Make it Memorable

If you’re speaking, chances are you’d like the people you are addressing to remember what you said.  It seems simple enough and yet so much of what is said in churches, classrooms, meeting rooms and other venues all over the world seems to go in one ear and come right out the other.  Countless hours (not to mention tons of effort) go into these presentations that are meant to entertain, inform and persuade.  Wouldn’t it be great if what was said had a shelf life of more than just a few minutes?

Thankfully we aren’t the only ones with that problem.  In a society that’s overwhelmed with all types of information, everyone is competing for your attention.  They want you to do something, believe something and yes, buy something. In order for you to do any of the aforementioned, you have to at least remember what was said.  Advertisers use slogans, stories, pictures, and songs in an effort to get the message to stick and get you, the potential customer, to act.  Educators use many of the same tools in order to help their students remember necessary information.  Take a look around and you will see that there are principles we can all learn and employ to have our presentations remembered. 

1) A story goes a long way.

Whether it’s television, music or the big screen, stories are all around us.  They are told every day in a variety of ways- and for good reason.  A story can communicate a complicated idea in such a way that it is simple and memorable.  Think about this: In the absence of the sophisticated written record, many cultures used stories to pass down their history. You probably don’t remember all of the dates that are important to your ancestors, but I’m sure you can recite stories of tragedy and triumph.  You can tell of their travels and their trials.  Why is that? Because stories can be remembered! Long after the cold hard facts and figures have faded away, the story lives on, remaining a part of our lives.  Stories make ideas memorable.

2) Nothing beats the bottom line.

At the end of your presentation, what would you like the audience to remember? What’s the big idea? What’s the takeaway? Is there a benefit you’d like the audience to recognize? Is there a call to action to which they should respond? Is there pertinent information you’d like your audience to remember? Then tell them!  If what you’d like everyone to take away is not clear then there will be little chance of anyone remembering what you said. Make the most important thing to you the most important thing to your audience by finding creative ways to state and restate your big idea. At the end of the presentation, I should know and remember what you wanted to tell me.  As the speaker, it’s your job to help make that happen.

3) K.I.S.S. = Keep it simple and short.

We can all agree that our attention spans are not what they used to be.  Social media demands that complicated arguments be diluted in order to be presented in 140 characters or less.  There isn’t much time for an introduction, supporting points, illustrations, and tangents.  Effective communicators will be forced to encapsulate their thoughts, keeping them simple and concise, if they want to be heard.  Very few people have the patience for a long presentation and even fewer will remember what was said, even if the information was important.  Whether or not this is an indictment of the values of society is an issue worthy of debate on another day.  As a communicator your job isn’t to indict your listeners, it is to influence them.  If shorter presentations delivered in a simpler format are going to be effective then this is the route you and I must take. Our goal, above all else, is to be effective, and no one can remember a presentation that was too long to sit through and too complicated to follow. 

One of the greatest joys I’ve ever experienced as a speaker was when, at the end of a presentation, a 9-year-old girl met me at the door and showed me the notes she had taken. Then she proceeded to remind me of what I had said.  All the applause in the room could not replace the affirmation of that moment.  She paid attention.  She understood. She remembered.  As a speaker that’s all I could have ever wanted. 

You should want that too.

Until next time….


Back to Baby Steps

 A review of “Biblical Preaching” by Haddon Robinson.

Every sports fan admires the greats. Basketball fans discuss the skill of Lebron James while Football fans admire Tom Brady’s Superbowl rings. Each sport has its high achievers. What is important to note about each of them, however, is their dedication to and mastery of the fundamentals. While the greats in every sport (and every profession for that matter) often break the rules, they feel free to do so only because they have already mastered the rules and are familiar with the circumstances under which the rules can acceptably and effectively be broken. In his book “Biblical Preaching”, Haddon Robinson conducts a review (or an introduction for the beginning speaker) of the basics of the art and science of preaching. This is a book on fundamentals that will be helpful and relevant to everyone who reads.

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It’s Always Storytime!

A review of the book “Squirrel Inc” by Stephen Denning

For as long as I could remember, serious communication centered around facts and our ability to share them, while stories were designed for the purposes of entertainment. Do you want to make someone laugh? Tell a story! You want to tug on your audience’s heart strings? Nothing does that quite like a story. It has been widely accepted that stories touch the heart while the overwhelming logic of the facts can change the mind. Stephen Denning is trying to change all of that.

Denning, in his book “Telling the Story” addresses the reality that logical arguments are often not as effective as we’d like them to be when it comes to persuading others. As a matter of fact, our hearers often resist logic in favor of their own cherished points of view. The influence so vital to leadership in any organization can be diluted as change is met with unnecessary resistance. The solution, according to the book, is to rely more on the power of stories to communicate the ideas that are to shape the opinions and behavior of others.

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Another Point of View

Ok. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

A certain man had two sons. The younger son asked for his inheritance and, upon receiving it, left home to go party. He went as far away as he could, spend all the money he had, and eventually fell on hard times. With his friends and his mind both gone, he takes a job feeding pigs who aren’t too keen on sharing their lunch with the hungry lad. Just as he hits rock bottom the thought occurs to him “Why don’t I just go home?” And he does. He goes home to find his father waiting, his older brother “hating”, and the community celebrating the lost son’s return.

Sound familiar?

Of course, you recognize the story by now. It’s the story of the “Prodigal Son”. You can easily identify this as a traditional rendering of the story. The facts (though paraphrased) are all there. The account flows just like it’s supposed to. You’ve heard this story, told in this way, before. Don’t look now, but that can become a problem. After all, you know what they say: “Familiarity breeds contempt”.

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More Than Meets The Eye

A review of the book “The Homiletical Plot” written by Eugene L. Lowery

With 66 books in the Bible and preachers with personalities as unique as the human fingerprint, it’s hard to imagine sermons that sound the same. And yet the problem is put on display from pulpits everywhere, each weekend, for all to see. Week after week in church after church listeners are exposed to the same stories being told in much the same way. While the content of scripture is hardly up for debate (the Prodigal Son always comes home to his father), the similar conclusions, applications and even illustrations beg the question “Can we look at this another way?”

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