I have written in the past with regards to public speaking. It’s a core competency of being a great leader. It’s a skill that takes refining, but can be powerful when mastered. Every leader that wants to have a greater impact should study public speaking. One way to do so is to analyze how others excel and what tactics they use.
I recently came across a video with great public speaking tips by Phil Waknell. These can be applied to anyone speaking in church or teaching a lesson (listen up, High Council). Take a watch and then let’s discuss these principles in the LDS perspective below.
Death by PowerPoint, Death by Reading, Death by Boredom
Thankfully PowerPoint slides are not allowed in sacrament meeting (and so help me…they never will be). However, occasionally a bishop wheels in the projector for a 5th Sunday combined lesson, or even a Sunday school teacher will use the projector. There’s rumor of some church building installing a projector in the ceiling for quick access. This isn’t a bad idea; however, it can be dangerous in the wrong hands.
In the video, Phil also mentions death by reading and death by boredom, which I have discussed in past posts. (See Preparing a Sacrament Meeting Talk Without PowerPoint, and What Sunday School Needs is a Flash Mob)
3 Goals for Any Church Lesson/Talk
When is the last time anyone walked out of Sunday School thinking, “I didn’t know that”, or “I’m glad I do now”, or “I’d like to know more”? What a great model for preparing anything you teach in church. Before you think regurgitating the generic questions listed in the manual is going to inspire people to want to learn more, one should consider these 3 goals. How can you focus the lesson on topics that the class may not understand completely? What angle of [said lesson topic] is not obvious and would stimulate further discussion? What resources can I give them that would allow them to study the topic on a deeper level during their personal study?
Make Your Message Stick With a Powerful Conclusion (Testimony)
Those first two topics are worth considering; however, making your message stick with a powerful conclusion is by far the most important part of any public speaking–especially in the LDS context. Most people sort of know this, that is why they end with their testimony.
The reality is, Mormons are awful at bearing testimony. That’s right, I said it, and I’m not going to apologize! I know what you are thinking, “but we Mormons have the exclusive rights on the concept of bearing testimony.” That is the problem; we have been “bearing testimony” for so long it has turned into a standard list of clichés. “I know the church is true”, “I know Joseph Smith was a prophet”, “I love my family”. These are all phrases that have been so overused their intrinsic value is inflated and therefore has little impact on the hearts of the listener who have heard it over and over.
Elder Holland said it best (as he always does). Back in the 2007 World Wide Leadership Conference Elder Holland commented on this concept of how to conclude a less. I’d recommend you listen to his complete training when you have time; however, here is the main take-home message:
We may not give the fanciest lesson, we may not be just terrifically skillful with audio visual aids…but we can share with every student the fire of our faith, and we can warm our hands by it. I’ve been painfully disappointed over the years…that wonderful lessons given by loyal gifted teachers who somehow at the end of a class will say, “Well, there’s the bell. Brother Jones, will you give the prayer?” And it’s over. No closing the books, no looking in the eye for just a minute. No settling down to just say, in effect, where have we been, where are we going, and what is the Lord trying to do?….In some cases not a single reference to what this was supposed to mean to the student or to the teacher that I am left to walk away saying, “I wonder how he felt about that? I wonder how he thought about it? Or what it was supposed to mean to him or to me?” So much effort to get some doctrine, some principle, some map, some video clip across to the students, but not a hint of personal testimony about what that doctrine or that principle meant to the teacher the one who was suppose to lead us and guide us and walk besides us.
As President J. Reuben Clark once said, “never let your faith be difficult to detect.” Maybe I’ll repeat that. “Never let your faith be difficult to detect.” Never sow seeds of doubt. Avoid self-serving performance and vanity. Don’t try to dazzle everyone with how brilliant you are–dazzle them with how brilliant the gospel is. Don’t worry about the location of the lost tribes or the three nephites; worry a little more about the location of your student–what’s going on in his heart, what’s going on in her soul–the hunger. Sometimes the near desperate spiritual needs of our people. Teach them and above all testify to them, love them, bear your witness from the depths of your soul. It will be the most important thing you say to them in the entire hour, and it may save someone’s spiritual life.
-Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, 2007 World Wide Leadership Training
After reading that, there is really nothing more to add. Go share the fire of your faith.