Have something valuable to say, and say it authentically in your own way.
Having started listening to the audiobook of TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, I not only answer “Yes, we can,” to that question, but “Yes, we must.”
I’ve only listened to the first two hours of the seven-hour book, but I’ve already learned some valuable lessons that I hope to incorporate into future sermons, lectures, and addresses.
Given the unparalleled success of this format for the verbal communication of ideas, it’s not surprising that there’s much to profit from for anyone whose calling is focused on the spoken word.
On every page, Chris Anderson, the author and founder of the modern-day TED Talks, shares what he has learned from watching many epic TED talks; and also some epic fails.
One of the main points he makes in his introduction is: “There is no one way to give a great talk.” That’s so encouraging for preachers and teachers everywhere. Sometimes we think we have to copy a certain successful speaker, or preaching style, but, as Anderson warns, “Any attempt to apply a single set formula is likely to backfire. Audiences see through it in an instant and feel manipulated.” Yep, been there.
As the key part of any great talk is freshness, Anderson encourages readers to see the book as offering a set of tools designed to encourage variety. “Your only real job in giving a talk,” he says, “is to have something valuable to say, and to say it authentically in your own unique way.”
As Christian preachers and teachers, we certainly have the former. But, in the Reformed world, we often lack the latter. There’s almost a fear of being oneself, of being authentic, of letting one’s character or personality shine through or shape the message in any way. Such Reformed Robots rust out pretty quickly for the hearers.
I’ve seen men full of lively and lovely personality become bore of the year in the pulpit. A lot of that is fear of man and the desire to conform to a certain “type” or “image” of what a preacher should be. But it’s deadly to effective communication of our message.
I was talking to a student about this recently and he shared that what had helped him in this area was Tim Keller’s little book The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness. That’s the key to this. It’s not about acting; it’s the very opposite. It’s about stopping acting. It’s about closing the Reformed clone factory. It’s about being yourself, your unique self, which only happens when you forget yourself.
Have something valuable to say, and say it authentically in your own unique way.
More articles in the Preaching Lessons from TED Talks series.