Agenda item 10: Create a board/organizational speakers bureau.
As we push our boards to increase their advocacy for the missions and nonprofits they serve in the generative leadership agenda that I am outlining this year, we must deal with one important reality: not everyone will feel comfortable taking on more public forms of ambassadorship.
Today's agenda item is an attempt to increase both the board's role in outreach and your success in sharing your story with others: create, train and support an agency speakers bureau featuring board members, staff and volunteers.
A speakers bureau is a team of individuals who make themselves available to deliver presentations to groups interested in hearing more about your mission and your organization. They are specifically identified and prepared for the task at hand. They are your "A-Team" when it comes to public outreach. They also require a different level of training and support to ensure their success in making your case.
To set up a speakers bureau - and identify board members who are willing to play a role - you need to do the following:
- Identify its purpose - what specific role the bureau will play in your public outreach plan
- Identify the types of presentations they may be called upon to make - will there be general purpose "this who we are/what we do" talks? More detail about programs and (general) clients served? This will shape both the content that needs to be prepared and the approach to selecting presenters (for example, could a solo board member present some types of presentations alone, while presenting as a team with a staff member for others?).
- Identify the content that can be prepared and shared (and, by extension, researched and learned more deeply by bureau members) to provide the foundation for the core presentation types they will be making.
- Create the essential resources needed to build polished presentations and help speakers feel confident and prepared (e.g., presentation templates, brochures and other collateral materials to leave behind, speaker handbooks that provide details at their fingertips).
- Offer ample training and practice opportunities to bureau volunteers. They need clear expectations, a wide range of information to build their knowledge base (even deeper than they may get in their respective roles in the organization, especially board members), understanding of how to use the tools you are providing them, and practice to build their skills and confidence.
Some of us are strong public speakers who will excel when presenting our organizations' stories in a group setting. Some of us can make a compelling case but need just a bit more support - and confidence in our ability to do so - to accept our ambassador role fully. Some are great at speaking one on one with policymakers, friends and donors and want to expand their contributions to outreach efforts; but they need help - and perhaps a partner - to step out in a more public setting.
A speakers bureau can be one way to support each of these board members as they build their advocacy muscles and expand your visibility in your community.