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….


Some Helpful Homework…

There’s always room for improvement. The question however, is how exactly do we go about the business of getting better? Reading broadly and thinking deeply are sermon-building staples. However, most successful preachers will admit that learning from those who are effective communicators is one of the best ways to sharpen your own skills. Please don’t get confused. You are neither stealing someone else’s material or appropriating someone else’s style. The goal is to observe and adopt the best practices of effective communicators in order to develop and grow.

In my journey as a preacher and public speaker I have come across communicators that I admire. Some are more popular than others and all have their unique styles of organizing content and delivery. I have benefited from observing and learning and I believe that anyone who takes the time to study these preachers will also grow.

A few things before I continue:
This list is not exhaustive. Everyone has a favorite food, a favorite color and a convincing reason why their choice is the best. Feel free to add names to this list! The goal is not to convince you of the superiority of my selections. Rather, my aim is to select and study preaching models and mentors of your own.

I’ve categorized my favorites because, in my opinion, every speaker has their strengths and weaknesses. In my opinion some speakers are excellent at introductions but their applications leave much to be desired. On the other hand, some speakers may be geniuses at closing a sermon but their introductions may not be as strong. My categories are a way to help me. I hope they also help you.

My list stretches across denominational lines. I believe in an interdisciplinary, interdenominational approach to preaching because… why not! Inspiration and instruction can come from all walks of life. I can’t afford to miss the opportunity to sharpen my skills simply because of closed-mindedness. Neither can you.
With that being said, here are just a few of the preachers (and in some cases, sermons) I listen to and watch when I want to do my homework. Hopefully, this list inspires you to do some “helpful homework” as well.

Continue reading “Some Helpful Homework…”