Amy Carroll » Speaking Tips » Reader Question 3

Reader Question 3

 

Welcome back to a series based on the answers to your questions! Because of my priorities in family, ministry, and work, I can’t answer individual emails, but I sure do love when it’s time to ask for questions so that I can answer them here for the whole community. Thanks for being so understanding!

New questions keep rolling in through the comments and email. I’ve got several more to answer right now, but you’re invited to send yours as long as the series lasts. They’ve all been great questions that I’m sure we all have. Here’s the latest…

When speaking to an audience, the greatest hurdle I have to effective message sharing is feeling stuck to my notes and not free to communicate the message in a clear and cohesive way without glancing down desperately trying to figure out what comes next. I don’t struggle with stage-fright at all, and when I’m telling a story, I’m fine! But I sometimes have a hard time getting the message *inside* me during my prep time, so I can speak it out like I believe what I’m saying. (Because I do!)

I’m okay with looking down at my notes at keywords or phrases ever so often, but when I feel unnatural, it stirs a stress inside me, even in the middle of a talk! Practicing helps for sure, but it’s like there’s this mental block, hampering the message from truly sticking in my heart and mind beforehand, no matter how much I truly believe in the message. How do I help the heart of the message stick to my own heart before delivering it?   ~ Amanda

First, I’m so glad you said you’re ok with using notes. This is such a personal preference, but I don’t mind listening to/watching a speaker who uses their notes–even heavily. For example, I love David Jeremiah’s preaching, but he stands behind a podium and almost reads his sermons. It doesn’t bother me a bit! I’ve put less pressure on myself since I realized this even though I’m in awe of speakers who don’t use notes. Personally, I’m shooting for an in-between. Eye contact is so powerful that I want to use them as little as possible–more as a security blanket than a crutch.

But that’s not really your question! 🙂 Here’s my guess… (although I may not be right.) I’m thinking that you may need to work on streamlining your messages. When I first started speaking, my messages were complex and heady. I got lots of “that was a great message” kinds of compliments, but I had problems getting through them without lots of references to my notes. If I had problems remembering all that I included, can you imagine how my audiences felt? They may have been impressed by how much I included, but I doubt it stuck with them long enough to change their lives much.

My friend Micca Campbell was the one who introduced me to Andy Stanley’s book Communicating for a Change. I’m a huge personal fan of his methods for speakers, and I recommend it to every speaker I know. In the book, Stanley advocates for one main point around which you wrap the rest of the message. I previously might have 10 main points I wanted to get across!

He also teaches a very linear outline that makes sense to my brain. Using the outline keeps me on track and helps me to internalize my message from one section to the next. I don’t think every message from every speaker has to follow the same outline, but the book contains elements of effective communication that I think can improve any message and help the speaker with a memorable format.

Lastly, I also think we’re more sensitive to the little “trips” that cause panic for us (I’m in the same boat, girl!) than the audience is. Last week at my event, I felt really tongue tied and like I tripped over myself a lot. The group gave me lots of “When you said ________, I realized I needed to __________” comments, though, which are the ones I hear when I know the message has really hit hearts. Those are the comments I love! I decided that I might not have had the flow and eloquence I was shooting for, but God used the content to speak to women. Even though I wanted to critique myself harshly, I made myself stop, thank God, and move on.

Anybody else have thoughts or ideas for Amanda and the group? We’d love to learn from you!

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6 Comments

  1. Thank you for taking the time to answer my question, Amy! It’s funny, a couple days ago, I realized that I might be trying to pack too many good things into my messages. Sometimes I’m afraid to stay on one thought for too long, or unpack it too much so I zip right by, missing what could/should have been developed further. Thus, leading to too many on-topic “bunny trails” that might not need to be taken. Usually the part that could be developed further is already in my brain, and would come out naturally. And the times when I receive comments such as “that really spoke to me” are the times when I let myself develop a section or tie it into my personal story (which I, of course, know!) Thanks again! I’m loving this series. So very relevant!

    P.S. Andy Stanley’s book has been on my list since I heard you mention it at She Speaks last summer… time to snag it! Thank you

  2. I do not speak to Christian audiences, at least not yet, but I do frequent speaking for my job. I need to keep the participants awake and engaged, often all day long. I don’t like to “read” my notes, but I use Power Point. I’m teaching content, so this makes sense, but my slides often have “cues” that help me remember things I want to say. This way, I only have to glance at the slide and then I can resume eye contact with the group. Maybe I will have a chance to try it out in a different venue sometime! Michelle

    1. Great tip, Michelle! I love it when speakers use visuals.

  3. Great advice! Main idea under which 2-5 points or illustrations might be given to support the main idea. You might take a look at the book She Can Teach by Jackie Roese. It’s an excellent resource for WOMEN speakers. Clear “formula” for creating talks, encouraging and targets YOUR audience of women. I use it all the time.

    1. Thanks, Robyn! I’m a total resource junkie, so I’ll make sure to find that book.