When you’re starting your ministry, you naturally feel a little apprehensive. What you don’t want is for that apprehension to be felt by the audience.
Do you remember what the people said of Jesus? He spoke as one with authority, and not as one of the teachers of the Law. So how do we sound like we have authority? How do we make sure we don’t sound scared, or intimidated?
One of the most common ways that people sound like beginners is in the use of “filler words”. I have another post here on that very subject–your Ummms, and You knows–whatever you say when you don’t know what else to say.
But I want to expand on this a little bit further. I’ve been listening to recordings of other speakers, and to some of my old recordings, and I’ve watched others speak recently, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a common mistake that many of us make, and it’s this:
We put needless words at the beginning of sentences.
These may not always be Ummms. More often they’re simply EXTRA words, and maybe even DIFFERENT words each sentence, but they make us sound a little intimidated. For instance, can you tell the difference between this:
So, I’m very glad to be here today! Well, I’m excited about what God has in store for us! So, why don’t you turn with me to Philippians 3? Okay, do you see how in that passage Paul says we are to “forget what lies behind”? And what do you think “forgetting” means?
I’m very glad to join you today, and I’m excited about what God has in store for us! Turn with me to Philippians 3. In that passage, Paul says we are to “forget what lies behind”. How strange! What do you think “forgetting” means?
Virtually the same words, but a slightly different twist. And the main thing is that there are no extra words at the beginning of sentences.
In common speech we often throw in these extra words. They connect our thoughts, and they sound right. But they don’t sound right when you’re at the podium.
When I used to lead worship in church, the pastor came up to me one day and told me that I was saying, “Okay” too much. I’d say, “turn with me to page 273, okay?”. I didn’t realize it. I didn’t mean it. But the pastor told me that by saying “Okay”, it sounded like I was giving the congregation the choice to refrain from turning to page 273. I was asking them a question.
You don’t want to throw in the word “okay” because it sounds like you’re asking for their agreement. It makes you sound unsure of yourself. And if you’re always throwing in “and” and “well” and “so” at the beginning of sentences, too, you don’t sound very powerful. You sound like you’re worried.
Here, then, is a tip on how to stop this. Generally, we breathe between sentences. When you breathe, pause for a split second and think, “what is the next word out of my mouth going to be?” When you start thinking like this, chances are you will use a powerful word. When you just open your mouth, chances are a filler word will come out while you collect your thoughts. It is better to speak more slowly, and take more care, and start your sentences well, then to speak more informally and throw in a lot of “wells” and “okays”. Do you see what I mean?
Try it yourself. Take the opening to one of your talks, and say it to yourself while you’re lying in a bubble bath or looking at yourself in the mirror. Practice thinking of the next word each time you take a breath. And you’ll likely find that fewer of those filler words come out of your mouth! Besides, the more we breathe and think, the more we’ll put ourselves at ease. And that will go a long way towards feeling more comfortable, and more authoritative, up on stage, too!
Great news! Every Tuesday at noon EST I have a FREE radio show on Blog Talk Radio just for Christian writers and speakers, called “Use Your Words”. Come on over and sign up for it! You can listen later, or download to iTunes!
And don’t forget my speaker training, available here.