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How to Become a Better Speaker by Tomorrow

Two unbelievable simple pieces of speaking advice for you today:

1. Prepare more material.

2. Speak less of it out loud.

The difference between a good talk and a great one isn’t creativity.

It’s not presentation skills or voice quality or rehearsed hand gestures.

Instead, the best speakers are usually those who are best at editing their messages.

You need to become a ruthless editor of your own teaching.

A top-notch director might shoot 45-80 hours of video to put out a ninety-minute feature film.

What do we do?

We show up with eighteen minutes of prepared material and try to stretch it into twenty.

I’m not nearly optimistic enough to pretend like every idea I’ve ever had is good enough to see the light of day.

Are you?

Sometimes this means resisting the temptation to share everything we know.

Other times it means cutting out your most hilarious story because it just doesn’t fit that well.

But in every case, it means preparing enough material that you can cut some it and still have plenty of message left over at the end.

Prepare more than you need

If you know you need to speak for fifteen minutes, your first draft should run twenty minutes.

Don’t stop when you think you’re done, write more and then write some more. Add another illustration. If you’re a funny person, write a few more jokes. Find even more Bible verses that support your point.

If you found a great video, find another one.

Collect more good ideas than you can possibly use, and don’t worry, we’ll do something with all of those real soon.

Edit like a pro

I always shoot to cut as much as a third of my message between first draft and final presentation. You can do that too, but first a word of warning.

Don’t try to draw a line between good and bad ideas. After all, there’s an excellent chance that all of your ideas are pretty good ideas.

Instead you’re looking for best ideas and ideas that aren’t quite to that level. What do I do with all of those ideas?

Best ideas stay in the message.

Good ideas are cut from the message and filed away for another day.

Bad ideas are expunged without pity and I don’t like to talk about them.

Ruthless editing in practice

If you want to become a better speaker, here’s how you can put this into practice by tomorrow.

1. Prepare 20% more material than you usually do.

2. Plan on speaking 20% less than you usually do.

So if you usually speak for 15 minutes, plan on writing 18 minutes of material and speaking for 12.

Yes, it’s extra work, but then you didn’t think you’d become a better speaker without extra work, did you?   

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Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes at Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations—things like leading volunteers, managing money, and communicating effectively. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.