Being natural will win your audience

publication date: May 10, 2013
author/source: Cathy Sobocan

Funny to imagine we’d be anything but natural in front of an audience! But there’s a perception out there that we have to add smoke and mirrors in order to give a great presentation.

The truth is that people are interested in people. They’re interested in what happens to people, how they feel about people, and what they can do to show they care. This is especially important to keep in mind as fundraisers. 

Recently I conducted a workshop in Toronto on how to engage with the audience. When the participants practised in front of the group, one of them kept looking down at the ground as she spoke. She argued that if she dropped her eyes to the ground occasionally the audience would be forced to look at her. In fact, it had the opposite effect. It looked like she momentarily left the audience or forgot what she wanted to say. 

Engage with your audience.

Think of the exchange that takes place when you let a guest into your home. It starts with a hello, some smiles, and maybe even a hug. Welcome your audience with the same warmth and enthusiasm. Tell them you’re genuinely happy to be there and appreciative of their attendance. Let them see you’re a real person. If you’re nervous, it’s okay to tell them. It shows you’re human after all. 

Some practice tips

  1. Start observing yourself. Are you speaking at the audience, or are you inviting them in as you speak? If you're speaking at them it will feel a little forced. Being natural means you’re giving and receiving.
  2. Practice your talk going “over the top” as you say it. It will likely feel forced. Then try the opposite. Speak passively. It will probably feel held back.  Now say it with clarity and purpose. That should feel natural and energetic.
  3. Put your hand on your heart as you practice. Speak from the spot under your hand with positive energy.
  4. Who are some speakers you like? And why do you like them? Watch them on YouTube and

The author, Cathy Sobocan, will speak on The Art of Public Speaking for Fundraisers at AFP Toronto’s Fundraising Day.

Cathy Sobocan brings over 20 years of radio and television broadcasting and teaching experience to her work as a public speaking and presentation skills coach.  With graduate degrees in journalism and voice teaching, she trained in the theatre department at York University, the Stratford Festival, and Second City, among others. She’s a part-time announcer on JAZZ FM Radio in Toronto and owner of Raise Your Voice Coaching.

Cathy has coached CEOs, actors, Olympic athletes, speakers, and people who simply want to improve their voices.  She’s proud to be the voice coach of the TEDx conference in Toronto. Contact her at 416-388-1165, by email, or through

Like this article?  Join our mailing list for more great information!

Copyright © 2011-Current, The Hilborn Group Ltd. All rights reserved.

Free Fundraising Newsletter
Join Our Mailing List