Who should speak?
That’s a toughie with different schools of thought. Personally, I believe speaking is a spiritual gift, similar to teaching or evangelism. Have you ever listened to a pastor and just known that God is speaking through him? I have.
And I once flew to Europe on a missions trip with a man who had the gift of evangelism. He was quiet, and unassuming, and by the time we took off one stewardess had already told him her life story. By the halfway point, three stewardesses were standing in the aisle, talking to him, crying. They all prayed to receive Christ on that flight. And he hardly spoke at all. God was just with him profoundly.
Speaking is a gift, and some of us have it. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have to prepare, or practice, or be professional. We still need mentoring and discipline, in the same way that preachers need to learn.
Some of us, though, may not feel gifted in speaking, but we are gifted writers, or communicators in other fields. And people ask us to speak, and we want to be ready. Or, perhaps you’re a writer and you know that speaking will boost your writing ministry. The two do go hand in hand, after all.
I believe that we can all learn to speak well, even if it isn’t our particular gift. What I want to share with you on this blog is some of the templates that I use to prepare talks that can help you work through your thoughts, hone your message, and pare it down to the central point. I’m sure other speakers will want to share how they plan a talk as well. (And if you are such a speaker, and you’d like to guest post, do email me!)
Preparing a talk well is one step to speaking effectively for change. Two more are just as essential:
1. Practise, practise, practise. Practise with friends. Practise in front of a mirror. Tape yourself and listen critically to it, even if it’s painful. You have to get used to saying the words out loud. Sometimes what works in our heads doesn’t work when we speak it. We need to practice delivery, timing, and everything.
2. Start small to gain confidence. Target groups that you feel comfortable with: fellow writers, your church small group, a mom’s and tots group, a brown bag lunch at your local library. You don’t even have to use a talk that you would give to a larger audience. Just start to speak in public to small groups, and you will slowly begin to see that you can do this!
Once we have a book out, especially if it is a non-fiction book, we cane expect to get speaking requests. But if those requests come before we are comfortable speaking to a group of people, it will become a nightmare, similar to that recurring dream we all have when we’re late for that final exam in high school and arrive naked or something.
Don’t do that to yourself. Prepare now, before it’s necessary, so that you become comfortable listening to your own voice in front of an audience. Here are some ways to do that:
1. Volunteer to give a talk to Sunday school teachers on how to prepare a lesson.
2. Give a talk to a seniors’ home about Christmas, sharing family memories, or communicating with family members.
3. Lead a Bible study in your small group.
4. Present a missions update at your women’s Bible study group or your small group.
5. Take the opportunity at a family get-together, like Christmas, Thanksgiving, or a family reunion, to lead a talk about your favourite family memories, and then invite others to share.
6. Join a committee, like the PTA or something at church where you will have to give reports.
7. Get involved in a local organization, like a local library or a local guild, where presentations are frequenty made.
8. Teach a class on something that is your hobby, like knitting, scrapbooking, or gardening. Often churches will open their doors for this, or you can volunteer at a local club or supply store.
All of these venues are low stress. People don’t expect a super-eloquent presenter. But the more accustomed you become to speaking out in public, the easier it will be to craft a message for a larger group!