I remember sitting with my friend as she tried to figure out what went wrong. She was a workshop leader at the conference at which we both were speaking. A seasoned communicator, she had opened her session by telling a hilarious story she had snatched off the Internet. While usually the women in her audience roar loudly with laughter at the telling of the tale, that particular morning her funny story had been met with only a few nervous, awkward giggles.
“I can’t figure it out.” She exclaimed to me. “That story has always been such a great opener. Maybe it was my delivery.”
Since I had been in another room teaching my session at the same time, I hadn’t heard the story so I asked her to tell it to me. A few sentences in, I stopped her to inform her exactly why it had bombed.
“Oh no!” I declared. “Weren’t you in the opening main session this morning?” She responded that she had left a few minutes before it ended so she could get to her room and go over her notes before her breakout session started 15 minutes later.
“The keynote speaker in the opening main session ENDED her message with that exact same story!”
So, the women at that conference were told the same story. Yes, just moments apart.
While there is certainly nothing wrong with telling a joke or story or even reading a quote that you found on the Internet, the only way to be sure that your audience hasn’t heard the material in your talk before is to generate your own unique content. But how?
Here are a few methods I have learned over the years:
~ Keep a notepad in your purse. When you see something funny happen, jot it down. When you witness an altercation or interesting interaction, write it in your notebook. Always be on the lookout for situations that happen in your personal life that you might be able to use to make a point or open a message and set up the topic of your talk.
~ Keep a notepad on your nightstand. Some of our best ideas come at bedtime or even in the middle of the night. Also keep a pen and notebook next to your bed so that you can record these too. You know if you wait until morning you may forget. Or, you will be so worried about forgetting that you won’t get to sleep!
~ Watch your loved ones. Oft times our families and friends can provide some great material too. One of your kids needed to learn a lesson the hard way? Does it translate into how God disciplines us? Your spouse have a difficult interaction at work? Your sister have a crazy encounter with a wild animal? Record it and ask God how it might fit into one of your talks.
~ Take a trip down memory lane. Every so often let your mind wander back in time. Type up stories from your own life; from grade school; high school; young adulthood or even last year. Keep them in a file on your computer and check them out every so often to see if one can slip nicely into a message you are working on.
~ Look to scripture more than to social media. Do not spend time just poking around the Internet looking for material. Spend time in God’s word growing your relationship with Him. A strong connection with God is your absolute best resource fro great speaking material!
With a little pre-planning and purposeful recording, you can generate some relevant material and thus deliver a unique message that only you can give. And you’ll have no fear that your audience has ever heard it before.
We’d like to alert you about an amazing free resource. On March 15 at 1:00 pm EST, “Preach Better Sermons” is doing a free online event. You can find out more here: http://www.preachbettersermons.com/. We know we’re not pastors, but with the likes of Andy Stanley teaching, there are sure to be things to learn!