It starts with the loathing.
I’ll be in the car, driving to a speaking engagement, and the negative thoughts will start.
Why are you doing this? You don’t have anything important to say. It’s all been said before! You don’t have anything new! You have no right to speak to these women.
Then I’ll arrive at the venue, talk to the chipper women all eager to hear what I have to say, give my talk, and listen to people praising it afterwards. I drive home convinced that I was doing what God wanted me to do–until the next speaking engagement when the loathing starts again.
This is actually quite common for speakers, but we rarely talk about it. We’re supposed to be perennially happy, always sure of ourselves, deep in prayer and knowing what it is that God wants us to say.
But can I be honest for a moment? Speaking is very nerve-wracking.
First, I’m a big believer in delivering the same, or similar talks and conference packages repeatedly. If you have honed a talk which tells your story well, which hits a nerve with people, and which prepares them to hear from God, why change it? And let’s face it: the more we deliver a certain talk, the better we get at it. We can speak without looking at our notes as often. We can figure out how to deliver an anecdote most effectively. We can tweak it to make it great.
But the problem is that as we tweak and talk and think, it starts to lose its freshness to us. We’ve heard it so many times, we start to wonder if there is anything important that we’re saying. We’re so familiar with the material that we figure everyone else is, too.
But they’re not! For most of the people in the audience, this is the first time they’ve thought about the issue the way that you’re framing it. It’s fresh to them.
So when you start to doubt your message, try this instead:
1. Pray about it
Ask God if this is still the message that you should be giving. Is it time to develop a new one, or is this still the one that speaks the most about your own journey and how that intersects with other people are experiencing?
2. Freshen up the Anecdotes
Because my “signature talk” is close to my heart, I’m speaking about things that God is also speaking to me about. And since my relationship with God is not static, but always changing, I often find that my talk changes over the years. I take out a story and add another one. I find a new Bible verse that says exactly what I’m thinking.
That’s okay! The talk doesn’t have to be word for word what you gave last time; in fact, it shouldn’t. It should be dynamic. But I don’t think we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. Our signature talk should tell our story, and our story, in essence, doesn’t change. The theme of your walk with God rarely changes. So don’t worry about changing the substance of your talk; just update it with new things He’s teaching you.
3. Rely on People’s Reactions, not Your Emotions
Judging your talk by your emotions before you give it is a lousy way to figure out your talk’s effectiveness. We’re always nervous and consumed with self-doubt before we speak. And let’s remember that we have an enemy who wants us to mess up and feel insecure.
Instead, listen to the feedback you’re getting. Are women still touched by what you have to share, or is their enthusiasm for your message dimming? If you got more positive reaction five years ago than you do today, it likely is time to change your signature talk. But if people are still being led to tears, or responding to an altar call, or telling you that “this was just what I needed to hear”, believe them. Don’t second guess them. They aren’t just being nice; they mean it. Let their words wash over you and comfort you.
4. Remember You’re a Professional
Professionals do things by rote. Professionals do what is expected, even if it’s not completely fun. Professionals do what they are hired to do. You were hired to give a certain talk. Don’t be embarrassed by it. Don’t second guess yourself. Just do it!
If you want some help in creating a Signature Talk that’s life changing, my audio download, Crafting a Signature Talk, is just the ticket! It goes step-by-step into how to craft a beautiful talk that will change hearts–and that you will be happy to deliver.