The other day I launched 10 tips for communicators, particularly preachers and teachers in church settings. While my experience is primarily as a pastor – I think there are principles that can transfer to most any communicator. You can see tips 1 and 2 HERE.
3.) People remember stories more than points.
You may have a great outline that includes 3 steps to this or 4 keys to that, but most of the people who hear your message won’t be able to recall any of your points 48 hours later.
What people do remember is a compelling narrative. They remember great stories. Turn your message, lesson, or talk into a story. Take your audience on a journey. Weave the principles or points you want to make into the story of the message. Better yet, reduce your points to a singular point. Send them home with one idea, truth or principle that they can remember.
What other form of communication uses points instead of a narrative? An instruction manual. It doesn’t matter how appealing the cover of the manual is – or how helpful the instructions are – most of us throw them away. There isn’t anything compelling about a manual. Tell a story.
Here is a tip within a tip: How do you make your message a story? Start with the end. Decide where you want to take the audience, or where the text will take the audience and then work your way backward.
4.) Work really hard on a handful of sentences.
If you have an important message to give you want it to stick. A well crafted sentence that captures the audience’s attention, or stirs their emotions will stick around in their mind. For example:
“You may not be able to do everything for everyone, but you can do something for someone.”
“Everyone wants to be known for something, but what we really need is to be known by someone.”
“You don’t have to understand everything to believe in something.”
“Direction, not intention, determines destination.”
Short, pithy statements loaded with impact make impressions that last. There are few things I find as rewarding as someone reciting one of these sentences to me months or years after I said it. This isn’t just a feel good thing though. When people are faced with temptations, decisions, or difficult circumstances they will hear voices from their past speaking. Wouldn’t it be great if they had the truth from one of your sermons ringing around in their head? This is hard work, and it takes a lot of practice – but it’s worth it.
5.) Stop looking for affirmation while you preach.
One of the challenges for preachers is that they spend most of their time as the communicator, and very little, if any time as an audience member. Ever had a preacher, teacher or communicator that did things to annoy you while they were speaking? Chances are good that we do the same when we preach and teach.
Something I find annoying is when a speaker needs constant affirmation that the audience is listening. Don’t fish for “Amen’s” every time you think you’ve said something grand. Let’s be honest – you’re really wanting affirmation that they agree with and like what you’ve said. That’s pride and it annoys the audience when you ask for feedback that is solely designed to affirm you.
Work hard and listen to the Holy Spirit as He guides you in creating and shaping a sermon or lesson that will benefit the hearers. Then rest in the truth that God’s Word is powerful and will do work. (Hebrews 4:12, Isaiah 55:11)