Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Talk talk

Picture by guitargoa of sxc.huA friend asked me how I plan a talk. 'Do you aim for three points or intro, middle, end, or what?' he asked. 'Or both?'

Of course, I responded that for it to be an evangelical sermon worth its salt, it categorically must have three points all beginning with the same letter. That was a joke. I didn't really say that (no offence to those wedded to the alliterative approach).

Actually, in all seriousness, I do think the 'three points beginning with p' approach is based on a fairly fundamental mistake preachers and speakers can make: namely that people are going to remember what we say. It's a bubble burster this, but they almost never will.

What people remember is how you made them feel.

That is worth thinking about. ('It's not what you say it's the way that you say it'..)

So I didn't say 'three points beginning with p'. I did quote another friend who once said about planning a talk: 'Say what you're going to say, then say it, then say what you just said!' In other words, one main point, reinforced three times.

I like this, though I confess I'm rarely so disciplined in my talks. I tend to think 'intro' (warm your listeners up with an apt story or joke - and if you can't think of an apt one go for one self-evidently and self-deprecatingly inapt), 'main bit' (usually based on scripture, directly or indirectly, and I try to put the scripture up on the screen), and 'summary' (reinforce the main point).

Also I almost always project pictures to go with my talk, even if they seem non-essential, because they engage a different part of people's brain and keep them with me.

In some settings, and for longer talks, it can be good to break for a few minutes and get people talking to each other in pairs about some related question. This refreshes concentration and helps people actively engage with the topic.

Lastly, there's nothing better than genuine passion and nothing worse then hype (and I've done both over the years!)

6 comments:

Rachel said...

I'd like to see an end to sermons. or maybe just the institutional bringing of sermons, or maybe just sermons longer than 10 minutes, or strained obligatory sermons, or..

n0rma1 said...

Rachel, maybe that's where my last sentence comes in...

Tschaka Roussel said...

So when are you going to try hosting a debate?

n0rma1 said...

Tschaka, Haven't ruled out this coming Sunday - though that'd be a shame cos you're not going to be there...

James said...

I'm not very good at remembering words. But I can remember the actions of people and that stays with me far more than what someone says (for example serving / washing up / giving time to listen to people etc etc).
So does that mean we shouldn't have sermons then?... Hmmm confused.

n0rma1 said...

James, I reckon 'sermons' (not a great word) have their place, but they also need to know their place and not become the be all and end all. And you're point about example is spot on and reminds me of St Francis' 'Preach the gospel at all times, using words when necessary'.