“You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.”– John Ford
What better message of the heart than that of a cause? And what better way to spread and deliver the message of a cause than public speaking?
Public speaking may not be a skill one would consider a necessary part of their repertoire to be a volunteer. That is partly right. Volunteering does not require a particular skill set. It is about applying your own unique abilities and doing what you can, anywhere you want to help. That said, there are a few blanket skills that will greatly assist your volunteering efforts, as well as various other aspects of your life. Public speaking is one of them.
Raise a toast to public speaking
I am an avid volunteer, and an avid Toastmaster. What sounds incompatible (one focused on giving back to others and the other towards personal and professional development) was in fact a perfect formula for my life.
Toastmasters International is an international educational organisation that operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of promoting communication, public speaking, and leadership. Members across the globe can work on developing these skills through specific projects and pathways, and network among a global fraternity.
In Pathways, a series of projects a member must complete to achieve mastery, Toastmasters offers an elective project to its members called ‘Leading in your Volunteer Organisation‘, in which they volunteer in a leadership capacity at a volunteer organisation for 6 months. I chose to undertake this project, and it changed my life. As a Toastmaster, I realised I was bringing to the table a specific set of skills not everyone else was bringing in terms of public speaking, leadership, and organisational capacity.
“The more you can think of your job as making it possible for others to succeed, the more successful you’ll be as a leader of volunteers.”– Toastmaster Shar McBee
Leading a volunteer team enabled me to use my individual strengths, which developed and evolved through Toastmasters, in a meaningful way, particularly as I value communication and encouragement above anything else. Contributing to the organisation (which is focused on mental health, and needs a wide array of highly-trained volunteers) as a trainer was also a unique way I could effectively offer my support. In the short span of a few months, I became the friendly face and supporter of the team. If anyone came inquiring, due to my prowess and confidence with speaking and pitching the organisation to people, I was the one giving constructive and precise answers with a smile.
Aside from teaching me a lot about public speaking, communication, leadership, and bestowing on me a lifelong passion for volunteering, the experience also taught me a valuable lesson in what a Toastmaster (and a public speaker) can do wherever they go.
Volunteering can help public speaking…
Many people may only realise once they become involved in a cause as a volunteer that it is a great place to build skills. For example, I learned digital marketing, report writing, blogging, event management, and even some basic design through volunteering, which would be costly to learn through professional courses.
“Public speaking is the ability to communicate clearly and effectively in front of both familiar and unfamiliar people.”– Milena Sapey
Similarly, communication, leadership, and public speaking skills are a natural product of active volunteering. Regardless of what your specific role is, chances are you will be required to speak and coordinate with a team, lead others in certain aspects, convey your message effectively, and educate others about your cause/organisation. The ability to articulate the cause and educate others is important because as soon as you start volunteering at a certain organisation, your friends and acquaintances will peg you as the resource person to learn about the place, and you will be asked!
Whether it is your plan or not, you will finish your volunteer term as a much better speaker, ambassador and leader than when you started.
…and public speaking can help volunteering
If you have already honed your public speaking skills, these attributes can be a massive aid to your volunteering and will allow you to make a great impact for your chosen organisation or movement. A skilled public speaker and communicator is always needed and appreciated.
Leaders and ambassadors are always welcome, as is a good pep talk
A public speaker’s skills are not limited to the stage. Rather, they are useful in day-to-day life communicating, leading, supporting and guiding. Skilled speakers and communicators are valuable assets to volunteer teams, especially for smaller organisations that frequently function without qualified team leaders. Not to mention, if you work for a taxing cause which drains your energy at times, a meaningful and well spoken pep talk among teammates is always a plus. The ability to connect and move others with words is a powerful tool.
Speak for the cause
As a public speaker, you will be able to translate thoughts and ideas into words in an articulate and captivating manner, enabling you to get your organisation’s point across in a way that counts. This comes in handy for tasks such as fundraising, sponsor hunting, and stakeholder interest, as you can use your skills to capture the attention of others and gain supporters and workers for your cause. This can also help you to build partnerships and long term collaborations on behalf of your movement.
Help out as a trainer/facilitator
Every organisation, volunteer or otherwise, works under set standards and policies in order to make tasks easier and ensure successful management of the operation. This means that when new volunteers join an organisation, they need training on where to go, what to do, and who to talk to. Each organisation may have different codes of ethics, rules, volunteer hours, etc, in addition to more specific role briefings depending on the work.
For example, I formerly volunteered at an organisation primarily working in the mental health space. As this is a sensitive and often difficult environment, new volunteers must undergo intensive training before jumping into operations. To teach those, the organisation needs proficient trainers and facilitators.
Finding a competent trainer with the requisite interpersonal and communication skills can be difficult for a volunteer organisation. These kinds of people are always in demand. If you are a good public speaker, you can apply your expertise to conduct effective training and onboarding for your organisation.
Network and promote your cause to the right circles
As a public speaker, networking and relationship-building would come naturally to you. This is very important for a volunteer organisation as many organisations and causes can struggle to promote themselves – they often do not have the time with all the ground-level work they do.
For example, in Sri Lanka where I live, a lot of the smaller (and some of the bigger) organisations do not have the connections or networks to promote themselves, and their existing volunteers are too busy with routine tasks to focus on social media. While international organisations such as Students For Liberty have an established online presence, local organisations like Child Action Lanka have less resources and capacity to spread awareness, and promote volunteer opportunities and their organisation.
Therefore, any networking to partners, investors, or even fellow networkers is invaluable.
Volunteer as a public speaker
There are also many groups that call specifically for volunteer speakers and cause ambassadors. These are generally organisations and roles that focus on conducting workshops, spreading awareness on certain topics, or teaching. Skills such as speaking in front of an audience, interacting with others, elevator pitching, presentations, and explaining are all utilised in these roles. These competencies are already in a public speaker’s repertoire.
There is even demand for individuals who can pass on their expert public speaking knowledge to others who need it and will benefit greatly from such training. Studies have shown that communication plays a vital role in fostering participation and collaboration for effective community development.
If you want to specifically make use of your skills as a speaker, consider taking up a distinct speaking role.
There will always be a place for public speakers
Being a volunteer means many things – a humanitarian, a multi-tasker, a hard worker, and an effective communicator. The latter is where public speaking comes in. As a public speaker your skills are invaluable for a volunteer network and team, and you can utilise your potential in countless ways. Never underestimate the power of words or the output of an effective speaker and ambassador. In a volunteering space, where the hours can be long, the work may be taxing, teams are from all over the place, and broader community support is crucial, words really matter.
IVolunteer International is a 501(c)3 tech-nonprofit registered in the United States with operations worldwide. Using a location-based mobile application, we mobilize volunteers to take action in their local communities. Our vision is creating 7-billion volunteers. We are an internationally recognized nonprofit organization and is also a Civil Society Associated with the United Nations Department of Global Communications. Visit our profiles on Guidestar, Greatnonprofits, and FastForward.