by Linda Gilden
Some surveys indicate more people suffer from glossophobia than from necrophobia. Simply put, more people are afraid of standing in front of an audience to speak than are afraid of dying. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Much of the fear of public speaking is generated from a lack of confidence in presenting a message. But whether speaking in front of an audience of thousands or chatting with a friend in the grocery store, you can learn how to quickly organize your thoughts, build your confidence, and present a message to touch the lives of others.
Communication is valuable in our jobs, our homes, and our workplaces. For Christians, communicating the message of Christ clearly and in a way that will draw others to him is of the utmost importance. Whether talking to a neighbor across the fence or to thousands, clear communication can help ensure your message is understood.
In Acts 13:15 a group of synagogue rulers said to Paul and his companions, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for us, come and give it!” (New Living Translation). These rulers knew the importance of speaking boldly, especially to build others up.
Not long ago I walked through our church dining hall. It was Activity Day and several dozen women and men were gathered together. “Hey,” said one of the ladies, “why don’t you stick around and give our devotion?”
“Sure,” I said, “I’ll be glad to.”
After I spoke to the group for about 20 minutes, several of the ladies came to chat. “How do you do that? Did Leah really just ask you to give the devotion when you arrived?”
“Yes, she did.”
Most people don’t have to speak on a moment’s notice. But clear communication is not hard if you have the proper tools. Observing a few simple steps can help you speak in ways that make an impact.
Cover everything you do in prayer. When you accept an invitation to speak, pray for those who will be attending. Learn all you can about the venue where you will be speaking. Try to discern the needs of the audience. Pray for God’s direction as you prepare.
Ask God to direct your preparation and draw you closer to him. First Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “pray continually.” That is excellent advice for the aspiring public speaker.
Author and speaker Janet McHenry says, “Even as people are coming up to you to chat, pray for them. Everyone has needs. Look for opportunities to bless those around you.”
Once you know your audience, you can determine the best way to reach them. If your audience is comprised of children, you will have to plan differently than if your audience is made up of senior adults. Likewise, if there are only women in attendance, you can tailor your approach to their needs.
Structure your talk with only a few main points—no more than one for every 10 to 15 minutes of speech time. It is better to reinforce a few points and have your audience remember them than to include so many none are retained.
Construct an outline that is easy to remember. Start with your main points and fill in each point with appropriate stories, illustrations, and facts.
Gary Chevalier, speaker and worship leader, says, “The difference between planning and not planning a talk is like the difference between a true angler and a recreational fisherman. Both are throwing a hook into the water, but the angler will catch larger fish with greater frequency. The angler’s preparation and attention to details (studying the habits of the fish, the water temperature, water depth, type of bait, and so on) makes him more effective.”
“Scripture tells us to be ready at any time with an answer that provides hope,” says Gerry Wakeland, president of Christian Leaders Authors Speakers Seminars (CLASS). “Whether you are talking to just one person or an audience of thousands you can be ready to speak when you have a message and a method.”
Preparation is key to the success of your platform message. When you stand before an audience, you are the authority. You want to arrive with as much knowledge and peace about your message as you can.
Research your topic thoroughly. Even though you may not use much of the material in your speech, having a broad background gives you a solid foundation upon which to build your speech.
Make a list of personal stories, statistics, videos, and questions that will draw your audience into your speech as well as enhance it. Prepare an introduction that will demand your audience’s attention.
Give special attention and time to preparing your heart. Spend more time than usual in quiet time with God. Jesus said, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45, NIV).
We’ve heard for years that “practice makes perfect.” In the case of public speaking, practice not only makes perfect but also gives confidence. Practice in front of your friends, in front of your family, and in front of a mirror. Practice, practice, practice!
However, don’t memorize your speech. Practice enough that you are familiar with your material but not so locked into the arrangement of words that if you get off track, you panic. Practice until you know the material and then develop a good outline you can memorize.
Pam Farrel, relationship specialist and international speaker says, “While giving a speech to over 200 women in a room with no windows, the power went out. I just kept talking. I finished my speech in the dark with no notes and no microphone.
“Afterward many women commented on my example of keeping going no matter what! They said it was a great lesson to apply to their lives.”
Much of what Pam left with those ladies was not what she said but her actions in the face of diversity. And she was able to do that because she had prayed ahead of time, planned and prepared well, and practiced her material.
Once you arrive at the venue for your speech, you are “on.” With the first step out of the car, you are to help the people who are there. You are in a position to have an impact on the people around you—from those who are setting up to those who are cleaning up. Often the best remembered ministry occurs off the platform.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking, Oh, I am early. I’ll probably have a few minutes to sit in a corner and look over my notes. Time for practice and preparation is over. It’s time to present your message.
Be sure to leave your audience with something to think about. Challenge them to make a positive change in their lives. Show them a better way to do something or equip them to serve others more effectively.
Public speaking is not something to be feared. Skills to communicate with large groups can be learned and there are excellent training organizations available to help.
Everyone has a story to tell. Relax and give the audience a chance to get to know you. Be vulnerable. Open up and share how you overcame adversity. Use your own stories to illustrate your message but make sure they are told in a way your audience will understand.
Jesus was a master storyteller who shared the truth with his audiences in ways they could understand. He used stories, held their interest, and gave them connecting points. As you give a message, you too can use stories—stories that will point them to the master storyteller.
Linda Gilden is a freelance writer in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
by Tony Jeary
Chances are, if you’re active in your church, at some point you’ll have to talk to people. Your presentation may be informal—such as greeting people at the door—or formal—such as sharing your testimony before a congregation. But either way, it will make an impact.
Master presenter Tony Jeary uses his experience training top CEOs around the world to provide a practical handbook for teachers, preachers, leaders, speakers—any Christian involved in ministry.
Gain confidence, enhance your credibility, and maximize your response—prepare with purpose.
Find out more: www.standardpub.com