So far you’ve focused your topic, created an organized outline, fleshed it out with an introduction, main body, attention-getter, and conclusion- What’s left? you may ask.
Well, for all intents and purposes, your talk is written, but there are a few more bits of business to attend to before you take your seat on the stand.
It’s All About Timing
Once you feel comfortable with the content of your talk, give it a good read-through out loud and time it. If you’re like me, this will take several tries because as you’re reading it you will keep stopping to edit- that’s okay, just make sure you get an accurate time! Be sure to actually read it out loud, though- you might think you’re reading at a normal pace in your head, but that may not necessarily be true.
After your timed read-through, you can go back and add or subtract as needed. When you’re done, your talk will be just right and you can avoid the tacky sideways glances at the clock and the, “How’m I doing on time?” comment.
Make it You
One thing you’ll discover as you read aloud is that there may be several areas where you are stumbling over your words. As writers, we often write in a “voice” that’s different from how we speak- we may use more complicated syntax and vocabulary than we typically use in normal conversation. It’s okay to throw a few big words in there- you do want to sound like you know what you’re talking about, after all- but it's important that your talk is written in your own voice or else it will sound like you’re reading it.
You’re thinking, Wait, I am reading it.
This is true, but it doesn’t need to sound like it!
Practice Makes Perfect
If you don’t want to sound like you’re reading off of something you’ve written, then practice is essential! Reading it out loud for time is one thing, but practicing for presentation is different. Print off your talk (big font, double-spaced to make it nice and easy to read- and don’t forget page numbers!!!) and get yourself in front of a mirror. Practice looking up at your audience periodically.
Run through it several times so that the words come easily and naturally to you. You won’t be able to memorize a 10-minute talk, but practicing it out loud a few times will at least train your brain and mouth to get the words out more smoothly. As you go, make notes of points you might want to say with more emphasis, change any lingering verbal stumbling blocks (ex: if “consequentially” doesn’t roll off the tongue, go with “as a result”), and get comfortable with your own words.
Did You Think to Pray?
Last but most definitely not least, that Sunday morning before your big day make absolutely sure you pray. Be open to inspiration even at this late stage in the game- I was once inspired to totally ditch my talk and bear my testimony instead!! Just take a few deep breaths, trust in the Lord, know that you have given Him your best and pray that the words you say will be the words He wants your audience to hear.
I’ll leave you with a poem from the book I’ve been working on, “The Grocery Store Under My Bed and 50 More Fun Poems for LDS Kids”. This one is called, “I Have to Give a Talk Today”.
I have to give a talk today.
I feel a little scared.
My mother helped me write it,
But I still don’t feel prepared.
I practiced with stuffed animals-
My kangaroo and owl.
I really doubt that it’s the same
As speaking to a crowd.
In my mind I see me trip
As I walk to the stand;
Those faces staring up at me,
My trembling shaky hands.
My knees will knock, my brow will sweat.
Now I can barely breathe!
I open up my mouth to talk,
But I can’t even speak!
I know there’s something I forgot-
Wait, what’s that you say?
Oh, yes, you’re right. Silly me!
I forgot to pray!
Did you find this series helpful at all? Do you think you’ll use my tips next time you have to write a talk? What are your tips for writing a good talk? I’d love to read your comments!