3 Best Practices For Speaking

Courtesy of visual.dichotomy/Creative Commons Licenses

In my first year of high school ministry I received some feedback that I wasn’t ready to hear.  One of my small group leaders approached me and in the nicest way possible said, “I think you are speaking too long.”  He had noticed that the teens begun to check out 10 minutes into my message and he thought that I should shorten it.  Being young and offended I told him that I disagreed and that there was no “perfect” length because I knew of other youth workers that spoke for close to an hour and were dynamic.
After some humility and insight from others I learned it wasn’t length; but, delivery that was the issue.
When it comes to giving a message you need to be engaging, when this happens it doesn’t matter how long you speak because your crowd will follow.  Doesn’t matter if you use story, props, testimony or technology, if aren’t engaging they won’t listen.
So to become better we practice, right?  Yes, but practice alone will only get you so far.  On top of practice we need to:

  • Plan Ahead – You can’t plan too far ahead.  Some of you work better under pressure; however, when you cut it close you remove any margin for error.  When it comes to message planning I write out an outline for the entire series six weeks out of the first message, and then write each message 3 weeks out and practice the week of delivery.  By working ahead you give the message an opportunity to grow by taking a step back and then approaching with a new perspective.
  • Get Feedback – On top of grammatical errors you need feedback to make sure transitions flow, points are made and insight is shared. Feedback from others gives us the insight we need to improve the message as well as our delivery.  Feedback shouldn’t just be proactive, but reactive as well.  After giving a message make sure you seek other’s input (planned or spontaneous) on what went well and what could have been better.
  • Watch Yourself – If possible set up a video camera to record yourself when you speak (even if it’s only practice).  This way you’ll pick up on bad habits like looking down too much at your notes, fidgeting with your hands, saying “um” or mumbling too much.  It’s a humbling experience; however, you’ll be more aware of your performance which will have a great impact on the message.

How we communicate is just as important as what we communicate.  Some of you are natural speakers, while others have to work extremely hard to get it just right.  No matter where you are if you aren’t reviewing, studying and analyzing our communication style then you’ll eventually plateau.  This list isn’t complete; however, without these three you can’t expect your speaking level to grow.

What other best practices would you add to this list?