I’ll bet the answer is rarely yes. I know… too much business to do … too little time for a meeting that must finish in an hour … too many reports to hear.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The world belongs to the enthusiastic.”
Nothing could be truer in the nonprofit world. Our work brings us in contact with thousands of volunteers, donors and staff members who would describe themselves as enthusiastic about the work of the organization. But sitting around the board table with them or listening to them talk, it would be hard to believe of most of them.
In that case, don’t be surprised if the people listening – like prospective donors – stop listening very early in the conversation. If you don’t communicate passion, commitment and enthusiasm for your work, how can others become excited about what you do?
Let’s think about a few tips to help communicate enthusiasm.
Smile. Sounds simple but I look around a board table and rarely see a smile when anybody is talking. Neither the speaker nor the listeners. A smile animates your face and says you are enjoying the conversation and are excited about what you are discussing. Haven’t you noticed that when you smile, the people you talk to, or even just pass in the street, smile back at you?
Tell stories. You’ve heard this about everything you do. That’s because it’s true. Stories are the greatest communication vehicle in your arsenal – for prospects, current donors, colleagues, board members and volunteers. Everybody.
People listen to stories. They get engaged in them. They relate to them. Who wants to be lectured? You have lots of stories about your work. Be sure to help board members learn them too, by sharing some at each board meeting. I bet they will remember them better than the financial report.
Body language communicates. When talking you communicate as much with your body as your words. Folded arms communicates negatively in many ways. It builds a barrier between people. We may laugh at people who “talk with their hands” but we listen to them better than lecturers who don’t move anything other than their lips.
If you are talking with a group, move around a bit. If you can mingle around the tables it indicates your interest in your audience as people. If you must be at a podium for volume, step aside from time to time. It creates a feeling of closeness without the podium in front of you.
Although it may be dangerous or politically incorrect a friendly touch can build rapport in a heartbeat. Be smart about when and with whom you reach out to touch, but a friendly pat on the arm as you sit with folks can be very heartwarming.
Change your voice. Voice is the most critical tool when talking with others. Duh! But do you vary from soft to loud when you are expressing excitement? A loud voice says excitement and energy. A soft voice always draws attention as people move a bit to be sure they hear you.
Try watching yourself on a video sometime. You’ll be amazed. Even if it’s just your head taken as a selfie on your phone. Do you like what your face communicates? If not, these tips may help.
Your board members can’t be enthusiastic if they are bored. Your behavior can model how to communicate your message. When things get dull, take a one minute break to practice facial expressions … exaggerated ones! At least it will make everybody smile, if not laugh.