Shameless Pitches

I recently attended a conference where the last general session was billed out as a compilation of the best fundraising ideas of the year. This was the session “not to be missed!” Now, you know how you get that groggy, if-I-have-to-put-on-my-smiley-face-one-more-time feeling at the tail end of a conference? Well, I powered through that. I got myself geared up and ready to be inspired.

Total disappointment. Instead of “15 Great Ideas” I got to sit through 15 shameless pitches. Then it got me thinking. Ironically, the big idea I took away from this session was more of a things not to do list.

Here we go:

10 Things Not To Do When Speaking at a Conference

1. Don’t Sell
How annoying is it to pay to go to a conference to learn new things and then have to sit through a series of capabilities presentations? People aren’t stupid. Focus on what you can give away, not what you can take away.

2. Don’t Forget the Passion
I had a college professor that said 80% of what we communicate is emotion and 20% is information. If you get bogged down trying to get in all the right points, you often miss the point.

3. Don’t Read From A Piece of Paper
Preparation is good, but the best presentations I’ve experienced always have a hint of improv. Remember, your audience is what is most important, not your own personal agenda.

4. Don’t Do Bullets on PowerPoint
I swear, PowerPoint has made us all dumber presenters. No one wants to read bullet points on a screen—no one.

5. Don’t Forget to Make Sure the Presentation Makes Sense to Someone Other Than You
I’ve added this one specifically because there was one presentation I saw that was so unbelievably out there, everyone was checking their coffee to make sure they weren’t dosed with something.

6. Don’t Try to Be Too Cute
Creativity is great, but content is king. Don’t try to trump clarity with persuasion.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Make it Interactive
Give the audience a chance to engage and be part of the presentation. Let them stop you, ask questions, raise concerns, and help to drive the agenda. A dialogue is always more interesting than a monologue.

8. Don’t Be Afraid to Inspire People
What has happened to vision? Give people something big to believe in and then show them how they can achieve it. Challenge them to apply what you’ve taught them.

9. Don’t Tell Me Turn to The Person Sitting Next To Me and Have to Say Something Stupid
Really? How old are we?

10. Don’t Forget About The Cynical Blogger in the Crowd
The wrong message, to the wrong person, at the wrong time can be devastating. Check out the blog post I wrote about this topic: The Wrong Message, to the Wrong Person, at the Wrong Time (notice the utter hypocrisy here…shameless, huh?)


  1. Amen, Tim! Good stuff...

  2. I have a presentation next Thursday, what an awesome primer you have presented us with here! My future audience is grateful to you, as am I.