I’m currently blogging about the secret sauce of speaking…at least my secret sauce. I don’t pretend to be a guru. Anyway, so far, I’ve written about engaging the internal conversation of the audience and the importance of tension. Today, I writing about flow.
What do I mean by flow? I’m talking about the structure of the teaching. I believe that every good communication is a journey from a starting point to a destination. It should move because the purpose of preaching and teaching is to motivate people to move, change and grow.
One of the most difficult aspects of writing a good communication is creating a clear flow of thought that moves from starting point to destination. Too many communications have rabbit trails and side notes that detract from the overall flow. One thing that I’ve learned is that what makes sense in my head won’t make sense to the audience unless the flow is logical and linear. An audience that is confused is an audience that will tune out.
WRITE THOUGHT BY THOUGHT
The way I was taught to write a sermon or teaching is not at all how I write today. I was taught: introduction, 3 points and conclusion. In my opinion, there is too much potential for confusion when we write and deliver this way. When I write, I think journey. There may be 2 or 3 stops along the journey toward the destination but there aren’t 3 unrelated points. So, instead of writing a point and then writing a second point, I write thought by thought. Each thought flows into the other. As I write, I use a conversational voice because writing in the voice I speak in helps me remember the material. And, writing thought by thought keeps everything I write in relationship and therefore connected and linear. In other words, you will be clear.
I do often have 2 or 3 “points’ (although, I never call them points) but they flow into each other and are all on the way to the destination.
TELL THEM THE PLAN
Another technique that I use, that I was taught by our senior teaching pastor, is to simply tell the audience what you plan to do. Why keep it a secret? When the plan is known, people can follow more easily and also have better expectations for how long you’re going to talk. Here’s an example from the teaching I plan to deliver this week:
My goal for tonight is to describe 3 different friendships that we all need. In each of these friendships, I’ll show you how your friends shape your future.
They know upfront that there will be 3 different friendships that I’m going to talk about, they have a general idea of how I’m going to try to influence them, and during the 2nd friendship conversation they will probably say, “OK, he’s almost done, I can hang in there for a few more minutes.”
CUT, CUT, CUT
I get pretty violent with my scripts. I firmly believe that less is more and any ideas that aren’t directly related to your destination will be distracting at best, and confusing at worst. My best communications have been parred down for the sake of clarity. I try to keep in mind that within two days my audience is only going to remember one or two things that I say anyway. Cut every rabbit trail, side note and parenthetical idea. Clarity is better.
TALK IT OUT
If you’re like me, something can read brilliantly on paper but fall flat when communicated verbally. Over the last two years, my communicating skills have grown significantly, largely because I’ve begun to practice out loud. Nearly every time I practice, I find myself saying, “That doesn’t make sense” or “I don’t think these two ideas are as connected as I thought. Basically, practicing out loud is another way to improve the message and make sure that the flow of thought is clear.
There you have it. That’s my basic methodology for creating a communication with a clear flow of thought. Next time I post, I’ll share a few ideas on how to speak without using notes.
photo credited to drestwn via Flickr