle. I feed off the audience. If for example I am in a stage comedy and there is no laughter after the first gag or joke and only a cough and the sound of a pin dropping then I know the night can be a struggle!

In some ways, the role of volunteer manager calls on us to be presenters. There is so much presenting we can be involved in. We present when we hold training and orientation for volunteers. We Present when we are talking to other managers about our roles. We present when we educate up about our roles and about volunteer services to our executive or our boards. We present at community forums and groups when recruiting for volunteers. In short there can be a lot of public speaking going on.

Back to the conference I was on. I was especially nervous as this was the first time I was presenting in front of a large audience outside of my workplace and outside of my volunteering and volunteer management sector. The winning presentations were voted on by the audience.

This was good I thought to my self as I sat at my table looking at the delegates throughout the room. Here were Managers, Directors and CEOs. Here was my chance to share the wonderful work of my team and here was a chance to talk up the potential and benefits of volunteering. I was sharing a room with many people of influence and I wasn’t going to miss my chance!

Such thinking of course only made me more nervous. I sat there, sweaty palms, hand shaking to get the glass of cold water to reach my lips and all the while my heart beating a little faster than usual.

Then the speaker before me was introduced to the stage. The facilitator introduced her with a glowing bio including “has completed a Diploma of Presentation Skills”.

Great! Just great! The speaker just before me too! And she was excellent of course.

Then I toddled up to the podium after my introduction. I looked at the audience. They looked back. In the distance a dog barked. Ok I made that bit up. I took a deep breath. With my deadpan face I started -

“ Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank the organisers of todays event for placing me after the speaker who has just completed a diploma of Presentation skills. Thank you. That is great”

Well the laughter that rolled across the room was wonderful. My nerves settled, the palms decided to dry up a little and the heartbeat decided that it wasn’t going to run a marathon after all today.

When the laughter died down I continued “Today I am going to tell you a story about an inspiring group of people doing innovative things. These are our volunteers…” and the rest as they say is history.

I encourage all of you reading to share the story of the volunteers that you work with. Volunteer managers can be story tellers. Telling the stories of individuals and groups. While we do this well at our national conferences or volunteer get togethers we can and should tell the story to wider audiences.

Because I believe that Volunteers Matter. And I believe in telling the volunteering story. It inspires me daily. It will inspire others too in a world that needs its inspirational stories!


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