Reader Question 6
What a joy it’s been to answer and process these questions with you! This is the last post in this series unless I receive more from you this week. You can either leave your question as a comment or email it to me at [email protected] I’ll answer here so that the whole group can see. Here we go!
I have had wonderful opportunities to speak at a few events up at my home church but haven’t yet branched out to speak to any other churches. I realized that in many of my messages, I’ve been able to tailor them so well to the women at my church because I know them. I have the inside scoop, so to speak. How do you prepare differently for a church you’re not apart of and still make the message personal and penetrating? I’d love to learn any tips for how best to prepare for speaking to ladies you know zilch about. 🙂 ~Kate
This is an important question, Kate! There are lots of things we can do to connect with our audience, but the start of connection is knowing the audience. It’s a difficult task to accomplish, but here are some steps I’ve taken or have heard of to research and know your audience:
- Ask those in the know— The event planner is your primary source of information. I have a speaker planning sheet with a list of questions I always ask. These include:
- What is the age range?
- What is the spiritual maturity?
- Are there any special populations in the group? ie. Military wives
- Is there anything I need to know about the group? ie. Our church reeled with grief after a student died in an accident during a youth retreat. That would have been relevant information for any speaker during that time period.
- What do you see as your group’s greatest need? What’s the goal for the event?
- Conduct a survey— My friend Cheri Gregory has sent ahead a Survey Monkey survey to registered attendees with questions on her topic. She often weaves anonymous answers into her message, and she has a greater insight into the thoughts and needs of the group from the way they answer her questions. I think a survey establishes ahead of time that you care about what your audience has to say rather than establishing yourself as the expert with all the answers.
- Pray for them by name–Several years ago, Wendy Blight, a dear friend and prayer warrior, encouraged me to begin praying for attendees by name. Following her advice has been one of the best steps I’ve taken to bond with my audience. When I talk to event planners, I ask them for the final list of attendees so that I can pray for each of them by name as I pray for the event. I can’t describe or explain the effect this has had on both me personally and on my events, but this is where God steps in and does what He does best. He connects our hearts through the Holy Spirit! Before I ever meet the women at an event, God has given me a love for them. It’s powerful stuff.
- Engage with women at your event— Women often share stories with me during an event that I weave into the next session. At a retreat several weeks ago, two women who had crossed paths at the event after years of not seeing each other came up to tell me how a small, consistent act of obedience on the part of the older woman had created ripples that changed dozens of lives. I asked permission and then shared their story in the next session as an example of a point I was making. It’s wonderful to see women’s faces light up when they realize you’re talking about the “homegirls”!
How about you, Speaker Girls? What methods do you use to make your messages “personal and penetrating”?
This is great advice! Thanks for this – it is indeed tough to connect with an audience you know nothing about, and it’s hard to be your best if you remain on the “outside”. These steps show the event planner, too, that a speaker is very interested in knowing who she will be speaking to, giving the event planner even more confidence in her choice of speakers. (you!)
I’d have to wholeheartedly agree with the suggestion to be praying for your audience. I try to stay in prayer when I have a speaking engagement coming up. I see speaking as a privilege. An opportunity to share truth with tender hearts. And although we don’t know what our audience is going through God does. Because I share my poetry when I speak, I often bring a variety with me, tucked in separate pages in my binder. One time in particular I felt being asked to talk about the time I was bitter. “You want me to talk about WHAT?” I tried, hedging. And I heard him. So I added that part in my talk and afterwards a woman came up to me and said, “When you were talking about bitterness, you were talking about me.” God loved this woman so much he wanted to make sure she heard what was said. And I can’t help but think how different it would have been if I had said to God. “No, I’ve already got it all planned out, maybe next time.”
God knows where our listeners hearts are. We don’t.