Preparing and Giving Talks
By David Watson
NOTE: Please work on this during the week before the Group Study.
INTRODUCTION: Most people are very nervous at the thought of giving a talk, however brief! But most people are quite able to do so. However, a good simple talk does require careful preparation. Mark Twain: ‘It takes me three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech!’ Preparing a talk is a lot like building a house:
A) Select the site
With the ‘ground’ as the Bible, the ‘site’ will be some verse, passage, etc. 1 Peter 4:1 – Our ideas are unimportant; God’s Word is absolutely vital.
1. Use common sense
2. Keep a “jottings Notebook (especially if you are speaking regularly)
3. Know the needs of your hearers, as far as possible.
4. Pray – before any specific preparation begins.
B) Lay the Foundations
Study the verse/passage/theme as thoroughly as you can, until you really know what God is saying in his word. Without this there will be no conviction about your talk, and it may easily collapse!
C) Study the plan, or work out your message carefully
1. HAVE ONE AIM: It is often useful to write your aim in one short sentence, so that the rest of the talk can be referred back to that. Be ruthless! What is God’s message for the occasion?
2. There are usually many different ways of tackling a passage.
3. Remember Wesley’s words, ‘I offered them Christ.’
D) Erect the scaffolding
1. A simple plan: State your point (a heading), Explain, Illustrate, Apply.
2. Work out divisions and headings (usually about 2-3 points in a talk) (a) Use words of verse (b) Ask questions (Who? What? Why? etc.) (c) ‘Ask alliteration’s artful aid’ – but not too forced!
E) Build the walls
Give some substance to your talk. We are to ‘stimulate’, ‘instruct’, ‘feed’, ‘stir’, etc. Most talks will need some doctrine and teaching. Not just ‘Put your trust in Jesus’ – say why, etc. For this, study more than one translation, have a concordance and use a well-chosen commentary.
F) Don’t forget the windows – Illustrations are invaluable. Make a note of stories, quotes, topical news, etc. These often allow much light on a path of solid doctrine.
G) Make it fit for living – This is to be – not a museum, but a house to live in. Thus the talk should be relevant; suggest practical action, wherever possible.
H) Check front and back doors – i.e. Beginning and ending of talks are of special importance. Some useful openings: A question, startling statement, topical news item, story, advertisement, puzzle or problem, etc. Also know when to stop and how to stop!
I) Final preparation and delivery: For most people (though not all) the following is probably wise, at least start with:
1. Write out the talk in full, and then condense it to shorter notes.
2. Rehearse it – say it aloud (or whisper it!)
3. Be natural in (a) bearing – smile, stand still, avoid mannerisms (b) voice – ‘enlarge conversation’
4. Use variety in peace and pitch. Use pauses.
5. At all times PRAY – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Practical work: Prepare a short talk of not more than five minutes on any verse/theme from the Bible, and give this at the next Study/Small group.
*Source: David Watson. Discipleship. London: Hodder and Stoughton. 1981, pp. 281-82.