Be Ready to Speak

Peter writes, “…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. (1 Peter 3:15).  Knowing the story and being ready to share it are integral to our witness.

What are your ways of sharing Christ? How does technology support that effort? Social media is a marvelous way to connect with the world. I’ve reconnected with friends, family, classmates, students and colleagues thanks to Facebook. What does your profile say about you? Is it a bold confession of your faith in Christ? Do your “liked” pages reflect your faith in Christ?

But while technology opens doors for witness, person to person, face to face, still is the best method for communicating. What does your presence say while communicating?

My friend, Erik Palmer (@erik_palmer), has taken it upon himself to be the voice for teaching speaking skills. When I first met him, he was speaking at an ASCD convention in Washington DC on tech tools for the classroom. Now in his most recent book, Well Spoken-Teaching Speaking to All Students, Erik gives lessons for “teaching speaking to all students” including his thoughts on building a speech and performing a speech. From consideration of the audience as well as use of visuals, Erik encourages preparation for public speaking.

The importance of having prepared content in our teaching and witness is important. Being “ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2) with a clear, consistent message is integral in our Christian witness. That being understood,  Well Spoken-Teaching Speaking to All Students addresses performing one’s speech. It could be argued that presenting the message is just as important as the content in our readiness to share the message. Short and sweet, delivering one’s message is about presence and presentation.  

Here are 4 quick hitters from Palmer’s book-

Presence/Poise– We’re not all gifted with the willingness or ability to speak in front of a group. However, we all can WORK at making sure that our presence is such that it does not distract from the message. Quiet feet as opposed to rocking back and forth provide a much more confident look. Hands that find a “home” position do no harm to a message as opposed to hands that are flicking one’s bangs away, touching one’s nose or scratching one’s ear. Poise is as much a learned skill as a state of mind. As is is the case with most skills, it needs practice. Adults in front of adults with a willingness to share thoughts on one another’s speaking may be (should be?) a professional development portion of your upcoming faculty meetings!

Passion– Some of us are “rah rah” people. We enjoy firing up the crowd and energizing them with a stirring speech. Others? Not so much. However, lack of passion or over-exuberance can be detriments to our ability to share the Gospel. While we know that it is God’s Spirit who moves in His word to accomplish what it sees fit, I hope you share my prayer that I do my part to stay out of His way and let his will to be done, rather than inhibit. In his book, Erik emphasizes “life in the voice.” He encourages emphasis of certain words and phrases for effect. What are the words and phrases of your Christian witness that aren’t just a personal desire to share but point others to the cross?

Eye contact as part of presence- (see presence and poise!). I confess that outside of sports, the tv shows I watch most often are singing related. While most of the commentaries are about as worthless as the canned audience participation, one valuable piece of coaching that often comes up is connecting with the audience and that usually means making eye contact. Eye contact engages. I once had a pastor who never looked at me when he talked to me or as I was talking. He was always looking elsewhere- out the door, out the window. I was sure he had better things to do than converse with me. What does our eye contact say about sharing our faith? Do we look ashamed? Do we look too intense? Are we looking for someone else to talk to? Or are we reading our imaginary script?

Pacing– Pacing is not just about speed. It includes speed- too fast of a pace can be exhausting! Too slow of a pace can be….exhausting in different way! But pacing is all about understanding and how speed can enhance that understanding. It’s not wise to hurry through the message just to say it’s shared. Meaningful sharing involves a sort of formative assessment and pacing reflects a response to this assessment.

For many reasons, purchase Erik’s book, Well Spoken: Teaching Speaking to All Students. It’s a fabulous resource.

And be ready to speak, speak the truth in love, and speak boldly of the grace that has been given to you.