Amy Carroll » Speaking Tips » Connecting the Dots

Connecting the Dots


“There are speakers who write and writers who speak.” ~Lysa TerKeurst

In ministry these days, it does seem that both are demanded. Certainly publishers ascribe to this truth. Writers can’t just hide behind their computer screens anymore. They have to go out and build a platform, and the fastest way to build an audience is to speak in front of one.

Speakers also must write. Event planners want a taste of your message before they invite you to speak in front of their group. When you’re a leader, it’s a scary thing to hand a stranger your microphone, so getting a feel for the speaker’s beliefs and style is essential. If you love to speak, having a blog is a great way to give leaders a glimpse of your ministry. For the first time, I’m taking my book to my events, and I’m enjoying the blessing of sending attendees home with more of the message God has given me.

There are lots of things that are the same about speaking and writing. They’re two different vehicles for a a truth. Both are best used coupled with stories, sprinkled with memorable phrases, and infused with creative, fresh ideas.

However, there are differences between the two. One of the differences I run into most often as I work with my coaching clients is the need for speakers to closely connect the dots in their messages.

When I’m reading, I can pause, reread, ponder, and review. I think about reading Mere Christianity by CS Lewis in my college years, and if you’ve read it, you’ll probably understand what follows. The content in Mere Christianity is so deep that I would often reread sentences or whole passages over and over in order to grasp the full meaning. I highlighted and underlined and circled words in the text to help myself retain the rich truths.

The written word allows the reader to review, but the spoken word doesn’t. If one of my listeners wants to ponder a point or has a question that stops them in their thought processes, they have to stop listening to me which means they’ve missed a chunk by the time they tune back in.

As speakers, we need to create messages with the dots–the connecting thoughts–very close together. You may feel as if you’re over explaining, but you’re really just helping your listeners follow. You can verbally create “pregnant pauses” both for effect and to allow your listeners to ponder for a moment, but the points of your message need to connected and clear.

When you’re finished with your message, try to edit it as if you didn’t know what you know. It should have a stream-like quality with each idea flowing into the next.

It’s really hard to accomplish not knowing what you know completely, though, so the other thing I try to do before I present a new message is to let someone else read it. I’ll ask them to look for places where they have “mental whiplash”, the feeling you get when ideas abruptly change or transitions are weak, or places where they start to have questions.

If you haven’t read Made to Stick, I highly recommend it. They have a whole section on “the curse of knowledge” and how to avoid it in our messages. It’s full of ways for speakers to connect the dots.

Do you both speak and write? Which one is your strong suit? In your experience, how are they alike/different?

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  1. I am definitely a speaker who writes! One of my biggest take-aways from working with you this past summer Amy was the need to make sure I gave my audience time to reflect. The message I gave this month was a huge hit becasuie I built in time to think in the midle and at the end. Also, I have learned it is extremely helpful to create a hand out that reflects the main point of my message (that sticky statement), the central scripture I built that message around, and any key scriptures I refer to so that women aren’t trying to write evertthing down while I am speaking. I tell them too at the outset that the most important stuff God will help them to remember so they can breathe and receive.

  2. My strong suit has always been writing. I love having time to reflect and revise. And revise. And revise.
    🙂 But the thing speaking has given me that writing did not is a strong sense of my audience. With a live audience, I can tell immediately when I’ve lost them and need to back up and fill in the gaps.

    With a live audience, I can take a spontaneous detour, riff on something that happened over breakfast, and come back and they will LOVE it. If I do that in writing, I have no clue whether the reader follows me or gets lost.

    The other thing about speaking is that I generally have a “captive audience.” They’ve chosen to come to the event. Once I start, most of the women are likely to sit and listen even if they’re bored. Not so with writing! If the first few words don’t grab a reader, she can close the window or shut the book and be outta here!

    1. I always love to hear your thoughts, Cheri! You are spot on with every count.

      It’s been an absolute joy to be your coach and now your friend. If any of you readers are reading these comments, Cheri is an incredible speaker. You should invite her to speak at your next event!

  3. I used to speak but since we’ve moved I have not started the speaking again as I’d like to. I believe speaking was my strong suit because I’ve been told I’m a good storyteller, but after reading your post I’m reflecting on a recent speaking engagement and wondering if I give my listeners enough time to connect the dots. I remember one day realizing a mistake I make when someone gives me a ride. I think they know where to go without me telling them. And while it makes me smile just reading how ridiculous that sounds, I am inclined to wonder if I make the same assumption when I speak. That somehow my listener knows how to connect the dots. I appreciate this post so much. You asked what the difference is between speaking and writing. I think you brought up the key one. The reader can take their own pauses. And yet, I think we as writers can rush them through not allowing this if we’re not careful. One thing I love about speaking that I hope I’ve developed in my writing is that with speaking they both see and hear and with writing you have to create that. It’s like a text versus face to face. With texting you have to depend on using the write characters, the right words and even knowing when to capitalize to make your urgent point.

    Thank you so much for this great post. You can bet I will be digesting it all day as I ask God what my next step is. Maybe it’s scheduling a consultation call.

    1. 🙂 I love hearing that, Anne! The consultation call is free, so let’s talk! Just fill out the form on the Request Information tab, and we’ll get it on the calendar.