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When we speak, is our aim to impress our audience or to serve our audience?
If we’re struggling with nerves about a speaking engagement, this is a good question to ask to help us get to the root of our fear. We may find that we are overly focused on impressing our audience with a spectacular performance. In other words, we’re focused on ourselves – not a good place to camp out as a Christian speaker.
I’ve feared the following (and more!): Would I meet the audience’s expectations of me? Would I be as good as their last speaker? Would I have a good hair day? Would I remember the key passages of my talk without looking at my notes? Would everyone detect how nervous I was? And on and on.
What do these fears have in common? They’re all about performance, and they’re all self-focused. Yuck.
Performance is part of an effective speaking engagement, and we do have a responsibility to God, the ministry who’s hired us, and to our audience to prepare and do our best. But focusing on our performance usually results in a wave of nerves, while at the same time it makes us overly focused on ourselves.
So, what shift in focus do we need to make?
Instead of focusing on impressing our audience, we need to focus on serving our audience.
Let’s look at some ways to make that shift in focus.
Serve by focusing on growth
Something happens in the mind of an audience when a speaker is brought in from another location, and she stands in front of an audience with her notes, podium, mic, and yes, cute outfit. She is perceived as an expert. Sometimes that perception can be intimidating to an audience. But it can also be intimidating to the speaker herself.
Our goal, then, as Christian speakers is to counter that false impression by freely admitting, I’m right there alongside you, living my Christian life with ups and downs, just like you. I want my audience to know that I am growing in my relationship with Christ, just like she is. There’s not a time when we ever arrive at being a perfect Christian.
Serve by being vulnerable
Many of my speaking engagements focused on two books I’d written on marriage: What a Husband Needs from His Wife and What a Wife Needs from her Husband. I wrote both these books in a very honest way, sharing humor, biblical perspective, and real struggles. My vulnerability drew women to these marriage messages.
A speaker focused on her performance shares only the stories that make her look perfect. On the other hand, a speaker aiming to serve her audience shares stories with glimpses of the transforming power of Christ.
Instead of hiding behind a false picture of perfection, God led me to share certain challenges in my marriage that many women could relate to. I was able to serve the women by giving them practices and principles to help them have the kind of marriages God wanted for them.
Serve by encouraging women’s growth beyond the speaking event
Your speaking event may last an hour or a weekend if you’re speaking at a retreat, but it’s limited. The women in your audience will go back to their everyday lives, hopefully inspired. But then they’ll be hit by laundry, a messy house, a needy family, or a job that seems humdrum. When I imagine my audience members’ lives after the speaking event, I am reminded that my one-time performance will have momentary impact – but my desire to serve her beyond the one time event will have more long-lasting results.
One way to serve our audience is to consider how to go above and beyond our one-time speaking event. Here are few ideas:
- Leave your audience with a handout of a devotional written on the topic you’ve spoken on.
- Offer a resource table at your event with books and other resources related to your topic.
- Direct them to your website where you have a free resource just for them.
- Work with your event coordinator to make sure the sponsoring church or ministry offers a follow-up Bible study or gathering.
- Pray for the women after the event and/or encourage the event coordinator to have a prayer team.
Take some time to ask God where your focus has been concerning speaking. On performing or serving? If we approach our speaking events with our focus on what we truly are, servants of Christ and not performers, we’re likely to find that many of our fears disappear.
Have you made the shift from performer to servant? We’d love to hear how this type of change impacted your nerves and the impact of your message.
If you find the content valuable here at Next Step Coaching Services, we’d love to provide you with individualized speaker coaching and/or writing coaching. Amy Carroll offers speaker coaching for veterans and novices, and Melanie Chitwood offers writing services ranging from proofreading to evaluating entire manuscripts. Check out the coaching section on our website, fill out the free consultation form, and we look forward to talking to you!