3 Best Practices for Improving Your Speaking

I’ll never forget the frustration I would feel when a student or a volunteer would say to me, “Chris, I really enjoyed your message, but … .” It was then filled with critique on how my speaking was too fast, random, chaotic or out of control. Then, finally, I took some time to sit and look at my message, record myself and listen to what I was missing. I had some high moments, but my speaking was a little bit of a train wreck. After a little work, research, feedback and practice, I’ve improved greatly.

Writing a message is one thing; however, to deliver it is a totally different skill. Speaking is important in ministry because it’s how you can motivate your teens, parents and volunteers. It’s how you cast vision, encourage and challenge them to grow in their faith. While some people are naturally talented at speaking, others have to work hard at it. But, no matter where you are in skill level, you could always improve by:

Breaking It Down: The tendency is to practice the entire message from front to back. Instead of constantly trudging through the entire message, look at doing sections at a time. The purpose is to make sure the end, or the middle, is just as strong as the beginning. You might be more passionate in one section than another, which means you need to practice slowing down. This will help you get to know your message or talk more intimately.

Watching Yourself: What your body says while you speak is just as important as the words that come out of your mouth. Practice your body language by recording yourself (or having someone else do it) when delivering. You’ll be able to see how prepared you actually were. You’ll notice certain habits like arm waving or looking down. If people see that you are confident and in control, they’ll take you more seriously.

Practicing With an Audience: There is only so much you can pick up on your own. Give a few people permission to analyze your delivery. Let them tell you how they reacted when you brought on the challenge or explained the scripture. Have them share with you things that were distracting as well as inspiring. It might be hard to swallow at first; however, it will give you great confidence when you deliver it for real.

The better your delivery, the more you’ll be able to inspire. Even if you are naturally gifted at speaking, there is always room for improvement. Make time in your schedule to practice the message a few times. Grow in this skill so you can continue to grow disciples.

What best speaking practices do you use?  

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Chris Wesley
Chris graduated from Xavier University in 2003 with a BA in Communications: Electronic Media. He moved to Baltimore in the fall of 2003 where he served as a Jesuit Volunteer for a year. During that time, he was a Case Manager at Chase Brexton, met my wife Kate and felt God's calling to Student Ministry. In the summer of 2004, heI was hired by the Roman Catholic Parish Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland as a Middle School Youth Minister. Today he oversees grades 5-12 as the Director of Student Ministry.