Weekly Thought – February 1, 2022
Fred’s speaking ability gave him access to audiences throughout North America and beyond. His philosophy was: “speak to express, not to impress.” Respect for the audience was foundational for Fred. Preparation and prayer always formed the infrastructure for any address, meeting, or conversation. Thinking about the art and science of speaking intrigued him lifelong.
Participation, not Observation
One way we can improve our speaking skills is by remembering our goal is not simply to have people sit quietly while we talk, but to have their minds actively engaged by the subject matter.
One of the common mistakes made by speakers is trying to create false feelings by over dramatization. Telling sob stories, getting teary, or yelling are tricks which hinder genuine communication. Listeners quickly realize the speaker isn’t depending on the subject matter for a response, but on the theatrics. When people are thinking more about how you are saying something than what you are saying, your effectiveness is lost.
The minute someone starts yelling, people mentally distance themselves. Many preachers think they are doing this for emphasis, but generally it doesn’t work that way – it deemphasizes.
If I want to say something really important, I’ll lower my voice – and people will usually lean forward to hear what I am saying. In a sense, you’re attaching intimacy to a point by lowering your voice. You are saying, “This point means something to me. I’m telling you something from my heart.”
By increasing the volume, often the point comes across as part of a performance rather than a heartfelt point you are making to another person. If you want your audience to fully digest what you are saying – don’t perform. Attempt to be conversational. Audiences tend to connect with the material.
I don’t the audience to be observers. I want them to participate because the whole object of speaking is to influence attitudes and behavior. How do I encourage participation? Not necessarily by being entertaining. If people are listening for the next story or next joke, I’ve become merely an entertainer. I need to be smart enough to know when my material is getting inside them. I may need to make them laugh or I may need a pointed statement. But when they are genuinely listening and understanding, they are participating.
My goal is not to have people say, “Oh, you are such a great speaker.” When I hear that I know I have failed. If they are conscious of my speaking ability, they see me as a performer… they have not participated. My goal is for people to say, “You know, Fred, I’ve had those kind of thoughts all my life, but I’ve never had the words for them – now I do.” I have given them a handle for an idea; I’ve helped them crystallize their thoughts and experiences.
This week think about: 1) What is my goal when speaking? 2) How can I develop my communication skills by focusing on the audience? 3) Who can help me strengthen my speaking skills?
Words of Wisdom: “If you want your audience to fully digest what you are saying – don’t perform.”
Wisdom from the Word: “My soul will rejoice when your lips speak what is right.” (Proverbs 23:16 NET Bible)