There is nothing God-honoring about being so confusing that people have difficulty following you. I’d love to share my typical checklist for giving a message with clarity.
- Am I communicating just one, simple idea? I don’t try to communicate several ideas in one message. Instead, I take the main thought from a particular Scripture passage and demonstrate that through a single, memorable idea. I’d rather the people leave having one truth fastened in their minds than having many, forgettable ones. When I speak, I want to say one thing and say it so clearly that even years from now they will remember what I said. I have found communicating one single idea at a time not only has a lasting impact on my congregation’s lives, but it also enhances clarity.
- Am I using simple enough language? It’s helpful to think about it from a child’s perspective. After I assemble my message, I ask myself, “Could a 12-year-old clearly understand what I am saying?” I have found that if I speak to a level of a 12-year-old, it forces me to be clearer. When people understand what you’re saying, they’ll follow you more easily.
- Are all components of my message clearly related to each other? If I give an illustration, I want to make sure that it fits the point that I’m making. If it doesn’t, then I’ll keep searching through my illustration file to find one that does. If you have a point in your message that is going one direction and an illustration that goes another, you might lose your audience with the confusion. People would rightly ask, “What exactly is the point?”
- Do I welcome feedback? I love to ask someone, “Is there any place you had difficulty following me?” To do this, you as a speaker have to keep your ego in check. The person you ask may tell you what you need to hear, but not necessarily what you want to hear. That feedback, though, can help you better prepare and present your future messages.
- Have I written a clear manuscript? I manuscript my entire message so that I can not only hear what I’m saying, but can see what I am saying. I can look at the sentences that precede and the ones that follow and make certain that there is no disconnect. The sentences that don’t flow together on paper will not flow together in the pulpit. Reading your message can also enhance clarity before you ever speak it.
As I manuscript, I watch my transitions carefully. Many speakers lose their audiences in their transitions. They go from one point to another but do not take the audience with them. As I read over my manuscript and make the transition from one point to another, I alert my audience that I am moving on in my message.
- Do my one-on-one conversations with people make sense? I consciously work on being clear in all my conversations. You’d be surprised how much that helps with public speaking. People who make it an emphasis to be clear in their personal conversations, whether defining or explaining a concept, find that clarity follows them in the pulpit. Clarity becomes an aspect of everything that comes out of their mouth.
Developing clarity as a speaker does not happen overnight but—like a lot of things—working on it one step at a time makes a huge difference.
A person once said, “I invited a friend to come hear you. I told him he would not have any trouble following you.” I immediately prayed, “Lord, help me speak in such a way that everyone says that.”