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Yearly Archives: 2015

My Mentor and Me

Last week I said goodbye to a wonderful, godly woman who made such an impact on my life! I wanted to share an article with all of you about all the life lessons I learned from the precious JoAnn Leavell.

Rhonda and JoAnn photo 2009 DSC_5475

JoAnn Leavell My Mentor and Me

(click the link above for the PDF)

Connecting with the Audience

One important task of preparing to speak is planning to establish and maintain a personal connection with the audience. In his book, The Empowered Communicator, Calvin Miller discusses seven keys to unlocking an audience. He suggests that a speaker follow seven specific steps to better understand the audience and encourage connection.[1]

  1. Build a speaker-listener relationship. It is the speaker’s responsibility to connect with the audience.
  2. Step over the ego barrier. The speaker must be transparent and put aside focus on self.
  3. Promise your hearers usable information and keep your promise with content. A speech must actually contain the relevant material promised by the speaker.
  4. Create tension and resolution. Attention must be gained then released when information has been presented.
  5. Construct a pyramid of priorities. Listeners prioritize truth, interest, and inspiration. Speakers should be sensitive to these desires and respond intentionally.
  6. Make sure they hear through a “trinity of audio values.” Three vocal dynamics impact presentation: projection, dynamic, and pause.
  7. Kill interest-lag through six values of mobility or movement. Six values should be considered:
    • change everything on the spot – Spontaneous editing is often needed during a speech to adjust timing and content.
    • change what isn’t working – Adjustments and revisions may improve understanding by the listeners.
    • pull from accessible back file – Past knowledge or experience may assist a speaker in the moment.
    • casually ask for attention – A speaker may need to call for attention from the audience if minds seem to be wandering or distractions occur.
    • heighten projection – Increased volume or stress may refocus listeners.
    • quit early – Stop speaking before the audience stops listening. There is never such a thing as a bad short sermon or message

I am constantly in awe of the work of the Holy Spirit in my life as I stand to speak His message. Though I carefully prepare my material and plan specific illustrations or personal examples, the Lord often brings to my mind an experience or story while I am speaking that I have not consciously thought about in a long time. I share the God-given illustration and realize later that someone in the audience made a powerful connection with that account. The Holy Spirit, who always knows the audience, can pull from your past experience or previous knowledge to speak His Word directly to each person in the audience.

The most effective public speakers will exert effort ahead of time getting to know the audience and the occasion as well as preparing material. During the message, an excellent speaker responds to feedback from the audience, often editing and adjusting the speech in mid-message. When speaker-listener connection is maintained from the opening comment to the closing word, the outcome of the message will be positive.

Preparation for a speech is a challenging task. No two audiences are alike. No two occasions are alike. No two speakers are alike. In addition, the same speaker is different every time she speaks. Diligent work and dependence on the Holy Spirit is essential for a public speaker preparing to give a message. Face the challenge as you focus on your audience before you stand up to speak for them!

            [1] Calvin Miller, The Empowered Communicator: 7 Keys to Unlocking an Audience (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1994), 11-206.

Running the Race

Discipline is not a pleasant topic for most people. It is difficult to discipline others, but it is even more challenging to discipline oneself. However, discipline is necessary to maintain order in life, relationships and as a public speaker! The ability to motivate oneself and exert willpower is a basic trait needed personally and professionally. Scripture admonishes believers to “run the race with endurance” – not tiring in our pursuit of Christ-likeness (Hebrews 12:1).  In 1 Timothy 4:7-9, the apostle Paul reminds the Christian of the importance of being disciplined in godliness:

But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness, For the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance.

Self-discipline is important in the speaker’s preparation of a message. Personal willpower is needed to contemplate research, organize material, and plan a speech. Many other interests and activities are distractions when thoughts should be focused on the upcoming message to be given or lesson to be taught. Discipline yourself to work on your speech and be prepared to deliver it to the best of your ability.

Discipline is needed in all areas of life in order to maintain balance and ensure healthy growth. Specific goals must be established to promote spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, and social discipline. A Christian speaker should be committed to developing the disciplines of a godly life and seek to have:

  1. A disciplined heart
  2. A disciplined body
  3. A disciplined mind
  4. A disciplined routine[1]

The heart of a person must be pure and holy, focused on following the Lord and obeying His commands. The body of a person must be healthy and fit, adhering to proper nutrition and regular fitness. The mind of a person must be increasing in wisdom and knowledge, through listening and learning. The routine of a person must be systematic and balanced, setting aside time to pursue growth in all areas of life. These disciplines promote balanced growth in an individual and in a God-called public speaker.

A Christian must employ personal willpower in order to develop discipline but also has the added resource of the Holy Spirit’s power. A speaker who wants to proclaim a message from the Lord has an even greater responsibility to maintain a disciplined life. It is not a personal word but His divine Word to be communicated. A disciplined person will become a more disciplined speaker. The combination of personal willpower, God’s supernatural power, and people’s persuasive power will help Christians and speakers alike develop and maintain the discipline needed for life and ministry. The discipline of a public speaker “yields the fruit of peace and righteousness” to those who hear the message! Challenge yourself to become a more disciplined speaker and believer in 2015!

            [1] Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix, Power in the Pulpit (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 72-81.

            [2] Rhonda H. Kelley, Divine Discipline: How to Develop and Maintain Self-Control (Gretna, LA: Pelican, 1992), 67-103.