My week typically includes an Uber ride to the airport, jumping on a United flight to some part of the country, checking into a hotel, and then racing to a conference center or church to get a sound check in. I then wait a day or so to get on a stage and communicate the power of Logos Bible Software and attempt to encourage people to dig deeper into the scriptures and study their Bible. I am always trying to become a better communicator.
One of the skills that I am constantly working on and trying to develop is public speaking and communication. My ability to be successful in my job goes hand in hand with my ability to communicate, and hopefully doing it with excellence. The truth is, we all need to be concerned with our ability to communicate.
This isn’t just for teachers or public speakers but for everyone! The next time you go in to a team meeting you will be, communicating. The next time you make a pitch for a salary increase, promotion, or job change you will be – communicating. So, how can we strive towards excellence in our communication? The following are three things I go back to consistently for my preparation.
Know your Stuff:
Nothing is worse than listening to someone who fumbles through their information or even worse, gives the wrong information! The best thing that you can do for yourself is to take time to really know the content you will be communicating. I had a seminary professor once tell me that for every minute I teach or preach I should have had at least an hour of research in. That means, if I get on a stage for 30-45 minutes I should have spent 30-45 hours in preparation and research! This may be unrealistic in some ways but the principle here is incredibly valuable – know your stuff!
The benefit of being informed and taking time to really understand the content you will be communicating is tremendous. While you may not use all the information you learned or studied, you will have it as ammo for questions and if you decide to go a different direction based on the response of the audience
Pro-Tip – You know a great communicator when they have the ability to adapt based on the response of the audience.
Practice to the Point of Exhaustion:
Many of us fall into two categories. First, we think to much of ourselves and our abilities. Second, we don’t have confidence in ourselves at all. We think less of ourselves which causes us to miss opportunities and positions ourselves for defeat. We need to be somewhere in the middle and in humility we should subject ourselves to practice. Really practicing, to the point of exhaustion!
When I first started at Logos my mentor, Scott; commented that I should be so good at my presentation that I could jump into it and deliver it in the car driving. I should be able to hit every joke, timing, and emotional focus point, while driving! No notes, computer screen for visual representation, just me and my voice. What did I do? I logged countless hours of practice time in rental cars on the way to the hotel, airport, and conference center. Guess what, it worked! This obsessive quality is what separates the “good” from the “great”, and take you from “average” to “excellent”. In fact, if you dig into biographies of influential and accomplished individuals you will find something similar that ties them all together. Practice is key.
Pro-Tip – Evaluate your schedule and redeem wasted time for practice. For me it was car rides and commutes. Take a look at wasted time in your schedule and be intentional about filling it to practice!
Always Have a Back Up Plan:
Knowing your stuff and practicing are both pre-requisites for this next step. After my sound check at conference centers or churches regardless of it being a 10,000 person arena or a 150 seat church I alway recognize that something can go wrong. In fact, I prepare for the worst happening and make sure that I have a back up plan. One of my greatest presentation aids is Logos Bible Software on my Mac. I always plug it onto stage and display it on the big screen to give people a visual of exactly what they can expect. The result is usually audible gasps and aaawwws, pretty cool to think about that in the context of Bible Software and a technology demo! I can’t tell you how many times I get on stage, plug in, and it doesn’t work! All the tests were great. It worked perfect less than an hour ago! However, now I’m on stage with hundreds of eyes staring at me waiting. This is where having a back up plan is so important!
I have a presentation that I developed for this situation. I have another one if Logos crashes or stops working half way through. I took the time to create a back up plan and then practice that back up plan to the point of exhaustion so nothing can take me by surprise to the point where I’m helpless. On a practical note, this includes having all my adapters and extra adapters and technology gadgets that I travel with just in case.
For some of you this involves thinking about the numbers and business data. Considering organizational shifts and management or organizational structures. Be prepared and have a back up plan in your arsenal as a ready response for any variable you may encounter.
Pro-Tip – Take a moment and jot down everything that could go wrong. Now, create a back up plan or response for that. Practice it and be prepared for it!
Bonus: Be You and Execute
The worst thing you can do is try to be someone else. Don’t fall into that trap. It’s filled with misery, inadequacy, and constantly questioning yourself. Feel free to take principles from people you admire and then do the hard work of contextualizing it into your voice! Be you, be genuine, and execute!
In the words of the famous Nike slogan – Just Do It!
Recommended Reading – If you want some resources to check out, the following books have been incredibly helpful for me.
Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently
Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds