How To Improve On Public Speaking and Preaching

mustardseedguy asked a question:

How do you improve your public speaking? I pause a lot and I don’t like it. I think it’s because I think about what I’m going to say a lot.

Hey dear friend, thank you for trusting me with this question. I’m honestly much more comfortable with writing than speaking, and I know the trepidation of being on-your-feet without the safety net of going back to edit. Preaching a sermon is one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do. Even teaching a Bible study or just sharing your testimony is extremely unnerving. Most surveys will show that public speaking is one of the top three fears in the world, even more than death or spiders. People would rather die by spiders than speak in public. If you’re introverted like me, it’s preferable.

I’m not qualified to be an authority on speaking, but the absolute number one piece of wisdom that has helped me is to know exactly what I want to say and to care about saying it. That probably sounds obvious, but it makes a huge difference when you’re passionate about your message, regardless of your speaking ability or style. When I have my message down cold and I’m fired up by the content, there’s an urgency where I can’t wait to get to the next point. It creates a kind of excitement and enthusiasm that can’t be faked or replicated by someone else.

If you find yourself forgetting what you want to say next, it’s possible you have too much to say. Try a 3am test. If someone were to wake you up at three in the morning and ask, “What’s your message in one sentence?” – you should be able to answer. Think of it this way: if you can’t remember your own points, no one else will, either. I have an entire file that’s a “cutting room floor” of extra stuff I never used for a message. As they say in English class, “Kill your darlings” and keep it simple. (By the way, you mentioned you have a pausing issue, but there’s nothing wrong with pausing sometimes. A dramatic silence can punctuate your point.)

Here’s another thing. Speaking has a learning curve, like any other ability. I heard in seminary that your first one-hundred sermons will always be terrible. It’s growing pains, sort of like a song-writer’s very first songs or a writer’s first poems – they always cringe at those. Most parents raise their first child with a lot of worries and extra attention, but by the third child the parents are laid-back and relaxed. The more you speak, the more you’ll find your voice and what works best for you.

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