It might surprise some of you if I said that many personality tests that I have taken have been very consistent in concluding that I’m an introvert. I have pushed myself repeatedly, with God’s help, to face people but given a chance, I would still love to hide in a room with people I know. In fact, I personally believe that God loves using introverts. Now that is not theory or theology but I have seen God use the least to do the most. One good example is Moses in the Bible.
Now, this post is not because I am the best at public speaking but this is simply an attempt to share the little that I know. I have taken time off to write this because this is one subject on which I frequently get asked questions about from curious people who generally find it hard to face crowds. I began preaching from the age of 7 and ever since, the Lord has blessed me to minister to all kinds of audiences; dead, boring, excited and even the jumpy. Here are few thoughts that can serve you. This post is intentionally long for those who are serious to find help.
“I am Nervous”
I have heard this over and over again, I am nervous. There have been many times, when people have appreciated my speaking but they have been clueless to the fact that my hands and legs were shaking like jelly and all I wanted to do was run out of the room as soon
Unless you start making it really obvious, just breathe calmly and you will find out that people may not realize that you were nervous. So now that you know, you can act confident! Knowing your audience in advance always helps. Breathe steadily. I generally like to visit the platform on where I would be preaching to get an idea of where I would be standing. I envision it over and over up until I’m confident in my mind.
The first few minutes that you are up on the stage are critical. Take it slow. Set your Bible or notes on the podium. Stay calm. Don’t rush through it. Confess and think positive in your mind. If you rush through the first few minutes, possibilities are that you are going to mess the rest. If you can calm yourself down in the first few or five minutes then the rest will be easy for you. Now the big bonus is that you know whatever the outcome may be, Jesus has promised to be with you forever.
Are You Prepared?
Another huge mistake people do is to prepare one day in advance. Unless you are well-versed with communication, you better not have a one-day preparation. Some of the well known Christian orators are known to prepare their sermons weeks in advance. Do your research well. Google is of great help but just because it is online does not necessarily mean it is 100% correct. Stick to known and accepted websites for information.
How to prepare will be another post entirely. But always remember to avoid preaching what has inspired somebody else. It has to first hit home with you! If the subject has not inspired you then you cannot hide the lack of inspiration and conviction in your speaking.
The Mess of Notes
Please remember that there is a huge difference between what you prepare and public speaking. I have seen many people make the same mistake. Just because you have your notes does not mean that it is going to sound the same. The time involved in speaking a 4-page sermon is much lesser than writing the number of pages it took. Before you know, it will all be over and you will still have time. I would say if you are a starter, take a week at least to prepare and another week to go over it in your mind and even test practice it in your room alone or with someone.
Now that you are confident, hold on. What are you doing with all those pages? There is no way that you are carrying it up to the podium unless you want to be confused with where you stopped and where you want to continue and end up looking at your notes more than the people.
Staring long into your notes is definitely ‘uncool’! Your notes must be 4 pages long but summarize all of it to one page. Then take a small note pad and write your full sermon in 10 lines. Now, try to summarize each five minute thought in less than five words or in one line each. Now go through it and know the connection between each line of thoughts. If you can remember that, you are ready to go without much fumbling.
Are You Preaching to the Walls?
To begin with, maintain eye contact with your crowd. Have you noticed that even when you are in the group you only pay attention to people when they are speaking to you? And you know they are listening when they look at you. That is the same with your crowd.
Don’t fix your eyes on the wall. Look at everyone possible. Do not look only at one side. If you have people sitting on either sides of the platform, make sure you do not ignore them. Imagine that they are all one person. That can help you better. Nothing makes an audience more alert than a speaker who is watching them while he/she speaks.
“They Don’t Like Me”
One thing that I’m used to the most is a staring crowd. After speaking for now more than 17 years I have realized that it is not that they hate you, it is just that they are keenly listening. What else would you want them to do when they might be seeing you for the first time? And it gets harder if the crowd is a little stiff passive crowd.
Here is a trick. Smile. Don’t over do it either! I have noticed that your emotions are mirrored in the crowd. If you are going to be scary, they are going to throw that back at you. If you are going to be at ease and smile at them, that’s how they will make you feel. So, now go and try it. Unless you broke their favourite vase, they will be easy on you. Humility and humour can go a long way. So try to build a rapport with your audience.
There is no doubt that the Lord does anoint people to speak. How do I know? Look at the number of preachers who never dreamed that they would ever preach. (Read my wife, Tiny’s story HERE)
Anointing is an empowerment that God releases on our life to accomplish a task. Of this I am sure, remove that anointing and all my public speaking skills will come down to a zero. Jesus says, “ask and you shall receive” So, you might want to try that.
Develop Your Style
I have had people tell me not to imitate certain people. But my dilemma is that I am yet to find someone who does not imitate. You pray a certain way because you heard your pastor or parent or grandpa pray in that way. You preach in a certain way because you have grown up seeing that, and that is how you think it is done. Watch the videos of great orators and pick the good from them. Don’t be intimidated in picking up good communication styles from different people. You can still be original by the passion that burns in you.
I love to work on different angles of public speaking. Different situations ask for different levels of speaking. The way you speak to believers is different from the way you speak to a group of non-believers. It is the same with believer’s conferences. A revival group, a bible study, a sermon, a youth group all of them have different levels of energy. Don’t try a bible study style to a youth group unless you want to put them to sleep. Don’t just fit into one box. Find your style and research what goes best and where it goes best. This basically comes with time.
Review Your Work
This is something every communicator must do periodically. Record and watch your video! Remember, you do not need professional equipment for this. A digital camera recording will do.
Though it might sound simple but this is a very important moulding exercise for public speaking. If you have a friend who can sit with you and be honest with you with feedback then that’s an added advantage.
Here’s what you need to do. Watch the video at least twice (Make sure you make notes as you watched the videos)
The first time when you watch it, I want you to note your voice. Note your intonations. At this point, do not worry about your content. You are going to be developing fresh content next time anyway. Focus on voice modulations. Are you putting people to sleep by being monotonous? Are you screaming too much? Are you an express train right from the start? Have you paused for the people who wanted to applaud? Are you speaking with conviction?
Now for the second time, mute the sound and watch the video again. You will be amazed by what you will learn. This time, pay attention to facial expressions, gestures, fingers and other movements. Do you find something that could be irritating? What are the excessively over-repeated actions? What do you have to change? What needs improvising?
If you are a starter, I would suggest that you do this with every public speaking for at least 10 times. You will be able to bring a significant change to your public speaking.
Don’t Try Pleasing Everybody
Wouldn’t it be amazing if you had a speaking skill that could please everybody? But learning from my Master, He didn’t really succeed with that and truth is that there is someone who will be critical about your style anyway.
From time to time, we receive mails on someone instructing me on which style would be best for me. And most of the times, it comes from someone who does not know what it is to be on the stage. I try to take the good out of everything that is said. Don’t let critics pull you down. You need to be certain in knowing that if you are doing what God wants you to do, then that settles it. Keep doing your ground work and you will be rewarded.
Know When to STOP
There are mighty speakers who are not everyone’s favourites because they do not know when to stop. Use a timer, if necessary. In a meeting, the Lord might lead you to extend it for His particular purposes to be fulfilled. But be sure that it is the Lord and that it is blessing people otherwise that may not work out too well.
End your sermons by summarizing the points. Lead them to a plan of action. You need to know in advance what thoughts do you want them to carry home. Do not stretch your closing remarks. Thank your audience and (like my favourite preacher T. D. Jakes would say) get out of their way.
Now certainly I must get out of your way. But before you leave, drop-in a word below in the comments section and tell me what your thoughts are. Feel free to share this with your friends who might be blessed with this post.