Investigation vs. Presentation!
When preparing a speech or a message, more information will be generated than can be and should be communicated during the actual presentation. That may be more than obvious, but it is still a temptation which pushes most speakers beyond reasonable limits. In fact, it is what causes some to weary an audience and go far too long!
As any speaker or preacher knows, The time spent in preparation will typically produce a lot more material than can be covered in a typical sermon.* After hours of study, reading, jotting down ideas, considering different direction to go with the passage, remembering some of the previous ways you have dealt with the passage, thinking of applications, etc. — my yellow legal pad is loaded with . . . .
- word studies
- alternate understandings of a passage
- various doctrines which can be found in the passage
- unusual grammatical constructions
- the flow of the argument — the conjunctions which hold it and flow it
- related Old Testament examples
- commentators quotes and notes
- contextual elements
- historical understandings
- some connective / corrective / additional / related thoughts with last weeks message on this chapter/book
My yellow legal pad is loaded with a LOT of material and ideas!
However, that is where the temptation and danger lies. There is a temptation and danger in “downloading” far too much of that information!
The danger is that after downloading all that information to our “yellow legal pad” and now packed theological minds, we are now tempted to “upload” — much, and probably far too much of it — to our audience. Since it was interesting to us, surely it will be interesting to those who have come to listen.
Secular Speech Making
This temptation and resultant danger happens whether it is a sermon or a secular speech. After years of teaching public address, even over this past year of teaching several modules in “Public Speaking” at the local university, students will research a topic and become so fascinated about what they have learned, that they “fire-hydrant” the audience. Initially, they believe they could never give a ten minute informative or persuasive speech. They thought ten minutes was too long to stand before an audience and speak. However, rarely was there a student who was under ten minutes, and most were approaching 12-15 minutes.
This year, as in past years, there were students who spoke over twenty-five minutes. When that happens, I know exactly what has taken place. The student has so much information which he/she has deemed interesting and important — in their minds — and perhaps it is! — may the Lod help them if it isn’t — they just have to share it with the audience. At times, they decided to include it off-the-cuff. I know that because it is not in their outline or my copy of their notes. They throw it in – right then and there – add it to the speech on the spot because their mind grabs one or more of those “interesting & fascinating researched packets” which to them was so interesting!
An Analogy: Let me provide an analogy** which illustrates the reality which needs to be felt when it comes speaking and preaching!
Airline Announcements Analogy
Now, this is an extensive analogy, but that is the point! — (In fact, I do not even include all that could have been included in this common real-life example.)
During boarding, something like this is spoken by the Captain and/or Flight Attendants.
“Good morning/afternoon/evening ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. I want to welcome you aboard “Southwest” — flight 777 — service from Tampa, Florida to Trenton, New Jersey.
Once we have actually taken off, our flight time will be 2 hours and 23 minutes. Our wheels should set down in Trenton, at the Mercer County Airport, at approximately 2:32.
Currently, in Tampa, the winds are out of the South at 12 MPH.
We have excellent visibility — ranging over 5 miles.
Cloud ceiling is well over five miles.
There are a few scattered clouds.
The temperature is 27 degrees centigrade – that is about 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
We are on hold, with three planes in the “cue.”
We will be taxiing to the runway in a few moments and should be able to leave fairly close to on time.
We’ll get back to you enroute just as soon as we have more information; once again, welcome aboard.
Flight Attendant Safety Information: Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the crew I ask that you please direct your attention to the flight attendants, as we review the emergency procedures.
There are six emergency exits on this aircraft. One is located – another – third is . . .
Take a minute to locate the exit closest to you.
Note that the nearest exit may be behind you. Count the number of rows to this exit.
Should the cabin experience sudden pressure loss — oxygen masks will drop down from above your seat. Place the mask over your mouth and nose — Pull the strap to tighten it.
If you are traveling with children, make sure that your own mask is on first before helping your children.
In the unlikely event of an emergency landing and evacuation –Emergency lighting will lead you to your closest exit.
Your seat is an approved flotation device. It has two straps, through which you can place your arms.
Please take a moment to review the safety data card in the seat pocket in front of you.
Please place all small baggage underneath your seat and/or in the overhead compartments.
Make sure that your seats and table trays are in the full upright position.
Turn off all personal electronic devices – that includes laptops, pads, or cell phones — or place them in airplane mode.
Restrooms are located in the front and rear of the cabin. Please do not . . .
Smoking is prohibited for the duration of the flight. It is a violation of the federal regulations to tamper with or disable any smoke detectors.
If you are seated at an exit, it will be expected that . . if you are not able to . . .
Enroute – Captain: Our Boeing, 727 has reached a cruising level of 35,000′ and this will be our final cruising altitude.
We are heading north by north-east.
Our route of flight will take us over Florida, Georgia, then over the Washington DC area, and finally over the east coast of the United States — before we descend into Central New Jersey area.
If the weather cooperates we should get a great view of the DC area.
Today’s flight is being flown today by your Captain Red Barron and the First Officer – Sky King.
We should have a smooth flight ahead and I am going to turn off the “Seat Belt Sign.”
The cabin crew will be coming around in about twenty minutes time to offer you a light snack and beverage. The cost of various items is listed on the last page of the flight map which is located in the seat pocket in front of you.
The in-flight movie will begin shortly after and you can request and pay for earbuds if you desire to watch.
Until then, sit back, relax and enjoy the rest of the flight.
Flight Attendant: Feel free to move about the cabin. Meanwhile, while seated, keep your seatbelt snugly fastened around your hip area.
If at any time the Captain turns on the “Seat Belt Sign”, please return to your seat and make sure your seatbelt is fastened.
[Ding] Seatbelt Sign goes dark
If there is anything that we can do to make in order to make your flight a more pleasant one, please let one of the flight attendants know.
[Ding] Before Descent: Ladies and Gentlemen, we are about to begin our final descent into the greater Philidelphia – Trenton area.
We have been cleared by the airport flight control tower for landing.
We should touch down at 2:37 pm.
Current temperature in the Trenton area is 0 Celsius, which is 32 degrees Farenheight.
The skies are cloudy and overcast.
There is no rain in the forecast — until later this evening.
Ceiling is 10,000 feet
We are cruising at an airspeed of 400 miles per hour.
We are 75 nautical miles out.
Visibility is around 1-2 miles.
We should be on the ground in a few minutes and then taxi to our Gate — B-7
[Ding] Flight Attendants: We have certainly enjoyed having you on board today.
[Again: If you have to / else return to seats / tray tables / electronic devices / place items under the seat in front of you / make sure fasten seatbelts]
We hope to see you again real soon, and thanks again for flying Southwest — we realize that you have alternatives when it comes to flying and want to thank you for choosing Southwest as your carrier.
I understand the “push-back” with this analogy — yes — there are some biblical truths which I need to hear even if they are not relevant to my life right now. When an emergency comes, that information becomes very important.
Nevertheless, I also understand that with those who fly often, many of them mentally “check-out” as this information is communicated. They really do not think that much of it is relevant to them as flyers. Just review what is actually important to the passengers. They also know that some of it is not relevant AT ALL . . . .
no plans on buying snacks.
not going to pay to watch the movie.
not turning off their electronic devices — it can’t really affect the instrumentation of the plane’s avionics!
no plans of smoking in the restrooms and/or disabling the smoke detectors
not seated in an exit row
Flight speed – direction – altitude – ceiling – visibility — What is that all about?
no plans on getting out of my seat, or definitely not using the restroom!
While I am sure the professional pilot needs to know a breath of information in order to safely land the plane — I would suggest that . . . .
√ a good number of listeners have generally checked out until the mention of the arrival time and/or the present weather conditions on the ground
√ some listeners will continue to “listen” because they are just there – right now they are seated there, and there is little else to occupy one’s time
√ some fellow pilots and/or “pilot types” on board are probably interested and listening to all of the technical information – (maybe none of the other stuff???)
√ some are listening to everything because this flight is brand new to them
The reality is, most all are waiting to hear what will actually affect them. It is not that the other information is not important, but . . . .
#1) not to all on boardand
#2) not to all on board at the moment — (and we listen in the moment!)
Speaking & Preaching
At times, the speaker and preacher can accumulate so much information, all which is true, interesting, helpful, insightful, sometimes fascinating, or related, that the message moves from simple and clear towards laborious and punishing.
While much of that information needs to be known and understood to ensure an accurate “flight,” not all that information needs to be sermonically included to insure a trustworthy proclamation.
Part of public speaking is . . . .
- keeping the focus
- cutting out what is not relevant
- limiting the scope of the examination of the passage
- deciding on what “could be” versus what “can be” included
- deleting what may be good material, but time does not allow for
- paring down the content just because it must be shortened
- paring down the content because it is too repetitious – we got it!
- cutting out what does not drive the Big Idea
- avoiding “rabbit trails” which divert away from the main points and/or main point
- refusing to do a review of last week’s message when moving into the next portion of the chapter or book
- staying on course even when your mind — off-the-cuff — wants to also say . . .
- realizing that some things you say will be accepted without going into all the technical support for your understanding or position
- realizing that the audience does not need to know everything you have come to know and understand concerning the passage.
- realizing that when it comes to a “reoccurring audience” there will be another opportunity to communicate – especially if you are wise in using the time they have given you voluntarily
Red-liningyour notes to become more effective!
You will do yourself a favor and improve your speaking experience if you consciously limit the breadth of your content and focus on the most important truth, principle, Big Idea you want the audience to leave with in their minds and hearts!
*Who has not said when preparing another message from a passage of Scripture he has previously preached on — “Let me focus on this aspect of the passage this time.”
It seems like the Bible is inexhaustible in what it teaches and which was not even seen when taught the last time we dealt with a particular section.
** “The Evening Weather” Analogy
Some speeches and messages are like listening to the evening weather report.
Whether we want to hear about the weather from around the nation or not, the meteorologist believes he needs to include it. We are going to be told far more than we think relevant or necessary.
While the professional meteorologist has reason to learn and understand all the various weather phenomena which move, jostle, and shift across the face of the globe, surely we who are living in the Contential United States have no interest in the weather reports which involve Hawaii, no less which mention the meteorological patterns in Europe and/or around the other side of the world.
(An Actual Report)
“There is this area of high pressure that sits there in the Northeast, just below Greenland and it just parks itself there and it pushes colder air in the mid-west — this has been in place for the last month.
Some milder air is finally about to break through – especially in the areas of the South — now don’t get too excited – it is not going to be for everybody – parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Lousiana, Atlanta, Georgia and by the weekend we will feel a little warmer.”