What do you think is the most common mistake when it comes to public speaking? If you think back on some cringe-worthy talks or presentations, even in the church, what was the biggest problem?
I’ll tell you what I think. It’s this: the talks lack focus; they lack a single key point, a ‘big idea.’
Every talk, no matter how short or how long, needs one key message. It’s the one thing you want people to remember when they go home, the one thing you feel is more important than anything else.
In his book Communicating for a Change (a great book for those wanting to grow their teaching skills by the way), Andy Stanley hammers this crucial approach home. Many of us have grown up listening to three point or even five point sermons. He did too, his own dad used that method. But as he states: people cannot remember five points, no matter how nicely alliterated. They can’t remember three points. But they can and will remember one point, one key message.
Helping people remember your message, then, is a first reason to structure your talk around a big idea, a key message. Another reason is that it will bring focus and help you cut out the unnecessary.
Once you’ve found your key point (and we’ll discuss how to get there in an upcoming post), you can structure your talk around it. That means ruthlessly cutting anything and everything that does not reinforce that key message. See what I mean about focus?
This is where so many speakers sabotage themselves. They have great Biblical content, true nuggets of wisdom, they have awesome inspiring stories and funny anecdotes, but they want to cram them all into one talk. As a result, the talk becomes unfocused and afterwards, no one can remember what it was about.
There’s one last reason to have one single point to your talk and it has everything to do with the title of Andy Stanley’s book. You see, in the church, we usually don’t talk to convey information (unless it’s the announcements, but even then we have a higher purpose). We don’t teach so people can pass a test or reproduce exactly what we said. We teach so people may change.
Our deepest purpose is not information, but transformation. We long to see people transform through the power of the Holy Spirit. But a dose of information alone will not do that. Information does not produce change. If we give people a seven point-list on how to become more godly for instance, what will that change? Very little.
However, if we choose one single message, one actionable point and we share this in a compelling, attractive way…that will inspire people (through the work of the Holy Spirit, obviously) to try and apply this one message to their lives.
In the next post we’ll talk about how to find your key message, so stay tuned for more!