So last week we covered the topics of focusing your topic and organizing and outlining. This week let’s get into the good stuff- the body of your talk.
Last week I gave you a basic outline to use. This week I’m going to give you a few examples to help you envision where to go with your talk. I’ve decided to use a talk I gave a few years ago in Stake Conference. I was asked to speak for the adult session, and because President Hinckley had recently passed away, the stake president asked me to speak about President Hinckley and the youth. Odd topic, right?
Well, I went through my topic-focusing process, searching, pondering, and praying, and I came up with my question: Why was President Hinckley so beloved by the youth of the church? And consequently, I came up with the real point of my talk: What can we as leaders learn from President Hinckley’s relationship with the youth to better teach and influence them for good?
I was able to narrow my search down to 5 main attributes: humor, respect, gentleness, integrity/example, and love. I wrote my introduction (note: this is not the first paragraph in the talk- that’s the attention-getter; more about that later) and included my question along with these 4 attributes. You may think it’s counterproductive to lay out your answer right there at the beginning of the talk, but it’s actually helpful, as long as you don’t go into too much detail. By just giving a bullet list, you’re helping to give the listener touchstones to listen for as the talk progresses, but you’re not giving them the whole enchilada yet- just a hint of what’s to come. Here’s that key paragraph from my talk:
This evening I would like to share with you what I have discovered about this man and his unique and precious relationship with young people. As I have prepared for this talk, I have seen the great wisdom in his dealings with the youth. There is much to be gained from studying his loving, respectful, gentle approach that seemed to come so naturally. He used humor, respect, gentleness, integrity, and love to bring so many lambs into the fold. I hope that tonight you can begin to reflect on his methods to gain insight into the way you interact not only with the youth in your lives, but all those with whom you may come into contact.
Each of these main points will be like a square in the quilt of your talk- don’t forget the thread that ties them together! Make sure you utilize key words from your last point in the first sentence introducing your next point as a way to make a smooth transition between them. Here’s an example for you:
"Another gentle yet effective teaching method employed by President Hinckley was his way of leading by example.” (transition between point on gentleness and point on example)
No, I’m not confused- this will be the first part of your talk, but I’m putting this after the main body for a reason! Sometimes I can figure out my attention-getter right away, but more often than not I write it last, after the rest of my talk has been written. There are two reasons for this:
1. While it’s important, it’s not the meat of my talk- it’s the gravy on top. I feel much more settled once I get the essentials written, then I come back to this.
2. Once my talk is written I have a much better grasp on my concept and I feel better prepared to create an attention-getter that fits in with the topic and tone of the rest of my talk.
For my President Hinckley talk, my attention-getter was a personal anecdote about when I was a youth at EFY. A teacher was giving a lesson about staying strong in the “last days” and one of his visuals was the front page of a newspaper. The newspaper splashed headlines of wars, violence, and natural disasters, but in the middle of it all was a smiling photograph of President Hinckley (it was a Utah paper). It gave me such a calm and reassuring feeling, and it was an experience that always stuck with me.
Your attention-getter can be anything from a quotation to a story. I tend to shy away from jokes, just because they can be cheesy...but a funny story is okay. And really, I think anything other than, “Good morning brothers and sisters. Today I’ve been asked to speak on...” (SNOOOOZE) is fine. :-) Personally, I think that the best way to start your talk is to just launch right in with your attention-getter. When you skip over the pleasantries and immediately grab your audience’s attention, you’re much more likely to keep them with you for the ride.
Remember, last time I told you to “tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em (introduction), tell ‘em (body), then tell ‘em what you told ‘em (conclusion).” For your conclusion, simply round up your main points, much like you did in your introduction, and remind your audience of the initial question and the answer gained from your points and evidence. Here’s my conclusion:
Has the time to touch the youth and lead them in the right passed with the passing of President Hinckley? I think not. Rather, I think that now we have the rare and wonderful opportunity to look back on his life and all of the ways he found to bless young people with his humor, his respect, his gentleness, his example, and his love. Now that we understand these tools and how he used them, may we too begin to look more carefully at the way we interact with our youth, and all whom we are called to teach and to guide.After this conclusion, I actually included one more thing- the prayer President Hinckley offered on behalf of the youth after his “B’s” talk. I just thought it was such a beautiful, all-encompassing example of the points I had outlined and I felt it a very appropriate ending message.
May we soften their hearts with laughter. May we see them as children of our Father in Heaven with a divine mission to fulfill, and treat them accordingly. May we not preach at them, but gently invite them to do good. May we lead by example, and always express our love.
It is these things that will bring them and us closer to our Father in Heaven, and it is by doing these things that we can honor the memory of a beloved prophet of the Lord, who holds a special place in the hearts of the youth.
One thing I didn’t do in this conclusion, which I think is essential (not sure why I didn’t do it) is to tie your conclusion back in with your attention-getter. This gives your audience a reminder of where you started and brings the talk full-circle. One way I could have done that in this talk is something like this:
'Just as I felt the comfort from seeing President Hinckley’s kind face as an island of peace in a sea of turmoil on the front of that newspaper so many years ago in my youth, so too can we create safe harbors of solace for our youth today as we follow the example of a prophet of God.'
(Yes, it’s not the loveliest thing I’ve ever written, but it’s late and I’m tired!)
This is another example of that thread that’s going to tie the “quilt” of your talk together.
Whew! Are you overwhelmed yet? Next week I’ll finish up with Part 3 in which I’ll cover practice and presentation. Didn’t know you had to practice, did you? ;-)
Think these tips are something you might use someday? Do you have any pointers you’d like to add? Leave a comment and share!