If you dream of being a speaker, or even if you’ve already been asked to speak, you know that at some point you have to prepare a talk.
So let’s begin by discussing what it means to “give a talk” in the first place. Over the next few days we’ll talk about how to get those speaking engagements, how to organize your talk, and more. But let’s get some details out of the way first.
In my opinion, a talk is an inspirational message that you deliver for the purpose of helping people transform their lives.
You don’t give a talk to teach, though you may end up teaching. You don’t give a talk to promote yourself, though you may end up doing so. You don’t give a talk to share your wisdom, or your dreams, or your intellectual capabilities.
You give a talk to inspire someone to transform some aspect of their lives.
My goal, as a writer and a speaker, is to see lives changed. And I use both the spoken word and the written word to do that. To do so I have to connect with my audience; I have to share from my heart and my background; I have to pray; I have to share Scripture. But the point of my talk is not any of those things.
A talk must lead people somewhere, or else all they will say at the end was, “that was very informative” or “that was very enjoyable”. If there’s not something that going to change afterwards, then all that you provided was some momentary entertainment or some brain candy.
I think that’s what differentiates “talks” from “sermons”. I know that pastors have as their goal to change lives, but let’s face it. The way most pastors preach that is not what is happening.
Most pastors have seven points, or four points, or five points that all start with P, or all rhyme, or all have to do with some type of vegetation, or whatever trick they’re using at the time. They use these tricks to try to help you remember facts, because most pastors are trained to teach.
But we can know all the facts in the world and not do anything about it. A talk has to have as its goal that people will, at the end, know what change they should make, know how to make it, and feel encouraged and motivated to do so. Does it really matter if they totally understand the end times prophecies in Daniel, or if they can explain to you what grace means from the book of Romans, if they don’t do anything about it?
I am not saying that there is something wrong with speaking on Romans. Not at all! We do need to focus our talks around Scripture.
But we don’t do so just to transmit knowledge. We do so to transmit knowledge so that they will make a change.
And that’s why talks tend to be more emotional than sermons. They need to include anecdotes so people can relate. They tend to appeal to a wide range of emotions, from humour to sadness to empathy. As we connect, we reach the heart, and not only the head. And thus people are more likely to be changed.
Before you plan a talk, before you start a speaking career, before you start looking for engagements, ask yourself this question: what is it that I am uniquely called to help people transform? What is the one area where God has spoken to me that I can share with others so they can change something? What is your primary focus of transformation?
I started thinking along these lines about speaking when Family Life Canada, whom I speak for at times, gave me the book Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication. It really changed the way I saw speaking.
A speaker is not a pastor. We are supposed to be more personal, more anecdotal, and more motivational. I highly recommend this book if you want to start thinking along these lines. I’ll be putting it up on my new resource page tonight, and if any of you have other resources that you want to recommend, leave them in the comments and I’ll add them!
In the meantime, what transformational change are you called to talk about? I talk about how to give up the idea of happiness and focus on God being enough–in your marriage, in your life, in your parenting. When we do that, happiness follows. But it can never be our goal. All my talks, across the different groups I speak on, focus on that. What about you?
Want to learn how to apply these principles when giving a talk? My audio download Crafting a Signature Talk helps you create a blueprint of a talk that points people to Jesus!