You’ve probably heard that many people fear speaking in public more than almost anything else. But it doesn’t have to be that way – and as a Scouter, you are in a perfect position to learn how to ease that fear.
I had never spoken to large groups very much until I became a Cubmaster. I had given presentations at work and before my professional society, but I wasn’t completely comfortable doing it. Now, I had to entertain the boys and keep their parents informed – and you know what? It was actually fun! Scouting was something I believed in, and could see the value of in my own kids, so it became second-nature to lead the group. I put that new-found comfort to use as a trainer and was just as much at ease relating to new leaders as I was to a room full of grade-school boys.
We’re into our recruiting drives now, and you’re finding that you are speaking to groups of parents eager to hear how the Scouting program will benefit their sons. With a little planning and practice, you can deliver an effective message that will not only convey the facts, but inspire the parents and their boys to join the movement and make it their own.
How do you deliver an effective talk and be comfortable doing it? Communication professionals Stephanie Scotti and Sharon McMillen Cannon say that there are three roles that a speaker can take – that of an expert, a catalyst and an interpreter. Most often we fall into the first two categories when we’re selling the Scouting program. Here is some of their advice as it pertains to us:
- Know the program. You are an expert on Scouting in the eyes of new parents. Use your knowledge of Scouting to convey the excitement for the boys and the value of the values to the parents. But be sure of your expertise. Don’t rely on things you’ve heard second- or third-hand. Instead, base your talk on the facts as contained in the program and handbooks.
- Be organized. Know what you’re going to say before you say it. In fact, prepare a written script and rehearse it a few times, but try to write it so that you can recall most of it from memory without having to read it. Nobody wants to hear you read something – they’d much rather hear you speak. Go through your material and ask if everything you think you have to say is worth saying. Don’t duplicate routine information that’s available elsewhere, like the unit’s calendar. Boil down your presentation to one simple sentence and try to have everything else relate back to that one sentence.
- Avoid jargon. Remember, these people are probably brand-new to Scouting. They don’t know anything about it. Don’t assume that they even know what a den is or what a pack meeting is for. Explain things in simple terms that anyone can understand.
- Be driven by your passion for Scouting. You have the facts, but you also have personal experience and a feeling about the program. Share your passion and your energy with the new parents. Help them visualize through your words what their son’s future in Scouting will do for him.
- Express yourself. Use lively body language, Tell personal stories that amplify your pitch. Move around the room and try to make eye contact with everybody, one at a time. Put some passion in your voice. You don’t have to be an evangelist preacher – just say it like you mean it.
A word about visual aids: I don’t like them. I find trying to listen to someone speak while they’re showing a slide full of text to be distracting. Slides are often poorly done, and speakers have a tendency to read what’s being shown, which cannot convey the message the same way. You can’t captivate an audience while they’re staring at a bunch of writing on a screen. Let your words and body language tell the story. You can provide printed information later. Don’t give the audience an easy excuse to not listen to you.
Speaking to a group of parents, or in front of a pack, isn’t difficult if you have the passion and the knowledge. Condense your message and deliver it with sincerity. You’ll be surprised with the results, and you’ll find your confidence rising each time you do.
Photo from May 2009 Scouting Magazine