Well, it’s been awhile, and despite the title, this is not the last installment.
Delivery is something that can be overdone, and when it is overdone, it ruins the talk.
I’ve seen people with horrid delivery move me to tears and plenty of well-versed orators have left me feeling cold.
The first rule is: The Spirit matters most. The second is: Don’t fake your delivery.
That said, here are some ways you can improve the delivery of your talk without faking it. You don’t have to be trained in public speaking (although that’s always a plus, when not overdone), but there are small things anyone can do to improve the delivery of their talk. And if you have the Spirit in your words, a well-delivered talk can move from very good to great (or even excellent).
Pay attention to General Conference. Notice how the General Authorities speak. Each one has their own unique style, and each unique style is effective in its own way. Generally, they do not mumble into the microphone, or refuse to look at the audience. For the most part, they speak in clear, enunciated words. The delivery styles of the General Authorities form the basis for my advice:
First: Read your talk out loud at least once before actually giving it. I’ve said it before in previous installments, and it can’t be repeated enough. It is the single best piece of advice I can give. Here, it will help with delivery because you will be familiar with the rhythm of your sentences and paragraphs. If you have the time, practice saying sentences in different ways, with different tones or shadings. Practice reading it louder or softer. Get used to your own voice and figure out what seems effective.
Second: Look at the audience. One reason the General Authorities have teleprompters placed in front and to the sides of the pulpit is so that they are constantly looking at the entire audience, rather than just starting straight ahead or down (though the “staring straight at you” approach can also work, if you occasionally change which direction you are staring). It’s extremely hard to make any connection with the audience when you aren’t looking at them.
Third: Control your hands. We all have many unconscious “things” we do with our hands. Stroke our beards (those of us that have them), twirl our hair, pick our nose, scratch our necks, pull at our necklace, scratch behind our ears, etc. They are all distracting – and while the Spirit can overcome distractions, it’s best to remove distractions and let the Spirit work unhindered. Other than occasionally (and quickly) wiping the sides of our mouths if spittle is building up, your hands need to remain in a neutral position and stay away from your body. Holding your notes is one way to avoid doing this. I find that lightly holding onto the sides of the pulpit helps. Just give your hands something benign to do.
Fourth: Above all, do not pause in the middle of each sentence. I actually blame the 80s and 90s church videos for this tendency among some members, where it seemed that every testimony or narrator would pause: “I glad I could share this . . . with you today. I’ve felt good about . . . what I’ve been telling you.” Watch General Conference – the GAs do not pause in the middle of each sentence. Thoughtfulness is portrayed not by pretending to be thinking about how to finish the sentence – instead it comes from having thoughtful things to say. And if you’ve been following this series, you won’t have to worry about that.
For the next installment, I’ll have a few final thoughts, and I’ll have some responses to a few questions and comments that came up on previous threads.