So I’m working with a few young guys and girls and encouraging them to pursue speaking in public, mostly in a ministry setting. I wish I had one really good book to hand to them, but I have a library, so I’m trying to condense my thoughts and share them here. This is a list of 3things I wish someone had shared with me when I was younger and just starting to speak in public. I believe it would have helped me find my own speaking voice a lot sooner.
- Don’t assume everyone in the audience is just like you. Our tendency is to think that everyone else also has our secret struggles so we tend to speak primarily about our struggle. You can be closet nose picker and it will come out in your speaking if you are not careful. You will accuse everyone in the room of picking their nose. Sure you might do it in a humorous way but it’s going to get tired if we continue to hear you speak about picking your nose. The three other people that pick their noses will reinforce that you picked the right message (pun intended), but the other ninety nine will wonder why you talk about it all the time. It’s better to think carefully about your audience and craft a message for them, not a self-help message for you. There will be times where you can confess your nose picking, but it should be as an illustration rather than the meat of a message.
- Don’t use your personal experience as an authority, at best it’s a witness to an authority, but it is not an authority in and of itself. It is how you processed or failed to process an event. If all you have to go on is what you’ve been through, you can’t help anyone who isn’t going through it, much less your own future. You’ll be limited by your experience rather than bolstered by it. Here is the difference. Begin with Truth of God’s Word, then use your experience as a testimony if you want, but never use your testimony as the authority and throw in a few scripture passages. I like to use a personal story as an invitation to listen and transition into how the Scripture was a solution to my problem. The difference is subtle, but life changing. I didn’t find A way to solve my problem, scripture has always been true. I found THE way.
- Don’t use an audience to unpack your emotions. One of the greatest trends I see among novice speakers is the idea that they use an audience to unpack their emotional response to something. They may share something like, “My dog died, I often wonder what I might have done to prevent his death. could he still be happy and alive if I had stopped him from eating that chicken bone?” Such an emotional share is rooted in only two places. One, you are still processing your grief (See Point 1). Two, You want to compel people to respond emotionally to what you have to share. The second reason is really good when it comes to short term gain. Everyone knows that if you want to raise money for the Christmas shoe fund all you have to do is get a little child to sing the Christmas shoe song… It’s short lived though!!! It doesn’t move people to long term action. You will feel like you hit a home run, but you won’t have cultivated any patterns for long term discipleship. That’s the problem with emotionalism, you will feel good, but you won’t have accomplished much.