It is possible that a speaker or preacher gets caught up with a story, an illustration, the examples which expand a concept, and/or an explanation of something which is deemed unfamiliar to an audience. It can begin to take over the speech or message.*
The realization that this has happened is usually understood by the speaker after the speech or message. Looking back the speaker realizes that he did not need to give so much detail, that many examples, or such an extensive explanation. The audience got the point that was being made and “the time would have been better served on . . . ” The speaker did not keep the main thing, the main thing.
There is only a “finite” amount of time which a speaker has in keeping an audience engaged.
If you believe otherwise, you are welcome to run with that approach. Nevertheless, that is more and more of a reality in the age in which we live. There is such a thing as an “attention span,” and it is not increasing, and if anything it has decreased. There are few speakers and preachers who can hold an audience for a full hour — I am not one of them – and there are many others who think they can, but can’t!
There are “Listener Cycles” — Your listeners will “cycle” between what you are saying, what is going on in their lives, what they have to do after the message, what is happening or just happened during the message, and even thinking about what you are talking about.
Attentiveness is not “DC” current; it is “AC”– (Alternating Current). If you think or believe that your audience is listening to every word or portion of the message you are not dealing with reality. The proof is your own listening habits! There is a spectrum which runs from “focused” to “disinterested.” Your ability as a speaker unequivocally affects where your audience is on that spectrum!
An audience not growing weary in listening is not a matter of spirituality. It is a matter of reality.
When a speaker has . . . .
- spent a lot of time in preparation
- more material than he can share in “30 minutes”
- become more and more passionate about the message
- developed a sense of urgency and/or applicability of the truths & principles
- been moved by the message himself
- “finished” but is not seeing the audience impacted
- concluded that he still has not made the point
. . . . there is the potential to ignore the real-world time constraints which are at work when speaking.
Inevitably most speakers will have more material than you can preach in any one sermon. The tendency will be to “data dump” all the material instead of saving it for another time or message.
Likewise, with an introduction, after a speaker has . . . .
- extensively read about a person
- researched a fascinating story
- compiled a list of instances which exemplify this-or-that
- dove into the history of something
- learned more than most people will learn about that something
- found this-or-that absolutely fascinating
. . . . there will be the temptation to include far too much in the introductory and elusive minutes which are graciously given you by the audience at the beginning. They may say at a point in time — “TMI.”
The limitations which accompany public speaking must be applied when it comes to the introduction. The introduction may be the most susceptible area of failure because we have just “started the car – warming it up – putting it into gear, and beginning to get our directional bearings.”
When far too much time was taken up with “unnecessary, unessential, dispensable introductory material” — you are then taken back when you hear the speaker say later on in the body of the message . . . .
“I wish I had time to develop this point, but the clock is pushing me right now.
I wish I had more time to develop this as it should be developed but I need to wrap it up. So let’s move on quickly.”
REALLY! — No, the clock is not the problem — that would be you who laid out the flow and timing of the message — clearly, it was not the clock!
Do not stuff an introduction with more detail or material than fulfills the aim. Keep it tight as you can. Keep the included material purpose-driven — Have I accomplished what needs to be accomplished? What can still be “red-lined?”
At times, I have been there! I have said to myself — “I could have left out a lot of the detail I got into!”
Have you heard speakers begin with something like this . . . .
“Colossians 4:2-6 — What are you devoted to?
Devoted means — “zealous, ardent attachement, affection, faithful, devout, constant”.
To be devoted to something means — “to give up or approapriate to or to concentrate on a particular pursuit or cause
Some are devoted to sports. — they are out in terrible weather, sporting various hairdo, wearing various outfits
Others are devoted to a hobby . . . . They get the magazine of that hobby. He/she spends money getting this or that . . . .
Still others are devoted to their occupation . . . . They want to be the best at sales, top of their field in . . . .
Some are devoted to making money . . . He/she looks at his/her ‘bankbook” and . . . .
There are devoted people who are seeking prominence. They are looking for . . . .
For other it is devotion to one’s job – they stay late – don’t take vacations – work hard
Some are devoted to their friends – spend time – money on them . . . .
“The family” is the center of some’s devotion. Everything is about the kids and what they are doing, what sport they are playing, their achievements . . . .
some devoted to a . . .
brand of phone
computer – Mac or PC**
When a speaker is . . . .
- “staying on the front porch” far too long
- telling a long, detailed, and/or complex story
- giving too long of an explanation
- getting into the weeds
- piling up too many similar instances of
. . . . the audience may well be saying such things as . . . .
Okay, I got it! You can stop now.
Please move on!
I hope this is going somewhere.
Are we going to get to the message?
Is this about the story or about the Scriptures?
Finish-up and I will check back in when you finish!
“An effective introduction should accomplish three objectives. It gets attention, it surfaces a need, and it orients the audience to the body of the sermon. I tried to do that. (You can judge whether I was successful.)”
― Haddon W. Robinson, Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages
*Although Andy Stanely is a master communicator, at times he takes too much time to establish the point of tension in the introduction.
** If you are going to run through a list of these kinds of examples you should focus on how each of them contributes a different element and then use those different elements to drive your point or argument.
Some are devoted to sports. — they are out in terrible weather, sporting various hairdos, wearing various outfits – because they find meaning by connecting with a team.
Still, others are devoted to their occupation . . . . They want to be the best at sales, top of their field in . . . . – because they want the prominence or recognition of those in their field.
Some are devoted to making money . . . He/she looks at his/her ‘bankbook” – because they find security in having the money they might need throughout life.
For other it is devotion to one’s job – they stay late – don’t take vacations – work hard – because it gives a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.
Some are devoted to their friends – spend time – money on them – because having relationships with those who are not family commend them.
some are devoted to a . . .
TV series – because they live through the characters vicariously
brand of phone – because it speaks of status
Now you can use those “becauses” later on in the message on devotion.