WHAT IS SPEAKING AT THE LARGEST CONFERENCE FOR FUNDRAISERS IN EUROPE REALLY LIKE?

by Susan Booth

The Institute of Fundraising’s National Convention is the largest fundraising conference in Europe and the biggest outside the US, regularly attracting over 2,500 attendees. It’s been a dream of mine to speak there for many years. But for a long time, I thought I didn’t have anything to say. Turns out I was wrong.

AM I REALLY GOOD ENOUGH?

I have had lots of experience of public speaking. From media interviews to golf days to black tie galas, I have no fear of getting up in front of people and talking. But I’ve always had a bit of impostor syndrome about speaking somewhere as prestigious as the National Convention, thinking I didn’t have a big enough project to speak about or didn’t have that undefinable “guru” factor. In addition to that, the charity I work for is quite small and new compared to some of the organisations represented at the National Convention. Target Ovarian Cancer was founded eleven years ago and we turnover just over £2.5million a year.

But we are an organisation with huge ambitions – our vision is to double ovarian cancer survival by 2050.

INSPIRED BY WOMEN WITH CANCER

Last year I had the privilege of working on Target Ovarian Cancer’s first-ever integrated campaign. “It’s time to TAKE OVAR” centred on women with ovarian cancer, researchers and GPs – making them more visible and giving them space to have their voices heard. Every image and came quote came from someone the charity has a direct relationship with. It helped me to see the importance of women taking up space, asserting themselves, being heard, and ultimately using their voice to help change the future for others. It was the obvious choice for us to present on…especially as it achieved such great results.

IT WAS A GAME-CHANGER

The campaign has been a game-changer for Target Ovarian Cancer, bringing in thousands of engaged new supporters. GDPR came in halfway through the campaign and since then we’ve more than doubled the number of people we can contact. The campaign has unlocked hundreds of thousands in pro bono support, and we’ve seen a 30 per cent increase in our digital reach.

SHAKING OFF IMPOSTOR SYNDROME

So, this year I really felt I had a reason to take over the stage – I’m really proud of the “TAKE OVAR” campaign and everything it’s doing to change the future for women with ovarian cancer. But really I should have felt that all along. That’s part of what impostor syndrome does. Shaking it off means becoming more self-assured, more confident in your assertions and in the work you’re doing. I want to encourage all women and non-binary people who may be thinking, as I did, that they have nothing to share. You do. Here are some of my tales of preparing for this speech to help you stage your own “TAKE OVAR”.

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

My colleague, Alexandra Holden, co-presented with me. We supported each other through the whole process. Having another woman and incredible charity leader alongside me gave me the boost I needed.

PREPARATION IS KEY

We spent days preparing the slides, organising our thinking and practising our delivery. Preparation is key – it will help keep your nerves under control. People notice if you haven’t practised, and it made me feel more confident too. We were lucky to be offered some speaker training with the Tony Elischer Foundation, and followed that up by practising in front of members of our teams to get their feedback.

KEEPING NERVES UNDER CONTROL

I barely slept the night before and on the day struggled to concentrate before our session. We had 45 minutes to present and answer questions, so our script was prepped and ready to go in large font so we could refer to it easily. We also made sure to visit the room before our session – things felt more comfortable once we knew the lay of the land.

WHAT IT’S ACTUALLY LIKE ON STAGE

All the things you think you’ll be conscious of, you’re really not, when you get going. Although we had the notes in front of us I hardly read them. This gave me time to focus on my breathing, body language and intonation. I tried to stand tall with my shoulders back and I caught the eyes of people as I was speaking. Having practised, I knew it didn’t matter if I lost my place in the notes, because I knew by heart where I would be on the page. Everyone in the room looked interested and there were faces I recognised, which definitely helped.

ENDING ON A HIGH NOTE

After we had done a final Q&A session, plenty of people came over for a chat, which was a huge boost. We’ve been asked to speak again by other organisations and we had the most amazing feedback on social media. But my favourite moment was the enthusiastic Convention Volunteer who came to say ours was by far the best presentation they had seen.

BREATHE IT ALL IN

The chance to celebrate and share successes, learning and knowledge whilst practising your presentation skills is important for our core motivation and personal development. When I looked at all the tweets of photos of our presentation I felt proud of what we had achieved, and that all the energy that went into the TAKE OVAR campaign is now having a ripple effect, inspiring other fundraisers to raise more for the causes they’re passionate about. It’s also given us a new network of contacts, leading to new conversations and new inspiration.

Speaking in public is a time to grow your personal brand, talk about something you know and love, and share what motivates you with your peers. Remember everyone in the room will be willing you on. It’s your time to stand up, TAKE OVAR and be heard.

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Susan Booth is the director of development at Target Ovarian Cancer. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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