Public Speaking? – Please, prepare your talk

When I see someone getting up to make a speech, deliver a sermon or do any kind of public speaking, there’s this moment of either relief or fear for me. I am relieved when the person takes out their notes and begins to talk. The fear comes when they say, “I didn’t prepare anything, but I am just going to talk from the heart”. Or they say, “I did prepare, but I am not going to use my notes”.

To be inflicted with a talk by someone who has not prepared is right up there with having root canal work or a colonoscopy. Why is it that people think talking from the “heart” is justifiable for being unprepared? Somehow the absence of preparation or discipline can be excused because a person has “passion” or “a good heart”. Passionate and good-hearted people only make a difference when they mix it with preparation and/or discipline!

And in Christian circles, there is some extra spice added to the “passionate / from-the-heart” mix. It’s called the “anointing”. Somehow religion has made preparation unspiritual, while spontaneous and passionate is spiritual and more anointed.

There is one more crime committed in the unprepared talk. Something that completes the circle of the “passionate”, “heart-felt” “spontaneous” “anointed” unprepared talk. It is the well-meaning friends of the talker! They say to her or him, “what a great talk!” while the strangers listening to “the talk” go away with a deep sense of relief, which this too, “has also come to pass”.

I have been doing “public speaking” for the past 35 years. Here are some bottomline learnings:

  1. I have become more deliberate in my preparation than ever before.
  2. My homiletics teacher summarized sermonizing under three broad categories;
    1. A memorable outline
    2. Vivid illustrations
    3. And the touch of God
    4. He also said, “Blessed are the short winded for they shall be invited back!”.
    5. Never underestimate your audience!
    6. Please stop using the word “like” every-time you take a breath!

Keep on talking!

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