“There are speakers who write and writers who speak.” ~Lysa TerKeurst
In ministry these days, it does seem that both are demanded. Certainly publishers ascribe to this truth. Writers can’t just hide behind their computer screens anymore. They have to go out and build a platform, and the fastest way to build an audience is to speak in front of one.
Speakers also must write. Event planners want a taste of your message before they invite you to speak in front of their group. When you’re a leader, it’s a scary thing to hand a stranger your microphone, so getting a feel for the speaker’s beliefs and style is essential. If you love to speak, having a blog is a great way to give leaders a glimpse of your ministry. For the first time, I’m taking my book to my events, and I’m enjoying the blessing of sending attendees home with more of the message God has given me.
There are lots of things that are the same about speaking and writing. They’re two different vehicles for a a truth. Both are best used coupled with stories, sprinkled with memorable phrases, and infused with creative, fresh ideas.
However, there are differences between the two. One of the differences I run into most often as I work with my coaching clients is the need for speakers to closely connect the dots in their messages.
When I’m reading, I can pause, reread, ponder, and review. I think about reading Mere Christianity by CS Lewis in my college years, and if you’ve read it, you’ll probably understand what follows. The content in Mere Christianity is so deep that I would often reread sentences or whole passages over and over in order to grasp the full meaning. I highlighted and underlined and circled words in the text to help myself retain the rich truths.
The written word allows the reader to review, but the spoken word doesn’t. If one of my listeners wants to ponder a point or has a question that stops them in their thought processes, they have to stop listening to me which means they’ve missed a chunk by the time they tune back in.
As speakers, we need to create messages with the dots–the connecting thoughts–very close together. You may feel as if you’re over explaining, but you’re really just helping your listeners follow. You can verbally create “pregnant pauses” both for effect and to allow your listeners to ponder for a moment, but the points of your message need to connected and clear.
When you’re finished with your message, try to edit it as if you didn’t know what you know. It should have a stream-like quality with each idea flowing into the next.
It’s really hard to accomplish not knowing what you know completely, though, so the other thing I try to do before I present a new message is to let someone else read it. I’ll ask them to look for places where they have “mental whiplash”, the feeling you get when ideas abruptly change or transitions are weak, or places where they start to have questions.
If you haven’t read Made to Stick, I highly recommend it. They have a whole section on “the curse of knowledge” and how to avoid it in our messages. It’s full of ways for speakers to connect the dots.
Do you both speak and write? Which one is your strong suit? In your experience, how are they alike/different?