photo © 2005 Jason Scragz | more info (via: Wylio)
It’s every speaker’s worst nightmare. You’re speaking, and you look across the audience, and everybody’s looking dazed. Some are obviously texting. A few are nodding off. And a bunch are writing things down-but you’re pretty sure it doesn’t have anything to do with what you’re talking about. It’s probably a shopping list.
Boring people silly is awfully easy to do. In fact, all you have to do to bore people is follow these 7 steps:
1. Don’t Tell Anything About Yourself
If you want to bore your audience, keep the talk very impersonal. Don’t tell stories about yourself; just focus on the biblical text. In fact, don’t tell stories at all! If you’re talking about prayer, tell people how to pray, but above all, don’t give any illustrations of people who have prayed. Don’t tell anything inspirational; just lecture people on what they should be doing.
And if you do tell stories, make sure they’re not about you, because audiences actually enjoy hearing about the speaker. If you tell people about what you’ve gone through, it gives you credibility, and it makes people’s heads shoot up and listen to what you’re saying. So instead, steer clear of anything personal, and try to lecture, as if you are better than they are. Nothing glazes people’s eyes over more than that!
2. Read Your Whole Talk
If you have to read it to remember it, then people will realize that your talk is really very forgettable! So they won’t listen, either. I know that learning to give your talk without notes is tough, but at least when you get to the story part of the talk, try to do that without looking down.
Much of the emotion in a room is conveyed from body language-eye to eye contact. When you’re not making any eye-to-eye contact, they won’t pick up on the emotion, even if it’s a powerful story, and even if you’re being quite funny. They need to see your eyeballs.
When they don’t see your eyes, they’ll tune out and start thinking about other things. So reading verbatim is a great way to turn people off!
3. Teach People In-Depth
If the cure for boredom is engaging stories, then often the cause of boredom is too much lecturing! Yes, you may have a ton of knowledge that you want to impart, but if all you do is impart knowledge, telling them what they should be doing and how they should be doing, without offering any illustration of someone who did this and is now better off, or someone who didn’t do this and is now worse off, or even something completely different, like an illustration from nature, then you’ll bore them for sure.
People learn not by hearing what they should be doing; they learn by emotionally engaging with the speaker and the speaker’s stories, and then taking that emotion and combining it with the head knowledge you’ve already given. That way they buy into the message! If you just give head knowledge, it likely won’t move to their hearts. And it’s also less likely to enter their ears, because they’ll realize “this isn’t really relevant for me”. And they’ll stop listening.
4. Use Too Many Points
Do you have six points? Seven points? Are you sharing the 8 Ps of Prayer? Or going into depth on every single one of the fruits of the spirit?
That’s too many subjects for people to focus on, and it will definitely result in boredom. Often speakers have the audience’s attention for the first two points, but they lose it when they keep saying, “next”, or “and another thing”. It’s better to take far longer on each point, and only have 1 or 2, then to have 13 or 14. People will realize, “I can’t remember all this, so why bother listening?” And they will stop. And they will be bored!
5. Speak in a Monotone
Have you ever been trying to make a toddler go to sleep by reading a story, like Goodnight Moon? How do you read it? Chances are you speak slowly, in a monotone, so that you don’t arouse any emotion in that child except perhaps that urge to close one’s eyes.
So if you want to bore people, pretend you’re tucking your grandson into bed! Talk in that monotone. Don’t change the speed, or the tone, or the pitch of your voice. Speak always equally fast, or equally slow. Be like background noise when someone’s trying to drift off, like a fan. You’ll lose them for sure!
On the other hand, if you speed up during your interesting stories, and then suddenly slow down when you’re making an important point, you’ll jerk them out of their stupor and they’ll start listening to you again. If you vary your pitch, making your voice lower when you’re making a point you want them to take home, and higher when you’re being funny, then they’ll have an easier time following you, and they won’t drift off!
6. Put all your main points and sub-points on PowerPoint
Put cute pictures of kittens up on Powerpoint, and people wake up. Use Powerpoint to show interesting illustrations or pictures, and people will start engaging in what you’re saying.
But if you want to bore them, write out all your main points on Powerpoint, complete with bullets and subpoints, so they can read along with you as you speak. Little bores people more, so this is a sure winner!
When you have all your subpoints on Powerpoint, then people know exactly what you’re about to say, and when they can read it in black and white, it quite frankly does not look all that interesting. By putting it up on a screen, you also subliminally give the message, “you won’t remember this just from my voice, since I’m not interesting enough, so I’m going to put everything up here so you can read it, too.” That way you give the impression that they really don’t need to listen to you. And they’ll plan their grocery shopping list in their heads instead!
7. Use Proof Texts for every second sentence
A final surefire way to turn off your audience: proof text everything you say. Sure, you may have a main Bible passage that you have read, and you may have one or two verses which illustrate it nicely. But if you want people to lose interest, the best thing is to find not one but five verses that say the same thing, and read them all. And everytime you make a statement, even if it’s relatively obvious, like “prayer is a good thing,” read a verse which says that, too.
Sure, if you use a lot of Bible verses it shows people that you know your Bible well, and that you’re only saying things which God already said. But you also tell people something else. You say: I’m nervous about my talk, and I need to prove to you that I have authority to say this.
Everybody wants to hear a talk grounded in the Bible, but they also are here for your interpretation. That, after all, is why you were asked to speak. If you need to take a walk through every book of the Bible to show something fairly rudimentary, then you’ll cause people to drift off for sure. They’ll think you have nothing new to say. You have nothing relevant to our culture to say. You have nothing authoritative to say. A speaker who keeps their audience engaged keeps coming back to the main passage they use over and over to reinforce that passage. But a speaker who wants to bore his or her audience jumps around like crazy to add gravitas, and it almost always backfires.
So there you go: a 7-fold plan to bore audiences! There are times when cynically I must admit I think they teach these things in school, because I hear people following every single one of these rules. If you want to bore your audience, by all means, do so. But if you want an engaged audience, who listens to what you say, thinks about you say, and then applies what you say, you’d do best to run in the opposite direction!
Don’t bore your audience! Learn to create a talk that will engage, inspire, and enthrall your listeners, with my download, Crafting Your Signature Talk.