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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.

Barriers to Good Listening

Are you a good listener? Most Americans are poor listeners. Litfin explains that we are an EYE-oriented culture rather than EAR-oriented. Americans prefer visual input, especially young people who have grown up with electronic technology. The people in cultures where there is no written language or high incidences of illiteracy are EAR-oriented. In our culture, we say, “Can I have a copy of that?” or “I need to see it in writing.” We prefer “reading and storage” over “listening well and remembering.”[1] We must work harder on listening when it doesn’t come as naturally. Attention and listening skills are better in cultures that must depend on hearing and memory for information.

Common barriers to good listening include the following:[2]

  1. passive listening – Many people are lazy listeners. Listening is active, involving interaction of the listener and speaker in the process.
  2. interrupting – Many listeners are impatient to wait for the comment to end and eager to speak themselves. Conversation requires give and take; listening, then speaking.
  3. assumptions – People have a tendency to jump to a conclusion before a speaker finishes a thought. Making a wrong assumption is like jumping to a confusion!
  4. self-focus – In this “me–generation,” people are more interested in what they have to say than what others are saying. Listening requires focus on the speaker, not on self.
  5. past intrusion – Previous experiences or past failures may influence a listener. A good listener must be “in the moment” in order to understand the speaker.
  6. distraction – Drifting thoughts and poor attention hinder good listening. Distractions can be internal or external. Listeners must focus on the words being spoken in order to listen completely and correctly.
  7. defensiveness – Listeners may react strongly when they disagree or have another opinion. This verbal response has been described as duelogue vs. dialogue. Duelogue implies two people fighting with words as their weapons.[3]

Identifying one’s personal barriers to good listening is an important move in controlling these hindrances so listening may improve. Knowing personal weaknesses in listening is the first step toward improving listening skills.

Distraction is probably my biggest barrier to good listening. I am highly distracted internally by thoughts of everything I have to do. I am distracted externally by sights and sounds around me. When my husband and I go out to dinner, my natural desire is to face everyone and everything in the restaurant because of my curiosity. But to give Chuck my undivided attention, I must sit facing him–and maybe the wall–to tune out the distractions around me.

The Bible teaches about the importance of listening and warns against hasty speech. In James 1:19, the apostle admonishes: “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” Commentary in the Life Application Bible for this verse includes an exercise for overcoming barriers to good listening. “Put a mental stopwatch on your conversations and keep track of how much you talk and how much you listen. In your conversations, do others feel that their viewpoints and ideas have been valued?”[4] Effective communicators break down personal barriers to listening in order to build up people while focusing on their messages. Have you been able to identify your own barriers to good listening? How can you become a more effective communicator by being a better listener?

            [1] Litfin, Public Speaking, 42.

            [2] Gronbeck et al., Principles of Speech Communication, 36-37.

            [3] “Duelogue,” http://www.examiner.com/article/monologue-dialogue-or-duelogue-how-savvy-are-you (cited 3 March 2013) examiner.com (Clarity Digital Group LLC, 2013).

            [4] Tyndale House, Life Application Bible: New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1987), 604.

“Lay Your Nose On The Altar”

I had the honor of writing another article for SBC Life this month, and would love to share it with you all! It centers on how to keep Christ at the center of our lives, so that we may always be ready for an opportunity to TALK of His truth. Click here to read the article on the SBC Life website!

Misunderstandings about Public Speaking

Because the process of communication is so complex, it is often misunderstood. It would simplify matters if a person could convey thoughts telepathically to another person. If thoughts did not have to be formulated in a speaker’s brain, expressed through that speaker’s words, transmitted through the air, perceived through the listener’s ears, understood in the listener’s mind, and responded to verbally by the listener, a message would always be understood. But that is not possible. Instead, God created humans to have thoughts and feelings which, to be understood by others, must be expressed in words. The complexity of communication requires study and practice throughout the lifespan.

Many counseling books unveil the critical need for communication within marriage. For years, during pre-martial counseling, my (Monica) father would place three rocks before the couple, signifying the three foundations of a marriage. One of those rocks stood for the critical need to communicate (connection); the others for communion (intimacy) and cooperation (marital roles). Married couples certainly benefit from the mastery of communication.

While there are numerous misunderstandings about communication, Duane Litfin presents three common ones in his book, Public Speaking: A Handbook for Christians.[1] These misunderstandings can confuse both the speaker and the listener.

Misunderstanding 1: Each act of communication is separate and discrete and can be studied as such. The truth is that communication is a complicated, interactive process.

Misunderstanding 2: Communication is linear in the sense that a message travels one way from a source to a receiver. The truth is that human communication is circular. It begins with a spoken word and continues with further interactions.

Misunderstanding 3: The speaker transfers thought to the listeners. The truth is the listener filters information through personal perspective in order to understand the message spoken.

These misunderstandings reflect the complexity of the process of communication. Though complex, communication is an essential interaction among humans to convey messages, build relationships, and serve others. Understanding these myths about communication will improve overall communication and strengthen relationships.

Seven Pinker, and Paul Bloom declared, “Speaking is innate, writing is an invention.”[2] Oral communication has several distinctive components which contrast it from written communication.[3]  These differences must be considered when speaking verbally. First, oral communication tends to be more direct than written expression. Nonverbal cues can clarify meaning while more description is necessary in writing. Second, oral communication tends to be more repetitive or redundant than written discourse. Readers can refer back to information that is written, while listeners need repetition for better understanding. Third, oral communication tends to be more fragmentary. Written language includes complete thoughts and sentences. Fourth, oral communication tends to be more personal. Readers typically include a variety of people not only those close enough to listen personally. One needs to be aware of these distinctives when preparing to speak. Information needs to be delivered to be heard, not read.

One of my (Monica) favorite Bible verses is Psalm 45:1,  “My heart is moved by a noble theme as I recite my verses to the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.” I love to write and find I am able to express on paper what is often difficult to express aloud. When I turned twelve years old, I started keeping a prayer journal. I would write out my prayers. Journaling became a daily discipline for me and helped me to articulate on paper what I was thinking about or struggling with each day. I found in my writing that I was much more detailed when I wrote out my prayers on paper than when I prayed out loud. However, when I have been asked to pray at a women’s event or small group setting, I never hand out copies of a prayer to be read by everyone. I speak them out loud to the Lord on behalf of the women in the group. As women hear what is spoken out loud, there is a connection. Words spoken out loud are different than words written out on paper.

According to Litfin, there are several distinct advantages of public speaking.  First, important messages must often be communicated to a large number of people. It is much more practical and beneficial for a major thought to be shared one time to a larger group than many times one-to-one. Second, a public speech is a message which can be organized and prepared by the speaker. Thoughtful preparation increases the clarity and improves the effectiveness of the communication. Third, a public speech allows the ideas to be heard by the listeners who can postpone a response until the ideas are fully understood.[4] While spontaneous, interpersonal conversation will always be a part of daily life and church ministry, skilled public speaking can enhance the message delivery among groups and even among individuals. What misconceptions do you encounter about public speaking?

            [1] Duane Litfin, Public Speaking: A Handbook for Christians (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992), 19-21.

            [2] S. Pinker, and P.Bloom.”Natural language and natural selection,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13, 4 (1990), 707–784.

            [3] Litfin, Public Speaking, 275-77.

            [4] Litfin, Public Speaking, 27.

More Ideas for Using Drama!

So you’ve been convinced that drama can make your public speaking come to life and touch the lives of many. Now you’re wondering, “Well, how can I do it?” Today we’d like to share several different approaches to incorporating the dramatic arts into your speaking!

Monologue

In the realm of communication, the word “monologue” may carry a negative connotation of a long, boring speech or a speaker who monopolizes a conversation. However, a monologue is a dramatic expression used by a public speaker. The dictionary defines a monologue as “a dramatic soliloquy (oral discourse); a continuous series of jokes or comic stories delivered by one comedian.”[1] Talk show hosts on television often begin the program with a monologue.

Everett Robertson writes, “The dramatic monologue involves one actor portraying one character in a crisis situation.”[2] Monologues may present biblical characters, such as Ruth or Mary the Mother of Jesus, or portray an inanimate object, like the manger which held baby Jesus or the alabaster jar which held the perfume used to anoint the feet of Jesus. Monologues may be short or long, presented during a portion of the message or as the entire speech. Speakers may wear costumes and makeup for dramatic effect. The script may be written originally or taken directly from the Scripture or another text. Monologues are most effective when they reveal a truth to the audience in dramatic details.

Dramatic Reading

Dramatic reading is defined as “a public reading or recitation of a work of literature with an interpretive use of the voice and often of gestures.”[3] A speaker reads aloud a poem, essay, story, or Scripture passage with animated voice, facial expression, hand gestures, and body movements. The reader portrays the dramatic, physical, and emotional aspects of a situation. If several characters or perspectives are included, the speaker may identify them with changes of voice, posture, or gesture.

Material for dramatic reading must be selected carefully. The content must have a clear focus and appropriate emotional appeal. The audience needs to identify with, understand, and enjoy the work. Delivery requires practice and timing. Careful pronunciation and phrasing as well as a rhythmical pace enhance the presentation. Facial expression, eye contact, and gestures add to the oral expression.

Storytelling

One of the oldest forms of drama, storytelling is “reciting tales or relating anecdotes in a captivating manner.”[4] While a monologue involves a character directly, storytelling includes the character indirectly. Storytelling is typically spoken in second-person, and monologue is first-person. Vivid description and animated expression is a part of storytelling. A real account is often exaggerated and amplified for effect in storytelling. Robertson encourages the storyteller to “use every possible technique to communicate the story creatively.”[5]

Object Lesson

For years, teachers and speakers have displayed inanimate objects to explain a lesson with dramatic effect. Visual aids are helpful to most listeners. They enhance a narrative, facilitating comprehension and identity. In delivery, the speaker should carefully connect the object and the idea. Creative interaction with the audience and object may foster application.

Role Play

Role play is a form of drama used successfully in many areas of ministry as well as public speaking. It is “representing in action the thoughts and feelings of another person”[6] During a message, a speaker may pause in her own discourse to assume the position of another person in order to emphasize or clarify a point. In teaching or training, role play may be used to demonstrate different responses or simulate varied emotions. Role playing is a creative and revealing way to present a range of emotions, values, and beliefs without threatening the audience.

Pantomime

One of the most creative forms of drama is pantomime, the process of silent expression. It is “conveying a story by bodily action or facial movements only.”[7] The term “mime” may refer to the performer, though it usually refers to the more formal, classical discipline. Marcel Marceau was the famous French mime who introduced the art form into the world stage. Dick Van Dyke premiered pantomime on one of his earliest television shows as humorous, physical comedy. Pantomime communicates visually what cannot be communicated as creatively with words.

Pantomime may be used by speakers as a means of visually expressing specific actions and traits. According to Robertson, “it involves a universal language of gestures which is understood by all cultures and ages.”[8] It can be serious or humorous and is often performed to music. Costumes and makeup may be worn. The audience often relates personally to the movements and emotions of the mime.

Clowning

Clowns are known for entertaining in circuses and rodeos, but they can also be found ministering in churches and communities. By definition, clowning is “entertainment by jokes, antics, or tricks in a public presentation.”[9] Christian clowning communicates biblical truths in a creative, non-threatening form, often in evangelistic outreach. “A Christian dressed as a clown breaks through many of the barriers placed by the secular world against religion. The joyful nature of the clown also makes it easy to tell others about the joy and colorfulness of Christ.[10]

Do you have any other ideas for incorporating drama into your public speaking?

[1] “Monologue,” http://www.thefreedictionary.com/monologue (cited 13 March 2013), American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. (Houghton Mifflin, 2009).

[2] Robertson, The Dramatic Arts in Ministry, 12.

[3] “Dramatic Reading,”www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dramatic reading (cited 13 March 2013), Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2013).

[4]“Storytelling,” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/storytelling (cited 13 March 2013), Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2013).

[5] Robertson, The Dramatic Arts in Ministry, 21.

[6]“Public Speaking,” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/public+speaking (cited 13 March 2013), Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2013).

[7] “Pantomime,” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pantomime (cited 13 March 2013), Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2013).

[8]Robertson, The Dramatic Arts in Ministry, 12.

[9] “Clowning,” http://www.thefreedictionary.com/clowning (cited 13 March 2013), American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. (Houghton Mifflin, 2009).

[10] Robertson, The Dramatic Arts in Ministry, 15.

Dress Your Best

Public speakers never have a second chance to make a first impression. While a person need not be a beauty to speak to groups, appearance and clothing are an important part of the speaker’s image. Neat appearance and appropriate clothing display professionalism and confidence. On the other hand, untidy appearance and inappropriate clothing can distract the listener and diminish the speaker’s credibility. Christian speakers should always look their best to represent the Lord well.

Florence and Marita Littauer have written and spoken about personality types for many years. They discuss how personality affects style of communication in their book, Communication Plus: How to Speak So People will Listen. Personality is definitely expressed in the clothing, hairstyle, and makeup of a speaker.[1] They suggest four different personalities with four different looks. While no two people are exactly alike, each personality tends to wear clothes of a particular style.

            Popular Sanguine: bright colors, sparkles and bling, flamboyant clothing, unique styles

            Powerful Choleric: bright colors, simple prints, tailored style, business professional

            Perfect Melancholy: muted tones, classic cuts, traditional styles, simple elegance

            Peaceful Phlegmatic: earthy tones, flowing fabrics, relaxed fit, unstructured styles

Personality should be considered when shopping for clothing, accessories, and makeup.

Public speakers need to understand how personality impacts style of speaking and type of clothing. While appearance should reflect personality, clothing styles should not be extreme. The audience and occasion should be considered as well as the fit and comfort of the clothes. Clothing should not be distracting to the speaker or listeners. According to the Littauers: Regardless of your personality, it is important to put extra effort into dressing for the platform. The things that work on the stage may well be things that you would never wear to the store or office. But on the stage, in front of an audience, you want to have a look that sets you apart and lends dignity to your work.[2]

Some people have a natural sense of style and dress attractively without effort. Others must work harder to look their best. General ideas can be seen in fashion magazines. Clothing consultants or sales clerks can provide professional input. Speakers must wear clothing, hairstyles, and makeup appropriate for age, setting, and ministry. Timeless classics are recommended over faddish trends. Invest money in fashions that last and are made well. 

The speaking wardrobe should take into consideration appropriate attire, personal style, body type, and skin tones. Type of attire is determined by the occasion, setting, and audience. A speaker is wise to ask about dress for the event before arriving unprepared. It is a general rule of thumb for a speaker to wear clothing one level above the audience. If the audience wears jeans, the speaker should wear nice slacks. If the audience wears slacks, the speaker should wear a dressy pantsuit, skirt, or dress.

There are four different body types which determine how clothes look on a person. They are called by different names, though they generally describe the same basic shapes. Several fashion sources suggest these four categories: circle (thick around the middle), triangle (larger at the bottom), hourglass (curvy but evenly proportioned), and rectangle (straight up and down). Circle figures should wear loose fitting clothes around the middle and fitted pants; avoid high-rise pants, belts, and fitted tops. Triangle figures should wear tailored tops and fuller bottoms; avoid oversized sweaters, skinny jeans, and clingy skirts. Hourglass figures should wear fitted waistbands and belts; avoid shapeless tunics, baby–doll dresses, and oversized cardigans. Rectangle figures should wear fitted waists and flared bottoms to create curves; avoid clingy dresses, Empire–waist tops, and flowing skirts.[1] Women who know their body types and wear the appropriate clothes always have a more attractive and confident appearance.     

Colors also matter. Solid, bright (not neon) colors are usually flattering on all women. However, certain colors look better with specific skin tones. In 1980, Carole Jackson developed a color system called “Color Me Beautiful.” Based on the four seasons of the year, a woman’s natural skin tones determine the most complimentary color palate. See the chart below listing coloration and colors for each season. [2]

 Clothing makes a statement. Clean, neat clothes project a sense of pride and care. Dirty, disheveled clothes indicate lack of interest or even emotional distress. Stylish, coordinated clothes display attention to detail. From head to toe, clothing matters to women and to public speakers. Clothing need not send the wrong message: “I am worn out and out–of–date.” Clothing can project a positive image. Speakers should wear their best to speak their best. Personal style and event setting may vary. However, a speaker’s appearance should always be neat, modest, and appropriate. Comment below with any additional tips you have about the speaker’s wardrobe!

        

            [1] Littauer, Communication Plus, 174-176.

            [2] Ibid., 176.

    [1] Larson, Kristin. “The Right Clothes for Your Body Type,” http://www.realsimple.com/beauty-fashion/clothing/shopping-guide/right-clothes-your-body-type-00000000007925/index.html (cited March 20, 2013), Real Simple, (Time Inc. 2013).

            [2] Carole Jackson, Color Me Beautiful (New York: Ballentine Books, 1980).