Speaker's Guidelines (No. E1)
(Edition 1.0 20030126-20030126)
The purpose of these guidelines is to help speakers avoid some of the pitfalls many public speakers fall into. It points out some of the logical steps one should take in order to give a comprehensive and easy to follow message, which is beneficial to his audience and fulfils Godís instructions to give a clear sound, so people can learn and be prepared. (1Cor. 14:8)
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(Copyright ã 2003 Piet Michielsen and Wade Cox)
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Guidelines for Speakers
The purpose for public speaking is to transfer ideas from the speaker to the audience, regardless of whether these ideas originate in the Bible or elsewhere.
In the Churches of God, the speakers have an audience, which has been commanded to be in attendance, but we cannot take for granted that they will absorb what is being said. It is therefore the speakerís responsibility to make his audience not only listen to him, but also want to hear and understand what is being said. In order to accomplish this, there are some tested guidelines we should work within. Just as a builder has to start with the foundation of the structure and proceed from there with the floors, walls and finally the roof, so a speaker must follow certain guidelines to make his speech a success, regardless of how long he speaks.
We all have experienced the ramblings of a disorganised speech or the dumping of endless, seemingly unrelated scriptures or other information, usually resulting in the sincere and well meaning speaker going far beyond his allotted time. These sessions become endurance tests, rather than the uplifting, stimulating and helpful sermons they should be. Our task is to instruct people in the truth of God. Webster says instruct means "to impart knowledge, to teach, to inform, to furnish with direction, to educate". Our job is to make it plain and simple, interesting and easy to understand. These guidelines are given to aid speakers in avoiding some of the most common pitfalls.
Since we are planning to expound the word of God, the first thing we need to do is ask for Godís help and inspiration. After all, we are in His service and we want to be motivated and inspired by His Holy Spirit.
We should choose a subject that we feel particularly inspired about. When we are new to public speaking, we should limit our time to 15 minutes. When we become more experienced, we can give longer messages. Therefore we need to choose a subject that can easily be expounded within our allotted time.
For a 15 minute sermonette, we should try to use no more then 3 scriptures. In a 60 minute sermon we should limit the number of scriptures to approximately 15 or 20. Any more will limit our ability to thoroughly expound them. Often we will need to mention a few more scriptures as a form of support for personal study later. All the relevant Bible points on a subject should be covered in the papers on a topic. Amass information first. Then divide the Scriptures according to importance to the core of the topic. Use those that are most important and list those that support the topic. Limit the time and the Scriptures according to that time. Most CCG papers run between 60 and ninety minutes. Where a major subject is being covered, it is done as a project over a number of Sabbaths and is divided into subject and group headings, so that the subject is handled in phases and is clear and understood. Most ministers will not be faced with this task.
Specific Purpose Statement
After selecting our topic, the first thing we need to do is write down the Specific Purpose Statement. In one sentence, without using the word "and" we should write what we intend to get across. Without this S.P.S., our speech will lack clarity and purpose and rambling will result. Reflecting on this SPS will also give us an indication if our subject is suitable for the allotted time. The SPS is perhaps the most important part of our public address and this should be given shortly after the opening statement, so that our audience will know what to expect.
Body of the Speech
Next we will want to work on the points of the main body. Though there should only be one main purpose for the message, we probably will want to have 3 or 4 points to achieve that purpose. It is said that a speech should move in a straight line, meaning that each idea leads to the next idea. Each idea will be understood clearly. Preserve an expected sequence and relationship between ideas. Let the audience know how the ideas relate to one another. It is most important that we lead the minds of our listeners in a logical, step by step sequence of how we came to the conclusions we did. If we jump around from one point to another, without a logical sequence, the audience will lose interest and miss the point.
Next comes the preparation of the conclusion. It is best to write out in full, both the SPS and the conclusion statement. Especially in longer messages, it is easy to spend more time than one had intended. It is therefore of the utmost importance to have a conclusion statement. All our points have been leading up to this and when we find ourselves running out of time, we can skip one of our points, go to the conclusion and still have a perfectly rounded off speech. This is much better than insisting on giving all our prepared material, because we will find ourselves having to rush through it or go beyond our allotted time. We will most assuredly lose our audienceís attention in this futile effort. Our conclusion should drive home one more time in capsule form, the main point we have been making.
The last part in preparing our speech or sermon is the opening statement. As suggested before, it might be helpful to write the opening statement out in full. The opening statement should grab our audienceís attention and make them want to listen to what we have to say. We could start with asking a question or making a profound or thought provoking statement. If we can create a problem in the minds of our audience, and then promise to give the solution, we are almost sure to have created a desire in them to listen to us. For example: The Bible states that we are not under law but under grace. On the other hand, it states that the law is not abolished. How can we reconcile these seeming contradictions? We should make sure that our opening leads naturally into our subject and SPS. Avoid starting with a joke or story, which is totally unrelated to the message. It will distract rather than help our audience focus on the subject, though it is tempting to make an impression.
Following the above guidelines in speech/sermon preparation will help our delivery to be easy to follow and get Godís message across in a logical, understandable way. Above all, our audience will benefit from being able to take notes and remember the points we are making since they relate one to another in a logical sequence.
Philippians 2:3: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than ourselves. (NIV) This Scripture instructs us to have a very humble attitude as a servant of God delivering a message, which did not originate with us, but with God after we asked Him to inspire and help us. We should not "talk down" to people, in an attempt to glorify self, but rather lift them up. We need to consider them better than ourself.
With this in mind, we should consider some ways in which we can show respect when we are called upon to speak.
Dress and grooming
In North American and British Commonwealth culture, wearing a shirt, tie and jacket, is considered appropriate dress, with the exception perhaps of a few areas such as Hawaii and other such places. Africa and Asia other than Commonwealth nations have no such culture, so we should dress appropriately. We are Godís representative when we speak from His word and should therefore dress accordingly, showing respect to this calling. We should be dressed and groomed to the best of our ability for this reason. Proper dress also shows respect for our audience and demonstrates proper self-respect. The way we dress and groom expresses our attitude. When we dress and groom carelessly or casually we demonstrate that type of attitude.
Eye contact with our audience shows sincerity. It makes them aware that we are talking to them. In private conversation, when the person talking to us keeps looking away, we wonder if he is really interested in us. The same applies to public speaking. We should direct our gaze over the whole audience, and not just to one spot on either our left or right, or worse still, on the ceiling. If we were to fix in our mind, that only those people we look at are being addressed, we would be more inclined to look at the whole audience.
Respect for the next speaker and audience
When the speaking schedule calls for us to finish at a certain time, we need to show respect by adhering to that. As the first speaker, we will show respect by quitting on time to give the next speaker his full allotted time. As the last speaker, we will show love and concern to the audience by stopping on time, realising they have already been trying to absorb a lot of information. More information, regardless of how important we might think it is will only give spiritual indigestion. Better leave them wanting more than over feeding them.
Show love and respect during our speech
Always be polite
Use proper language expressing what we intend to say, so people donít have to guess what we mean and are left with more questions than answers.
Avoid long drawn out stories or unnecessary repeats. The use of a story is only helpful if it clarifies or helps fix a point we are making.
Use forms of support
Scriptures are our best forms of support, but if needed, quote from well know sources. If the source is not well know, briefly introduce it and demonstrate why this source can be trusted and why it is being used.
Donít belittle or embarrass anyone
If a wrong needs to be brought to light, use only the facts to demonstrate the errors. Avoid using personal names. Remember that we need to show love even to our enemies. Donít accuse. Satan is the accuser and we should not be too ready to help him in that.
Be uplifting - Always hold out hope
Leave self out of the picture as much as possible. We are only the instrument in Godís service.
Remember we have a great responsibility before God to tell these people the truth and to help them understand His will and Laws. Only God can open their minds to this. We just give the message as clear and concise as possible and let God do the rest.
Above all be doctrinally sound and if in doubt ask. Read the relevant paper on the subject if there is one and use that as a guide.
Practice makes perfect
Without some practice it is difficult to improve our skills as a public speaker. Without some evaluation and help from others it is equally difficult to improve.
It is therefore suggested that if we do not have a congregation or group we can practice on, we write out our speech, using the guidelines as mentioned above and e-mail them in to be evaluated for our benefit. If we do have a group we can speak to, ask someone in the group, preferably someone with public speaking experience, to study the guidelines and make an evaluation privately after we have given our message.