Decide whether you want to deliver a speech or motivate your audience to take action. The two are not the same. You’ve got to choose one or the other. The first one is fairly easy to prepare for. The second? Not so much. It requires viewing life through another’s eyes, feeling their hurts, anticipating their struggles, and showing them the way out.
Talking and communicating are not synonymous. Just because you said it doesn’t mean everybody else got it. Too often, communicators build speeches that they like the sound of instead of preparing a message that appeals to the audience they will be addressing.
To communicate well, you must genuinely like people. Arrogance and snobbiness always bleed through.
Nobody cares what you think. Unless they’re part of a punchy comedy routine, your opinions get mighty tiresome after about thirty seconds. Give folks facts and principles they can apply and improve their lives. Be able to document everything you say. If you can’t prove it’s accurate, trash it.
Don’t wax eloquent on subjects you don’t know well. In one of my first sermons, I elaborated on the messiness of animal sacrifices and how the sheep must have reacted when the priests prepared them for the altar. After the service, I shook hands with an old man who looked me in the eye and said, “You don’t know much about sheep, do you?” That’s all he said, but that’s all it took. When you don’t know all the details, I recommend underselling.
Don’t milk another man’s cow. A few weeks ago, a bunch of us were listening to a preacher online. Midway through his sermon, my son opened YouTube and played a clip of a popular comedian. He and the preacher were telling the same stories. The same illustrations told in exactly the same way. The kids listening loved the comedian. The preacher became part of the joke. He still is.
Perception is reality. Your audience isn’t going to leave talking about what you said; they are going to go home talking about what they heard. Lessons on child training, for example, can sound like mocking ridicule to parents of wayward children. Presentation is just as important as content.
Don’t blame the audience for not getting your point. It’s your job to paint the picture for them. If there is a disconnect, it’s probably your fault.
Don’t talk down to your audience. Treat them like they are adults who have a healthy dose of good sense. Find common ground. Build a bridge. Make a connection. You don’t get bigger by making those around you smaller.
Be confident, but don’t be a jerk. If you have to keep reminding your audience of how tough and cool you are, well, you probably aren’t very tough or cool. Give it a rest. If you are tough, they will see it without you having to show them. If you aren’t, they will see right through all your posturing. Make it about them and not about you.