[This post is part of our series on Public Speaking in the Church]
When I was a kid, speakers who wanted to be creative used objects, a flannel board (if you don’t know what these are you’re clearly younger than me!), or a slide-presentation with audio. And just to be clear: I’m talking about actual, physical slides here, not Powerpoint or Keynote.
A lot has changed since then. Speakers now have a whole range of multimedia tools to choose from, ranging from the ever-popular Powerpoint to live demonstrations shown on big screens, showing videos, and anything in between.
The core principles for using multimedia haven’t changed however. The fact that you can use all these tools, doesn’t mean you have to, or should. The same principle is true now that was true back then: whatever tool you use has to enhance your core message.
This is a principle that many speakers overlook, however. They see multimedia as a quick and easy trick to grab the audience’s attention, or to come across as relevant, funny, or ‘modern’. If you use media like that, however, you’ll discover that you’re taking away from the power of your message instead of reinforcing it. Everything you do in your talk, from your words, to your non-verbal communication, your voice, the way you dress, and including your multimedia or any tool you use: everything has to serve your core message, your big idea.
That means that the right order for deciding to use any tool is to craft a strong key message first, your ‘one thing’ you want people to know and remember from your talk. Only when you have that one thing crystal clear, can you decide whether you can reinforce it with any tools, like multimedia.
Is This The Right Tool?
Let’s look at some questions you can ask yourself to see of a tool you’ve found (and this can range from a video you want to show, to slides, a audio clip, anything) is the right addition to your talk:
- Does the tool have a message that’s easy to understand or is it ambiguous and can it be misinterpreted in any way? (Tip: when in doubt, show it to someone who doesn’t know what you’ll be talking about and ask them to tell you what they think the message is)
- Does the message this tool communicates fit and support your key message? (Tip: take the whole context into account, not just a scene or fragment you’re using. You have to guard against manipulating a message here.)
- Does it add any anything extra or is it merely repetitive? (Tip: if you can easily leave it out without taking away from your message it’s a good indication you may not need it at all—this is true for instance for slides that contain the literal words of what you’re saying)
- If it does reinforce the message, does it speak to different learning preferences than a talk? (A slide that’s crammed with text for instance will appeal to the same people who already appreciate a stuffed-with-facts talk, whereas a highly visual slide will speak to people with a visual learning preference)
- Is there anything in your media that your audience (or their parents, for instance in case of youth ministry!) may find objectionable? Think content-wise, the context the media was taken from, or even just the fact that the movie you’re playing a clip from is rated R, even if the scene is appropriate.
- Is the tool easy to use? Are you and the people you need to show it comfortable enough in using it? (This is especially important when you’re showing slides or videos. I’ve seen more than one talk tank completely because either the speaker himself or the tech people couldn’t get the video/audio to play.)
- Is the media the right length or does it get kinda boring/repetitive, or drag on?
- Is it fresh, or has it been used too often, too many times?
To give you some ideas for creative use of multimedia, let me share some best practices I have seen (and by the way, TED talks are often awesome examples here of perfect use of multimedia):
- A pastor I know who is highly verbal in his talks (meaning a high information load), supports the examples he uses with pictures on his slides. In a talk on Samson, he showed pictures of the elements of the riddles Samson gave for instance. In a talk on finding rest with God, he used many pictures of nature scenes that depicted rest. The slides complemented the words, and spoke to a different learning style.
- A youth talk on Jesus as the Living Water started with a three-minute video of an African tribe that was eagerly waiting for the rain season to finally start, since their land was suffering from severe drought. It brought a new understanding to the concept of thirst and the importance of water.
- In a talk on sin, a speaker used a drop of food coloring in a huge pitcher of crystal clear water to show how sin affects holiness. It’s a well known example, that may be overused and stale if you use it too often, but when people haven’t seen it it can be quite powerful.
- In a sermon on Good Friday, a pastor played a piece from Bach’s Matteus Passion after his talk. He’d printed the German text on a handout with a translation and asked people to reflect on the song—which was based on the exact same passage he’d been preaching on. It was a powerful reinforcement of his message and it fit the tone of Good Friday.
These are just four examples of good multimedia use, but there are tons more. If you know some, please share in the comments!
In the next post in this series, we’ll look at some common mistakes when using multimedia and how to avoid these.
[Photo Credit: Lightstock, used with permission]