Last week, I passed along eight simple ways to improve your communication. I got a ton of feedback asking for more information about mind mapping, a visual framework that I use to help me speak on a weekly basis without a manuscript, outline, or post-it-note inside my Bible. Other than weddings and funerals, I do not use notes when I am speaking. At all. Ever.
If you speak publicly, you should mind map. It helps you retain information. That means you save hours of preparation time. It helps you increase your eye contact with your audience. That increases the perception that you know your material and have embraced it personally.
Sounds good, right? Maybe too good to be true? Think you have to be a genius in order to make this work? I am no genius. But, again, for three years I have needed less than 10 hours a week of focused preparation to deliver great content with nothing but a Bible and a face mic.
How do I do it? Here are the four basic steps I take each week to build my mind map.
My job is to say something clear and compelling. I cannot do that unless I work hard. Mind mapping is not a short cut. I read, write, do research, brainstorm - filling myself up with ideas and possibilities. From start to finish, loading up usually takes me around four hours to complete.
At the heart of every effective message is a central idea. For me, the best way to capture that idea is in the form of a question. That question is what I put in front of my audience early on in my message.
Because of the importance of this question, it is the first thing I put on my mind map. I write it down, draw a circle around it, and move on to the next step.
Over time, I have developed a framework for my messages.
- Make a Connection between myself and the audience and the topic I am addressing.
- Drive to the Text, showing everyone where I found my question (and answer) from the Scriptures.
- Show it Matters, applying what we have just learned to ordinary, everyday life.
- Bring it to Jesus, helping everyone see (from our text) how Christ covers our sins and enables us to obey.
Those four movements are the branches of my map. Around my central idea/question, I write the words Connect, Text, Apply, Jesus. Then I draw a circle around each word and draw a line from each of the four circles back to the central idea/question.
Here is where all of my research pays off. I use the concept of each branch to build out my map using simple phrases to capture significant ideas. Here is what I mean:
- I start with the Drive to the Text section. This is where the vast majority of my exegesis, research and reading shows up as I connect my central idea to the biblical text.
- Then I focus on the Show it Matters section. I want to craft an application that is both broad and deep. I want to apply the text to different kinds of people. And I want to apply it to both the beliefs and behaviors of the audience.
- After that, I focus on the Bring it to Jesus section. Our church observes communion every week, a huge help when it comes to figuring out how to land the proverbial plane. What I am trying to do here is to build a bridge between communion and the inevitable unwillingness/inability to obey we discover as we apply the Scriptures to real life.
- The last section I work on is Make a Connection. I find it easier to conceptualize a provocative start to the message if I have determined how it ends.
What Is The Next Right Thing For You?
So there it is. A 35,000 overview of mind mapping and how I use it. After three years of experience, I know it works and that it has made me a better communicator. If you take the basics and do the hard work of building your approach to mind mapping, I guarantee it will work for you, too.
One last thing: think about using mind-mapping software. A good program or app provides a built-in framework for map building, allows you to incorporate images into your map, and provides options to color-code sections. I use the iThoughts HD app on my iPad Mini and love it. So if you don't want to free-hand your maps, try out 3-4 options and choose the one that works best for you.