Narrowing the Subject

Much need be made of the danger of trying to say too much. Speakers run against this wall about as often as politicians lie and doctors get sued. The core of the problem lies in ones inability to narrow the scope of what they are talking about enough to shoot verbal arrows instead of shotgun blasts. The result is the audience gets lightly peppered but none leaved pierced. If you want to impact your audience such that they remember what you say and want more, then you must hone the crucial art of narrowing your subject.

What is the subject? Thanks for asking. Read the following sentence and tell me: The wiry old veterinarian with leathery skin and a wrinkled cap put on a long, thin glove so that he could rectally palpate a pen of heifers. I’ll bet you said veterinarian didn’t you? In grammar class you would be right but not in public speaking. The subject or scope of what the sentence was about is the reason the wiry old veterinarian with leathery skin…  …was to rectally palpate a pen of heifers.

What difference does narrowing your subject make? Watch this. Image yourself a professional photographer that is asked to speak at a business luncheon. You are not in the business of speaking but you do want to earn more business. If you speak generically about photography you will end up giving the people a nice history lesson and some jargon about f-stops and apertures. The result will be polite applause, but no new business. However, if your subject is; “The crucial value of your (audience’s) image.” You then tell your audience about the necessity of their image being clean, focused and unique. They win and you win too. How? You weave into your speech how your photography studio specializes in visually depicting a business’ image. The result? You will get the polite applause and you will also get more business.

If you want more help narrowing the subject, make a comment.


Seven Ways to Screw Up a Speech

7. Be introduced poorly – You’re not Elvis, but you are there for a reason. Write down for the person introducing you exactly what you want them to say. Otherwise, they will either give your life story or try out a short speech of their own.

6.  Monkey with the microphone – Arrive early and insist on testing everything. For some reason otherwise intelligent people go brain dead when they are handed a microphone. Familiarize yourself with the equipment.

5. Tell people that you aren’t a good speaker – They will find out soon enough, you needn’t tell them.

4. Start off with a lame or tired joke – It’s great to get people to laugh on the front end, but it must be genuine. Few things make you look like a hack faster than saying something people have heard for years.

3. Fiddle with your PowerPoint or computer – If you don’t have the right equipment and haven’t tested it on site don’t use it. If it doesn’t work exactly right it’s a giant distraction. Prepare ahead for your technology to fail.

2. Give false conclusions – Nobody likes circling the airport. You think you are landing but then you don’t. Land the plane baby!

1. Try to say everything – The essence of great speaking is choosing what to leave out. Try to say it all and you will lose all of them, EVERYTIME.

Death by PowerPoint – Part II

Until you can tell me what you are talking about in one simple sentence you are not ready to talk.

Imagine yourself an expert in poultry production who is asked to address an audience not involved in the industry. A temptation would be to tell me that you are going to talk about the chicken industry. No! No! No! Your topic is too broad. Instead, you should say, “I am here to explain why you should smile every time you pass a truck full of caged chickens.” Then you proceed to explain how the success of your industry helps their lives.

Surface within me (audience) a need to listen to you.

Why do I want to listen to your spiel about chickens? Note: I am always interested in ME, my radio is tuned to WIFM (What’s In it For Me). Thus, you construct your speech on chickens in such a way that it affects ME, ME, ME. Do this and your audience will love you.

Don’t just read the PowerPoint slides!

If I (audience) don’t look at your slide and say, “Ah, now I understand;” or “Wow, that is a good point;” don’t make a slide out it.

After preparing, cut out lots of fluff.

Narrow your subject. Remember you are telling me why I should smile when I pass a truck full of caged chickens. This means you have to cut all your cool statistics on governmental involvment in your industry. You don’t get to drone on about your various district offices and assorted safety procedures. Nope, you have to stick to telling me why I should smile…

Don’t ask for my attention. Take it!

You need not be cheesy, but you must be excited and start with a bang. Asking, “Can everyone hear me?” is not the way to do it.

Death by PowerPoint

Each Wednesday finds me dutifully seated among friends at the weekly meeting of our local Rotary club. The food is good, the networking is nice but the speakers are typically… …you get the point. I’ve heard speeches on topics running the sprectrum – from prostate health to poultry farming. Most have decent content but the Devil is in the delivery.

Should you ever receive the distinguished privilege of addressing people, you must be prepared. Any fool can bore people. Any fool can talk about something with which they are involved. Few can captivate an audience while speaking about a subject that is less than exhilarating. Perhaps the following will be helpful:

  1. Until you can tell me what you are talking about in one simple sentence you are not ready to talk.
  2. Surface within me a need to listen to you early in your speech.
  3. If you use PowerPoint, don’t just read me the slides. For the love of Pete, you could have just mailed me a letter!
  4. When you have finished your preparations, go back and decide which 50% you are going to leave out, as this is what will separate you from the hacks.
  5. Don’t ask for my attention. Take it!

“Save the World – Don’t Save Seats”

Do you know what started the whole process of this country having problems? It wasn’t when prayer was taken out of schools. It wasn’t when we began depending on foreign oil. It was when people started saving seats for others. That’s right, saving seats have proven to be the beginning of a welfare state.

Here is how it all started. An event was on the calendar that everyone in the community wanted to go to. However, not everybody had their act together enough to get to the event early and get a seat. Thus you immediately divided the population into two groups: (1) those who had their act together and (2) those who didn’t.

Savings seats started out OK, as those who had their act together were eager to help out those who didn’t. However, things began to spiral out of control when those who didn’t began to assume that those who did had an obligation to share the bounty of their efforts with them. They wanted the same view but were unwilling to pay the same price.

What if those who had their act together had simply refused to save seats for those unwilling to get their act together and arrive on time? I’m just saying…

Making Your Speeches Funny

Laughter: The music of the soul

Increasing your ability to make people laugh will improve your sermons/speeches and add satisfaction to your job. Two things that even the most seasoned pastor/speaker should welcome. To be sure, anyone can get a laugh with a tired joke just like anyone can get a crowd to say, “Good Morning” after saying it once and then making them try it again. Both tactics are pitiful and essentially leave the audience frustrated.
If you want to weave some humor into your sermon/speech that’s fresh from your own mind, then try the following things.
1.    Begin to carry a little notebook and jot down simple observations in life. I follow the advice of author/comedian Judy Carter and create a few categories (things I hate, that worry me, frighten me, are stupid, weird or scary). For example: I hate saving seats, I am scared to go to the auto parts store and I think overprotective parenting is stupid.
2.    Follow the structure of humor. All good comedy has a setup line that is true, understandable and unfunny. The next part is the punch line. That’s where you get the laughs. For example: We were so poor when we got married that we didn’t register for China… …we registered for rent.
3.    Don’t try to be funny. Your job is to make unique observations about things the audience understands – the funny part will take care of itself.
Beware, that adding some ‘funny’ to your sermons will result in your being accused of taking your charge lightly by some of your congregational groaners. However, the rest of your people will thank you for giving them the occasional mental breaks necessary to pay close attention to serious subjects.
If you want more help make a comment and we’ll start laughing together.

Misusing My Mouth

Athletes increasingly master their bodies; producing lowered times, longer jumps and higher scores. Fitness regimens are ways of life for some and on the list for more. Persons engaged in such pursuits understand the human body’s power and have specialized criteria for gauging its improvements.
I have lowered the time taken for me to load kids in car seats and have gotten really fast at changing diapers. However, I frequently struggle with misusing my mouth. Fortunately, I am practicing the wisdom found in the following verses and receiving and increased appreciation for the power of my words along with a system for evaluating my conversations.
First, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Proverbs 16:24).” The content of my conversations makes a difference. In ancient times finding a honeycomb was an unexpected treasure that brought needed strength. Pleasant words are received as unexpected treasures that bring strength and refreshment into otherwise mundane existences. So should my words be to those I address.
Second, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver (Proverbs 25:11).” The timing of my conversations makes a difference. Floral arrangements are comprised of different yet carefully placed flowers. Each flower possesses its own beauty. Yet this beauty is more perfectly revealed when carefully arranged. Conversations are like corsages; you don’t need them everywhere and the best ones are carefully constructed.
Third, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise (Proverbs 10:19).” The duration of my conversations makes a difference. Many foreheads bear scars from trying to jump over the coffee table one more time. Athletes suffer the consequences of over training. Conversations start well and end in fights. All three happen because somebody didn’t know when to quit.