Can preachers learn from non-preachers about how to preach? We do need to be very careful about using “tricks of the trade,” or as Paul put it “wisdom of words.” However, there are some basic preparation and delivery skills that we can safely learn from good public speakers in different walks of life.

Take, for example, the pattern of preparation that Tony Morgan sets out in How I write a conference talk. So many sermons could be improved by following these basic building blocks. One line that I especially put my “Amen” to is: “For me to be a better communicator, I’ve learned I need to sweat the outline.”

Although I didn’t get so much from Peter Bubriski’s post on how to Improve your public speaking, I did appreciate two of his emphases:

1. Don’t approach speaking like an actor: ”To be a better public speaker, you just need to get out of your own way, so we can see you for who you really are. Glimpsing that authentic core can be riveting.”

2. Approach speaking like an sportsman: ”With a sport, you’re not pretending to be someone else. You are training your body and your mind to achieve feats of skill — building your muscle memory with drills and repetition.”

And, lastly, which preacher can’t identify with and benefit from this post on Writing under pressure. It begins:

If ridiculous deadlines knot your gut and give you tunnel vision causing you to miss even basic errors, this is for you. But even if you’re an adrenaline junkie, needing the pressure to perform, it’ll help you, too, because it’s all about process.

Clear, familiar processes are lifesavers when you’re under pressure and not thinking straight. So, as pilots practice emergency drills until they’re second nature, try to internalize the process below – print it, look at it daily, use it often – so that when you’re under the pump you’ll do it automatically.

Here’s a summary of the first four steps of the process:

  1. Objective: Clarify what you want to achieve. “Begin with the end in mind” (Stephen Covey).
  2. Readers: Stand in their shoes. If you were them, what would interest you about this?
  3. Dump: Do a brain dump. Quickly jot down your points as bullets, in any order.
  4. Signpost: Next, highlight your major points and write snappy subheads above them.

I’ve got a funny feeling that by lunchtime tomorrow I’ll be glad I read that article.