Preparation is necessary for effective public speaking for both experienced speakers and novices. Well-known speakers prepare to remain good communicators. Inexperienced speakers can improve with preparation and practice. Speech preparation requires you know your audience, occasion, and topic. Time spent researching and studying is worth it when God connects your message to listeners’ hearts.
1. Know Your Audience.
At times you will be familiar with your audience; other times they will be strangers. Either way, knowledge about the audience is helpful. Who are they? Consider gender, age, ethnic background, education, social/culture status, values, and group affiliation. Tailor your comments to them. Try to understand how they feel about you and your subject. Strengthen favorable attitudes, correct unfavorable attitudes, and stimulate apathetic attitudes. Try to understand why they came to the event and what they hope to hear.
Ask questions before, make adjustments during, and evaluate after your speech to connect with your audience. Aristotle once said: “Of the three elements of speech making—speaker, subject, and persons addressed—it is the last one, the hearer, that determines the speech’s end and object.”
2. Know Your Occasion.
That no two audiences or occasions are the same underscores the importance of preparation. Once you consider your audience, focus on the occasion. Try to understand why you have been asked to speak and the significance of the occasion. Answer these questions as you prepare for every event:
- What is the purpose of the meeting? Is it inspiration or instruction? Evangelism or discipleship? in- or outreach? devotion or in-depth? Follow the meeting’s purpose.
- What are the rituals and typical features? Ask about protocol and respect established features.
- What will be the physical conditions? informal or formal? indoor or outdoor? noisy or quiet? Get familiar with the environment and media equipment. Expect surprises, and be gracious.
3. Know Your Topic.
Whenever possible, speak within your area of expertise. Sometimes you will be assigned a theme, topic, or Scripture; often you can adapt your own. Answer these questions honestly: 1) Do I know enough and have an urgency to speak about the topic? 2) Am I enthusiastic about sharing my ideas? And 3) Does anyone want to hear it?
Discover an idea as you study the Bible, read magazines, or research. Find a desired topic, research it, and develop your thoughts. Focus your idea, clarify your purpose, state your idea, and take a stance.
Finally, use your experience. You’re an expert on your life experience, and it will typically relate to your audience.
This article is adapted from a chapter written by Rhonda Kelley and found in Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level compiled by Chris Adams.