Picture of N.J. Lindquist, Canadian author and speaker
If you’re wondering whether or not God has called you to speaking, here are the ten qualities that I think best define a gifted women’s speaker. I should note that several of these I struggle with–finding time for prayer, for instance. But making this list encourages me to aim higher and rely on God more, so even if you’re not totally there yet, at least this gives you something to aim for!
1. Focuses on Christ and Him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:2 says,
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Paul was writing to the Corinthian church about his credentials as an apostle, and he states that whatever he said, it always came back to the cross. If you’re to be an effective women’s speaker, whatever you say has to be centered around the cross. Your message needs to be centered around the cross. Your life needs to be centered around the cross. Otherwise, why are we doing this?
2. Realizes that It’s Not About You. Closely related to #1, #2 says that the purpose of speaking is not to spread our own ministry or fame, but to spread God’s fame. When you tell your story, it’s not to glorify yourself. It’s to point to what God has done in your life, and to show others what He can do in theirs. This is a tricky one, because we’re human, and it’s nice to get accolades. But a good speaker remembers that her gifts come from God, not from herself. I have listened to other speakers compare their writings to Scripture. I have listened to other speakers do such an intense selling pitch for their books and CDs that I’ve felt embarrassed for them. It’s fine to draw attention to resources that you believe will draw others closer to Him. But let’s do it in that spirit.
3. Relies on God for Her Energy and Motivation. You can’t do this yourself. You can’t will yourself to be good, to be energetic, to be happy, to be inspiring. Only God can do that for you, so you have to spend time dedicated to prayer, to getting yourself in a good place so that you can share with others. Don’t try to do it in your own strength.
4. Stays Current with God. You can’t share your story and your walk if you don’t have one. Maybe you have a great story of victory, but if that victory happened eight years ago, and you’ve been coasting on it ever since, something’s wrong. I find that my signature talks and signature retreats change every year because God is doing something new in me. When my story changes, my talks change, too. Make sure that your relationship with God is fresh.
5. Understands Her Audience. You may not always be talking to people exactly like you. In fact, you usually won’t be. A good speaker thinks about how her message will be received and interpreted; she doesn’t just share what she wants to share. If you’re married, remember that a good portion of those in your audience will be single, widowed, or divorced. Don’t make all your anecdotes relate to marriage. Likewise, if you became a Christian later in life and lived a rather promiscuous existence beforehand, don’t glory too much in that, because many won’t relate to you. Know your audience: their church background (or lack thereof), their cultural background, their age, their marital status. Make sure that you try to reach out to everyone in whatever walk of life.
6. Tells Stories that People can Relate To. A gifted speaker doesn’t just teach. She doesn’t only open up the Bible and expound on its theological significance. She uses stories and anecdotes that can hit home to people. Audiences tend to relate best to stories; make sure that you include lots of them! This isn’t “dumbing down” your talk at all; it’s making it more accessible, and more likely that people will remember it. It’s also touching them emotionally, and if the emotions aren’t engaged as well as the head, then it’s unlikely that they will open themselves up to hear from God.
7. Speaks Confidently. Do you find yourself relying too heavily on your notes? If you can’t remember what you’re saying, how do you expect the audience to remember? I know that’s a tall order, but I do believe that as you practice and speak more and more, you will require notes less and less. I usually take one sheet of paper up with me, at the most, with keywords written down to jog my memory about what comes next. And what about speaking skills in general? A gifted speaker is one that puts the audience at ease. They won’t be at ease if they think you’re nervous. So practice speaking in front of a mirror. Listen to a recording of yourself so you can tell if you’re too fast or too slow. Don’t be afraid of leaving pauses instead of “ummms” or “okays”. Act confident and people are more inclined to listen to you.
8. Knows The Point of What She is Saying. Have you ever listened to a talk and thought to yourself, “that was very entertaining, but I have no idea what they want me to do now?” Don’t let that be you! Always know what ONE main point you’re making, and what ONE main change you’re encouraging the women to make in their lives. If you have five points, they’ll never remember them all. If you have too many applications, they’ll never do them. Ultimately we usually only need one application, anyway, and chances are it goes something like this: move deeper into a level of trust with God, whether it’s with my heart, my marriage, my finances, my kids, my career, or my calling. Your goal is to help move people so that they’re willing to take that next step. So know that. Have everything lead up to that. Don’t just entertain; tell stories and teach with a purpose. If you can sum up your talk clearly in one sentence before you begin, chances are people will be able to parrot it back to you after you finish. But if you can’t sum it up, chances are they won’t be able to tell you what changes you want them to make, either.
9. Constantly Seeks New Opportunities To Grow. We’re never done when it comes to learning how to speak well. My ministry was expanding and growing well when I got a hold of the book Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication
by Andy Stanley, which opened my eyes up to ways that I was hindering people’s ability to respond clearly to my talks.
I changed the entire format of everything I said. And my ministry continued to grow. I could have just coasted, because things were going well, but I believe that we all need to keep getting training, critiquing, and new ideas, because we’ve never “arrived”. This fall, one of the ministries I partner with is bringing in a performance trainer to help us hone our message. I’ll have to deliver it and he’ll then critique me. Is that scary? You betcha! But I know it will be worth it! If you need to continue your training, I have lots of resources right here. They’re not expensive, and I know they will help!
10. Acts Professionally. She dresses well (not because she’s vain, but because she wants to appear authoritative). She communicates well and clearly with the event organizers. She’s upfront about whether or not she charges a fee so that the organizers aren’t nervous about this. She charges what she’s worth, but she’s always open to the Spirit about amending things at times. She tells the organizers what to expect, and she doesn’t just say, “I’ll do anything you want”. She has a web presence so people can find her! All of this is not about spreading her own fame, but because if she doesn’t do these things, her ministry won’t grow, and her message won’t get out there. Speaking isn’t a business; it’s a ministry. But it will always be more effective if we apply some sound business principles to it.
Do these things, and God will expand your ministry! He wants to reach people, and He wants to use us to do it. We just need to be willing, get the training, and be effective.
What do you think? Which is the biggest struggle for you? Did I miss something important? Is there one that you would take out? Let’s talk about it in the comments, or debate with me over in our Facebook group!
Filed under: Anecdotes, Goals, Launching your Speaking Ministry, Speaking Skills, Spiritual Aspects of Speaking | Tagged: christian speakers, public speaking | 5 Comments »