Recently I had the opportunity to speak before the young adult group at a local church I have been attending. This was the first time I had done any type of preaching or teaching in front of a group of people in a sermon-type scenario. I feel like I did an inadequate job of presenting the information, and so there are some things I would like to delineate here for future reference. While this is solely for my own use, perhaps it will come in handy for anyone who stumbles across this post as well.
Voice – Volume
The most important issue for me, personally, is my voice. I am a quiet guy, and I have been told that I need to speak louder. My initial assumption was that my normal speaking volume would be adequate due to the fact that I would be using a microphone. After reviewing the video afterwards, however, I realize that just because you have a microphone doesn’t mean you are talking loud enough for people to hear you. In a public speaking scenario, it is better to be talking too loud than to be talking too quietly. Quietness implies weakness or cowardice, which in a way can hinder your message, whereas if you’re talking too loudly, people may become irritated, but they will at least be able to understand what you’re saying without excessive strain.
Unfortunately, in order to prepare I will need to speak louder on a daily basis. Otherwise, if you only speak loudly on seldom occasions, your voice will be strained when you attempt to speak loudly. Think of how your voice feels when you have to shout, and that’s how my voice feels when I need to talk at a normal tone for an extended period. That is obviously not good, so I need to strengthen my vocal chords, speak from my chest, etc, and do this whenever I open my mouth.
Voice – Lubrication
Ah, yes, the issue of voice lubrication. My tips are as follows: drink plenty of water a couple of days in advance, so that your body is accustomed to drinking water. Otherwise when you drink water before your speech you will have to run to the bathroom. That’s really the key. If you can, bring a glass or bottle of water with you, but if this is not possible at least make sure you drink plenty beforehand. I’m not sure if it would be a good idea to have a lozenge or hard candy right before you speak, but I suppose so long as it doesn’t make your throat thick it should work.
Content – Preparation
What I would like to do is prepare a bunch of sample sermons in case I am called upon to do something similar in the future, especially in regard to the Torah. While I may be called upon to do other teachings, the niche of our ministry is Torah, and so that is probably where it would be best to focus for now. I don’t want to speak as if I’m explaining things I don’t fully understand, so I must continue to learn as well before I can qualify myself to teach.
So when I am preparing for a speech, I should focus on one topic that I want to fully go over. When I spoke about Hanukkah, I feel like I was all over the place, just going on the surface of a bunch of different topics instead of focusing on one or two areas and teaching systematically. I was too broad in picking the two topics of the menorah and the season of Hanukkah, and so the real thing to do would have been to start with the broad topic and work down until you find one sub-topic or sub-sub-topic to actually teach on.
Content – Notes
I’m not sure what exactly I need to do here, but I definitely need to do something. Essentially what I did last time was read off the sheet, and when I was speaking I was still looking down at my notes so that I didn’t lose my spot and so that I wouldn’t lose my train of thought. So my notes must be able to guide me in the direction of making eye contact, being fluid, and being somewhat spontaneous while saying everything I want to say. I know that what some people do is pace back and forth on stage, which I would assume helps with the creative process or keeps them spontaneous or something. Perhaps I will need to give it a try.
One good thing I did was I was firm in my stance. Normally this wasn’t even something I would think about, but last year I read a poem at a funeral, and my leg started shaking. I’m not sure if I locked my knees or what, but it didn’t recur, which I am grateful for. What I did was focused on keeping my knees lightly bent, and also moving back and forth a tad, almost like a slight rocking motion, forward and backward. This is what I usually do when I stand for long periods of time, and it seemed to work. In reviewing the video of myself, I didn’t notice that I was swaying, so I don’t believe it was anything noticeable, although perhaps it would be a good idea to check up-close, for instance in a mirror, before attempting it again.
I don’t even know if I will have another opportunity to speak in front of people soon or at all, but regardless, it is good practice for normal conversation-making, being confident in myself, acquiring knowledge, etc. The biggest thing I want to avoid is talking in-depth about things I really don’t know that much about, or things which are only “book knowledge,” that is, I haven’t actually lived through the knowledge to see if it is correct or haven’t applied it to my own life. Practicing this will help me think more in-depth about such things, and so I believe it would be a valuable use of my time.