Communication is the most important key to your success as a leader.
I have spent almost twenty years communicating weekly to large groups of people. I have coached preachers, campus ministers, youth guys and marketplace leaders on how to effectively get their message across. Along the way, I have discovered eight simple ways to improve your communication.
Automate Your Preparation
Develop a system that you follow in preparation for your next message. Create a calendar template that takes the guesswork out of what you work on today.
Adopt Alistair Begg's method of preparation:
- Think yourself empty
- Read yourself full
- Write Yourself clear
- Pray yourself hot
Choose the tools that you will use to help you prepare. From the books you use to research to whether you use digital tools or pen-and-paper.
Spend More Time With People
Determine how much time you will spend preparing your next message. Spend no less than 25% of that time with people who are part of your audience. Learn their stories. Listen to their struggles. Ask their perspective on what you see in your preparation
Make One Point
Do the hard work of clarifying what is being said in the part of the Bible you are covering. Capture that idea in a compelling phrase - a declarative statement that answers a provocative question. Don't allow yourself to stop preparing until you are saying one thing in a clear and compelling way.
Write down the ideal length of time for your message. Ask 3-4 people if that sounds too long, too short, or just right to them. Make adjustments based on their feedback. And then plan on talking five minutes less than that.
Oh, and if you are speaking in an unfamiliar environment, find out how long a message normally lasts. And then talk for five minutes less than that.
Minimize Your Notes
Far too many speakers ruin a good message by tethering themselves to a manuscript. That great point you want to make loses steam because you're looking down at your notes instead of making eye contact. There is a reason you don't see actors or speakers at TED events using notes.
Personally, I have not used notes in over five years. I use a process called mindmapping to help me prepare. And I have found that no change in my communication has been more helpful in improving my communication than moving away from a manuscript, ditching the outline, and delivering my message with nothing but a Bible.
Tell A Great Story
There is a secret to every great speech.
Regardless of the genre of Scripture you're handling, find ways to work the elements of great storytelling into your message. Paying attention to the power of story is not a license to decouple yourself from the text but a helpful tool in communicating the truth embedded within that particular part of the Scriptures.
Ask For Help
When you get stuck trying to figure out what the Bible says, pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand.
When you are at a loss about the meaning of a particular text, pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to clarify what matters most.
When you do not see how this part of the Scriptures applies to you and your hearers, pray. Ask God to connect timeless truth to your present reality and the lives of the people who will be listening.
Your work is not done until you evaluate your message.
Work with key leaders to determine what matters most in your communication. Consider factors such as:
- Faithfulness to the text
- A clear and compelling main point,
- The effectiveness of your tone and non-verbal communication
- The helpfulness of your application.
Ask one key leader to spend 15-30 minutes with you two days after you speak to give you an honest evaluation. Ask questions such as:
- What went well and needed to be repeated?
- What was ineffective and needs to be improved?
Do The Next Right Thing
Look, I have no doubt that you work hard at communication. But if you take 30 minutes and plan out how you put one or more of these little tricks to work, you will be more focused, more passionate, and more effective as a communicator.