Anytime we are to speak in public and plan to communicate well, we realize just how hard a task it can be. This week I read the book “Reading Confessions of a Public Speaker” by Scott Berkum. So I listened to my last message, which you should never do if you are feeling down on yourself. It may reveal more than you can stomach. But I know we are more critical of ourselves than anyone else.
Berkum says that practice is the best way to improve your speaking, “If I plan to do something in the presentation, I practice it.” This I did not do before I spoke. There were lots of mental pauses, a series of “uhms” and unclear diction. The podcast revealed the times I halted or filled in with mental pauses of “er” or a little slurring of the words, etc.
Scott Berkum states plainly that speakers who do no do well, do not think through their message. “The problem with most bad presentations…is the lack of thinking.” and “All good public speaking is based on good private thinking.” The speaker is to do the hard work of making connections. So I noticed some last minute off-the-cuff additions to the message. They did not illustrate well the point I was making. Then I confused Joash and Josiah constantly. I definitely have some work to do.
As I listened further the message flowed better. I remembered that emotionally it was a very draining week. I had lot of frustration with people. Regardless of planning there are circumstance in the life of the speaker that affect their performance. When I listened to the week before, there was a much clearer introduction and much clearer diction.
Berkum outlined four things to keep in mind to make a good presentation:
1. Take a strong position in the title.
I find that I have become better at sticking to one clear point in my message. This lets the congregation know where I am heading. There is so much a speaker may want to say that they know on a topic, but there is only so much an audience can track with.
2. Thinking carefully about your specific audience.
This is learned by practice. Berkum states, “Great speakers are great connectors”. Who the audience is, is key to communication. But audience awareness for Berkum was couched in the rhetoric of selling a person’s ideas to an audience. The weakness of Berkum for pastors is that he is presenting a message as a product that the audience wants. While connecting with the audience is important, ministers also are presenting God’s word, which oftentimes is not what we naturally want to hear.
3. Make your specific points as concise as possible.
The logical flow and clear points make it easier for people to track with the speaker. This has been a tension in my own speaking. Desiring to have clear points and easy to follow PowerPoint slides can shift the focus from God to my own creativity. Being a communicator can shift the focus from worship to the speaker’s ingenuity.
4. Know the likely counterarguments from an intelligent, expert audience.
We can so easily lose the listener by statement that do not take into account the possible objections that the listeners may have. There can easily be people who are biblically knowledgably people who will catch our thinking errors.