Former president Bill Clinton has acquired the title of “Explainer-in-Chief” recently, for his talks and speeches clarifying the current administration’s actions and policies. Mr. Clinton has the ability to relate complex subjects in a manner that can speak to a large audience.
Regardless of how you may personally feel about Mr. Clinton and his messages, there is much to take away from his style of presentation.
In reading an item on Mr. Clinton by executive coach Scott Eblin recently, I thought about how the former president’s manner of speaking could be applied to more effective Friends of Scouting presentations. As a member of our district’s FOS Presentation team, I’m always looking for new ways to present an uncomfortable topic – asking for money – to parents of Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, most of whom have neither a deep understanding of why they’re being asked for money, nor the inclination to give.
Here are some of Mr. Clinton’s tactics, as outlined by Eblin, and ways to apply them if you too are an FOS presenter:
- Know your stuff. As an FOS presenter, you should have a basic knowledge of your council’s operations, the reasons behind the need for financial support and where that money goes. Read the FOS brochure so you can explain it properly. Be ready with answers on how much people give, what the council’s current needs are, the payment and billing options, and some recent council success stories funded by FOS donations.
- Talk to individuals. Don’t give a lecture or speak in broad gestures to “the room.” Instead, try to make your pitch resonate with people as individuals. Get away from the lectern and walk around. Take a second or two to look at and acknowledge every person in the audience if you can. Make them turn their heads to follow you, and they’ll follow your message too. Tom Peters is a master of this approach; check out some of his online videos if you’d like to see how he does it.
- Tell stories. A story about how you or your son benefited from Scouting, about how a Scout from your troop accomplished something significant that he couldn’t have done otherwise, or a life saved by a Scout who was just doing what Scouts do can help solidify the value of the program to parents who might otherwise think Scouting is just another club for their child to join.
- Be optimistic. Don’t go into your pitch doubtful of the outcome. Honestly and firmly believe that you will get a pledge from everyone in the room and it has a great chance of happening. One presenter I know sets aside some of his time to allow people to fill out their pledge cards before concluding his presentation.
- Boil it down. A rambling pitch can fail, but one that’s succinct and directly asks for action is the most successful. In a few words, tell what great things can happen for their son through Scouting, that it can’t happen without funding, and now it’s their turn to show what Scouting means to them. Ask for what you want them to do; otherwise they’ll think it’s OK to walk away.
Doing Friends of Scouting presentations is one of my favorite Scouting activities even though I don’t particularly enjoy asking for money. It’s because I try to enjoy visiting with each unit and its leaders, use it as an opportunity to spread the word about the program and its benefits, and invite others to join in.
These techniques are not limited to FOS presentations, of course. They can be used any time you’re talking to a group, whether it’s a recruiting pitch, a training session or a new-parent talk. Try to work some of these techniques into your next presentation and you’ll be pleased with the results.
University of Scouting: You’re invited to join my class for troop committee chairs at the Southeastern Michigan University of Scouting on Saturday, January 31. It’s just $32 for a full day of classes on dozens of different topics. Lunch is included and there’s a vendor midway. For registration information and schedule details, visit the GLFSC UOS event information page.
Photo: Mr. Lightman / freedigitalphotos.net