Into Thy Word -
by A. Allan Martin
It is like POOF! and you are there. Inspiring speakers always had a way of drawing me into their stories, convincing me with their points, motivating me to take some action. The best speakers seemed as if they were speaking directly to me and my circumstance. Such talks challenged and convicted me, they helped me gain insight about living for Christ. Christ used such speakers to positively impact my life. Maybe you have a desire to speak or give a talk or do a sermon? What does it take? What makes for the best speakers. How do you get the nerve to get up front?
"You've gotta have the desire and fire inside," says Peter Knudsen, a 28-year old, Los Angeles youth pastor. "The real stuff comes from inside."
Be real! I would say that the "stuff from inside" are things you have a passion for, "stuff" the Holy Spirit is urging you to talk about. One of the keys to effective speaking is to be connected with the Holy Spirit and spend enough time listening to what He has to say to you. Listen to HEAR what the Spirit tells you is relevant and real and important to talk about. That connection is crucial to creating a talk which is meaningful. Sometimes a talk may seem superficial or forced, because the speaker has no passion for what she/he is speaking about. Even with exceptional speakers, if the internal fire and desire is not there, a potentially great talk will only be a good talk, because the enthusiasm for the topic/issue is missing. Be sure to have the Holy Spirit light the fire for your topic and makes you real.
Be relevant! Get clued in to what is going on for the group you are going to speak to. What are their fears? What are their hopes? What are their interests? It is always so important to have a good idea of who will be attending your talk. Your talk will have the most impact if you speak directly to the issues of your audience. If you are able to use illustrations and themes that relate to where they are experientially, you can make a significant impact. The key to relevance in connecting your audience's contemporary life experience to the power of the Scriptures.
Richard Guerrero, a 33 year old youthworker from Orlando, Florida, comments, "The best speakers I have heard are those who bring the Bible to life...When a speaker is able to relate the Bible to how I live my life today, it has made a difference to me." Relevance is more than just understanding where your audience is coming from; It is discovering what the Bible has to say about where your audience is going or can go. That is where the hope and truth of your talk will be. The Scriptures need to be the Word in your words. Be relevant.
Be relational! Especially if you are speaking to young people, it is important to focus on relationships as the angle by which you approach your talks. It may sometimes serve your purpose to give informational talks, but those often come off like infomercials or like school lectures (BLECH!). By approaching your talk from a relational perspective you hit on the core issue for youth and young adults. You give them a context by which to relate to you and your talk. Relationship is a heart-felt need of our generation. As a speaker, talking about relationship with each other and with Christ will peak the interest of your audience.
Be revolutionary! The most inspiring talks are those that call the audience to take action, to make a change, to move from point A to point B. Young audiences today hear lots of sermons and speakers who just point out nice spiritual things and leave it at that. But nice talks are just talks. Your efforts to motivate your audience to do something specific is so crucial to bring positive change to our world. I hope you will dare to challenge your audience to act on what you have said. Be revolutionary and use your talk to help people "walk the walk."
Be right to the point! Bill Truscott, a college speaker from Papua New Guinea, advises, "Make a good introduction and a good conclusion, then put them as close together as possible."
Keep your talk focused and to the point. Long-winded sermons don't impress anyone. A speaker who has something important to say will be concise. It is better to leave your audience wanting more than to leave them snoring. Being short and succinct is half the battle.
Being real, relevant, relational, revolutionary, and right to the point are keys to great speaking. I hope you will use your interest and talents to speak the Word in truth and positively impact young lives!
Carnegie, D. (1962). The quick & easy way to effective speaking. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Davis, K. (1991), Secrets of dynamic communication: Preparing & delivering powerful speeches. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.