Remember the “Jesus is the Answer” bumper stickers?
They weren’t overly successful at spreading the gospel. People tended to laugh in derision instead.
And I really don’t blame them. Because you see you can’t have an answer until you have a question. And that’s so important to remember when we’re speaking: don’t give people the answer to their problems until you’ve convinced them they have a problem.
Too often we approach our talks as if they have to be us imparting our deep wealth of wisdom on our audience. We know what they should be doing. We know the secret of a Spirit filled life. We know how to get them back on track. And so we think of our talks in that way: I’m going to teach you how to be a better friend. I’m going to teach you how to be filled with the Spirit. I’m going to teach you how to really worship.
Now you may have the best ideas ever about how to worship. You may completely know how to make them a great friend. And you may have all the Scriptures to back it up, and some statistics, and some Powerpoint, and some props, and some great anecdotes. And people might listen and really enjoy it and think you were marvelous.
But they aren’t going to own it unless they first feel that they aren’t very good friends, or they aren’t filled with the Spirit, or they don’t know how to worship. Until people feel like they have a problem, then your talk will mostly be intellectual. Even if you have great stories, it likely won’t go from the head to the heart.
That’s why I believe that the early part of any talk should be spent on selling women on their problems. Get them to laugh at themselves. Show them what we women do that is so counterproductive. Whatever the problem is, help them to be able to say, “you’re right. I’ve got a problem.” Once they have owned it, they’re far more likely to listen to your solution, and far more likely to open themselves up to God. If they don’t own it, they’re going to think, “that’s interesting information”, and maybe even “I wish so and so were here to hear this”, but it won’t do anything for them.
So often people start their talks by introducing the Scripture and by launching right in to the problem that Jesus is addressing. I think this is doing things in the wrong order. After all, Jesus Himself told stories that illustrated a point before He told the application. And we need to do the same thing: tell stories that illustrate that there is actually a problem before we bring up the solution.
Here’s an example of part of the introduction to one of my talks, where I’m talking about the stupid things we women feel guilty for:
Often these parts of the talk work best if we can get people to laugh. I usually spend at least ten minutes on this part of the talk, because it’s usually on the lighter side, and later on I get a lot more serious. But if people have had a chance to laugh, they handle the serious stuff much better, and they’re already geared to listen to you.
So next time you go to speak, remember: don’t sell the solution until you sell the problem. Make people see that they need the solution, or they won’t really listen to you.
Right now I’m speaking a Christian writer’s conference, and that’s one of the main things I’m bringing home. Next post I’ll do point 2: they know they have a problem. Now what?
If you’re struggling with how to put a talk together–what to include, and in what order, and how to bring in Scripture–I have a great teleseminar that I know will make it so easy for you. It comes complete with a talk skeleton that you can fill in and then use to write your signature talk. You can find it here!