“My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.” (Psalm 45:1)
According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. However, authors can’t use fear as an excuse to opt out because speaking is how we expand our platform and market our writing. As a Theater Arts and Speech major, I’ve spoken many times in front of varied groups. Butterflies come with adrenaline, but I’ve learned the best way to minimize fear is by having a well-honed speech that I know by heart.
In part one of this post, I’m going to focus on writing a speech rather than the presentation. Here are five pointers for an effective speech:
1. Know Your Audience
The age and demographics of the audience impacts how we address them. Is it a co-ed group? Do they have a solid Biblical foundation so they’ll understand Christian terms? Or, is the event an outreach for nonbelievers and the unchurched? A women’s tea that includes adolescent daughters requires a different approach than a women’s conference aimed at spiritual growth. Being a speaker is similar to writing—envision the target audience. Write and pray for them.
2. Audience Takeaway
Speeches serve one of three purposes: inform, entertain, and inspire. When we’re invited to speak, it’s important to know the expectations of the person who is organizing the event. Regardless of whether it’s my own topic, or a specific theme they want me to address, I ask the event’s coordinator what she hopes the audience will hear and take away. Then I stay on task and make sure my talking points are the means to that end. I also add slides or visuals to support them.
3. Be Authentic and Show
Personal anecdotes help the audience connect to the speaker’s heart. Stories also make a deeper impression because people remember stories. Like writing, show how we reached a conclusion. For example, I can define faith and support it with scripture, but I can also show the meaning of faith by sharing specific moments when my faith muscles were stretched. Or, those times I had a faith lapse, but in the process, God showed me His faithfulness. When people give me direct feedback, they usually say, “That’s what I experienced. Thank you for showing me how God helped you.”
4. Practice Makes Perfect
Although some folks prefer using an outline when they speak, try writing out the speech. Then polish the words until it flows smoothly like an article. Tighten sentences to avoid rambling. Make sure the talking points are concise and memorable. Underline key points. I’ve found that writing the entire speech prevents me from ad-libbing later, and helps me stay within the given time limit. I also highlight areas that I can omit if the event is running late. Then I practice, practice, practice.
5. Cover in Prayer
Moses asked God to go before Him. I feel the same way. I can write a polished speech and get accolades, but if the Holy Spirit isn’t working in people’s hearts, then I’m like a clanging cymbal. When I agree to speak, I ask the event’s coordinator to have people pray for me while I’m preparing my talk. Then I pray and ask God to teach me about the subject so I own the message. God never fails. I’m always changed by His lessons. I’ve often added an anecdote at the last minute as the Lord opens my eyes and imprints the message on my heart. When we rely on the Holy Spirit and think of ourselves as a conduit, the speech is more effective because our hearts are stirred by a noble theme. God is able to use our passion and tongue to draw the audience to Himself.
Is there a noble theme you’ve written about that you can share as a speaker?