Here’s some ideas on how to prepare to talk in church. The LDS Church is unique because we don’t have paid ministry. We are the ministry. It’s up to us.
Remember a sacrament meeting talk is a sacred opportunity. Take it seriously, but don’t get too stressed out.
In addition to these points you may want to review this Forbes article that helps me and my colleagues remember what is helpful from a worldly point of view: http://bit.ly/greatpresenters.
Remember you will have a little help you may not have in a business speaking opportunity:
1- Prepare yourself. Pray for the spirit. Pray for those who listen to know how much Heavenly Father loves them. Get a blessing. Fasting is probably the most powerful way to prepare yourself of all you can do. If you receive inspiration or revelation about your talk you will have done the most powerful thing you can do to prepare both yourself and your talk.
The Holy Ghost, if present, will help you speak with the tongue of an angel. Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost. Read 2 Nephi 32: 2-3.
2- Outline your ideas early. Then you can be thinking of powerful ways to make the topic impactful. Decide your purpose. What do you want to accomplish? You will notice things and remember things in the days and weeks prior to your talk. Choose the main point and a few key sub points. Brainstorm first, then edit content later.
3- Think and pray about the specific needs of your audience. You may mention you are speaking specifically to the youth, or the singles, or the women, or the older high priests (who may be sleeping.) Go with the spirit. You may feel to change your approach. Don’t be afraid to do so.
4- Be passionate and enthusiastic. The word enthusiastic means “infused with spirit.”
5- Open up and share who your are. Give some of your “backstory” about your human side and how you overcame or grew. You don’t need to share specifics of past mistakes, but you can share things others can relate to.
I love this short video from my friend Lindsey Stirling who shares her own backstory of how she overcame anorexia as a teen:
Don’t be afraid to be real.
Here is good pattern to use from God’s four aspects of communication.
Dr. Chauncey Riddle, of BYU teaches us that D&C 4 says we should love God with all four aspects of us: Heart, Might, Mind, and Strength.
Heart is desire or emotion. Might is influence or results. Mind is understanding or thought. Strength is the capacity of the body for action. Heart and Mind are your spirit. Your spirit and your body are your soul. Every thing outside of your soul is your Might or impact in the world. It is still part of you, but outside of the physical or spiritual you.
A good approach for any talk is to start with the Mind. This includes questions, ideas, scriptures, quotes or observations. Then move to the Heart with stories and testimony. Your personal testimony is when the Holy Ghost will come. Then go to Strength with a call-to-action and a specific challenge or take-away. These together will drive impact, influence, results or Might.
Mind is belief or thought. Heart is hope or desire. Strength is faith to act. Might is the end result or charity; the pure love of Christ. There is nothing greater.
How to start your talk:
1- Ask a question or share a compelling quote. Get people thinking quickly. Grab their interest.
2- Read a short, relevant scripture.
3- Make a relevant observation.
4- Comment on talks before you. This is usually the High Councilman technique where he congratulates and summarizes the talks before him. It is a kind thing to do and it works and it shows you were listening. This can be overused though, so watch yourself if you speak often so this doesn’t become a crutch.
5- Tell a story. President Monson and the Apostles are masters of telling stories. The Master Himself would craft a parable or story that had impact on several levels. When in doubt, use one of His or theirs.
6- Share an allegory or object lesson. This is often the most impactful thing you can do. Others will remember this and retell it if it is hard hitting and relevant.
How not to start your talk:
1- Don’t throw who assigned you the talk under the bus. Don’t go through how you were assigned the talk and how they just told you about it a few days ago. It makes both you and them look bad.
2- Define your topic. The dictionary is there for people to look up faith on their own. This is an old, worn out approach. We get it.
3- Don’t admit you are scared or nervous. All your credibility goes away immediately. You’ll be ok.
4- Don’t tell how much you don’t want to be there. Have faith you will have help. Faith and doubt can’t reside in the same person.
5- Don’t say “you don’t know me, but…” Just introduce yourself if they might not know you.
How to make your talk very interesting and relevant:
1- Teach something very compelling. Don’t just talk.
2- Don’t read the whole time. If you need to read, which is ok, pause and look up to your audience and say things or summarize in your own words occasionally. Practice in front of a mirror. If you are going to read, practice the words also so that you won’t struggle. Get some help if necessary. Help is ok.
3- Have a “quotable” one liner that is memorable. This is what your audience will probably share with others.
4- Teach something you are passionate and knowledgeable about. This is probably the single most important rule of great public speaking.
5- Make sure there is a call-to-action or take away. Give practical ideas that people can use.
6- Use humor sparingly, like President Hinckley or President Monson.
7- Back up or validate your points. Mention a clear scripture or doctrinal source, but don’t overdo the length of your sources. Mention books you found interesting.
How to end your talk:
1- Summarize the main point and key points.
2- The three E’s: Educate, Entertain, End on time.
3- Challenge to take your call-to-action.
4- Share your testimony and close in the name of Christ.
After your talk.
1- Get a little feedback. This is best from those who love you and that you trust to tell you what you did well and how you can improve for next time. Take a few notes.
If you do this, each talk will get better and better. Review your notes from previous talks and this list before you give your next talk. Save your notes and the final version of your talk so you will have it again for a later opportunity.
Just remember who you gave it to before.