It’s Monday! Anyone get cornered by a member of the bishopric yesterday??
Well, I didn’t but I’m certainly not a stranger to giving talks in Sacrament- in fact, I’ve even spoken in Stake Conference before, and believe me, that’s no joke, people.
But you know what? I’m kind of a freak because I LOVE giving talks. And I want you to love giving them too!
As writers we may feel comfortable writing stories, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to writing talks, much less giving them...in front of a huge audience! I thought it might be helpful to share a few of the things I’ve learned in my talk-giving experience with the hope that it might make the whole experience less intimidating.
I have decided to break this up into multiple posts so as not to overwhelm you, dear readers. Today we’ll start at the very beginning (a very good place to start).
I. Focusing Your Topic
The good news: You don’t have to fit a few thousand years of revelation into a 10-minute talk. The less-good news: You have to focus your topic.
My favorite method for doing this is one we’re all familiar with: Search, Ponder, and Pray! My only change to this method is that I usually pray first, then search (lds.org, Ensign magazines, scriptures, etc.), then ponder. My goal in this process is to find out what part of this topic the Lord wants me to cover. Ideally, I like to come up with a question to be answered so that I can take the congregation on a journey with me to uncover the answer.
To give you an example, I was once given the topic of “Salvation and Exaltation”. I decided to focus my talk on the concept of salvation, specifically, when someone asks, “Have you been saved?”, what does that mean exactly? Living in the Bible Belt, this was a very relevant approach to this topic for my audience.
Basically, you need to have a point you’re trying to make: try to sum up in a single sentence what you want your audience to take away from your talk. Try to make this point as relevant to your audience as possible.
II. Organize and Outline
So now you’ve got your focus: you’ve got a point to make, and now you just have to figure out how to make it.
One of the basic rules of public speaking is this: Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, then tell ‘em what you told ‘em. With this idea in mind, I usually like to format my talk as follows:
I. Attention-getter (more about those next week)
II. Introduction (main point summary)
a. (supporting evidence hint)
b. (supporting evidence hint)
c. (supporting evidence hint)
III. Supporting Evidence
IV. Supporting Evidence
V. Supporting Evidence
VI. Summary of main point and all supporting evidence
Now, this may seem like a very clinical approach to giving a talk, but think about it: do you ever see a General Authority get up at General Conference and “wing it”? No- they always have their talks written out, and they are usually very well-organized. Why is this important? For several reasons:
1. It helps the listener stay focused because a well-organized talk is easier to listen to and digest (don’t you love the conference talks that give you bullet points or acronyms?)
2. When your thoughts are organized and clearly written down you will feel more confident in speaking and the experience will go much for smoothly, for both you and the audience.
3. When a talk is written out you are able to time it to make sure you are both filling your allotted time and not exceeding the time limit.
4. A well-written-out talk will be easier to share with those who ask for a copy of it later.
Does this mean there’s no room for on-the-spot spiritual inspiration? Absolutely not! But if you have a great base to build on, then that inspiration will find its place without causing you to lose your focus. And if your focus is a result of preliminary prayer and its resulting inspiration, then you know that the message you’re giving is coming from Heavenly Father.
Next week we’ll talk about the meat of your talk and I’ll give you some concrete examples.
Do your palms start to sweat when you see the first counselor’s name pop up on your caller ID or do you look forward to that call?