The two best pieces of advice you can give to a speaker preparing for a nonprofit fundraising banquet are…

I mentioned in my previous post that I was in SoCal emceeing a banquet for With This Ring last week. While there, I heard the best banquet speaker I’ve yet heard, Stan Patyrak from Living Water International.

I wish I had taped his five minute message (isn’t that why I paid $79 for that Flip Camera for anyway?), but there’s a clip of Stan on YouTube that will give you an idea of the brother’s content and cadence.

Learn two things from Stan:

1. The most powerful part of a speaker’s presentation are the pauses.

When you review a speech ahead of time with the speaker, don’t, um, just review the speech. Help them mark it up to note where they need to pause. Pausing electrifies a room. Stan does it less on the YouTube audio, but at the With This Ring banquet, people were hanging on his every pause…not his every word.

In the words of Sam Harrison, author of ideaselling (thanks for the link, Joanne Fritz of!):

A few years ago, Edward Norton and four other actors participated in a discussion at the Directors Guild in Manhattan. The panel quickly adopted a rotation, with each actor commenting on film-related topics. When Norton’s turn, he would always pause before speaking. The audience awaited his words. Norton’s comments were no more profound than those of fellow panelists, but the pauses positioned him as the group’s sage. For your next pitch, pause before starting. Lock eyes with audience members. Build anticipation. Capture their complete attention–then begin.

And, banquet emcees, this sure beats you saying, “Alright…everybody…we’re gonna start now…if I can just get your attention, please…gonna start now…and, uh…everybody?”

2. Focus your speech on the cause, not the organization

Almost every banquet speech I’ve ever heard ends up being a paean to the organization hosting the banquet, e.g., “And that’s what’s so great about With This Ring”. In contrast, listen to Stan’s YouTube remarks. Note how delightfully little he talks about the organization he represents, Living Water International.

“Living Water,” says Stan, “is just a small part of this bigger thing called the Gospel.” But the main thing I want to talk about, Stan continues, is the question, “Why are people poor?”

Which topic, do you suppose, answers a question Stan’s listeners are asking on an ongoing basis?

  1. What is Living Water International and why are they so wonderful?
  2. Why are people poor?

Fascinatingly, I’ve only ever encountered Stan speaking at other organizations’ banquets. Brother doesn’t focus on promoting Living Water.

What banquet could you be at–what banquet should you be at–to promote the cause of which your organization is “just a small part of this bigger thing called the Gospel”?

Maybe you should call up the nonprofit that does almost exactly the same thing you do and offer to speak at their banquet [editor’s note: not about your organization, ya nut] or record a testimonial about their impact.

When you do, don’t forget to pause.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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