I’ve taken some time recently to think about what makes some folks more effective speakers than others and I am convinced that there are specific strategies that any communicator can use to improve the chances of their message being heard.
This list may not apply to every listener, but here’s what really keeps me engaged during an entire message:
- Be real. Let people see the actual human inside you. Most of the time, this involves sharing your personal stories.
- Talk like normal people talk. Use my language. Don’t assume I know what you know. Provide the backstory, so I can be on the same page as you.
- Use humor. If you don’t make me laugh, I’m probably going to tune you out. By the way, the best humor comes from your everyday life.
- Be honest. If I think you’re credible, there’s a better chance I’ll think your message is credible.
- Avoid being too polished. I love it when you leave your prepared statements and share anything off the cuff.
- Don’t tell me what to think. Lead me on the journey, but let me reach my own conclusions. In fact, you can challenge me, but don’t talk down to me.
- Reveal your weaknesses. Silly as it seems, it makes me smile when I hear you tell about your mistakes. It helps me respect the areas where you are growing.
- Be brief. Shorter is better. I’m probably going to remember only one or two things that you say.
- Make me feel smart. I don’t care how smart you are, but I like it when you make me feel smart. Simplify your statements and make it easy for me to apply what you’re teaching.
- Tell me why I should care. Help me understand why I should listen. If I’m not sure why what you’re saying is relevant to my life, I’ll be thinking about everything but your message.
I’ve never had a seminary course on preaching, so I don’t really know what it takes to prepare a good sermon. I do know that what you’re saying can’t have an impact on lives unless people are alert and engaged in your message. Hopefully this list will help make that happen.