Public Speaking Is About A Real & Present Audience!
This past weekend, a friend of our family attended McLean Bible Church, as I attended Capitol Hill Baptist in the Virginia/Washinton, D.C. area When we got together Sunday afternoon, he shared how much he enjoyed the Pastor David Platt’s Sunday sermon (as I did, Mark Dever’s) that morning.
As he listed out some of the traits which made the Platt effective & enjoyable, he used the following descriptive words and phrases. . . .
- he just comes across as authentic
- his sincerity is felt
- it was as if speaking to you
- he is able to smile even when rebuking you
- had great eye contact
- seems to really care about people
- really a pastor (that’s where he should be, rather than SBC administration)
- comes across credible
Okay, I know of David Platt and have heard Platt, but never saw him preach — Let me see if there is a video of the message from this past Sunday and see if it is posted yet. There is — here is the video link (All or any part of the video exemplifies Platt’s style and abilities. )
As I listened to him, I was reminded once again of how important the visual is in speaking and preaching. Rather unexpectedly, I was impressed with Platt — visually. Well beyond his vocal variety (which can be heard by listening to any mp3), he is a “Preaching 3-D Pixar Personality.”
His . . . .
- constant & passionate facial expressions
- use of hands & gestures
- overall body language
- effective “large audience eye-contact”
- “constant” smile
- draping of himself over the “podium”
- smooth ability to “use” a manuscript & tablet
- ability to visually span across the breadth of the audience
- bodily expressions of his emotional feelings
. . . . all combine to make his visual presentation stand out. I might even allege that it is the combined visual components which constitute the essence of his effectiveness.
Also, as Fred Miller states, “Exaggeration (exaggerated facial expressions) is the Key, especially when speaking in front of larger groups.”
It is not his content which separates him from other effective biblical communicators. There would be a good number of other Bible teachers and preachers who are better at content, yet, not as — or quite as effective — visually effective. It is clearly Platt’s strong suit! It may well be his operative suit, that which makes him as effective as he is.*
In contrast, I found Mark Dever more insightful, while not as “Pixar” as Platt. Here are but two examples where Dever caught my thinking and pushed it a different direction, and in so doing, thought about truths which were not in my mind previously.
i.e., #1) Clip by Mark Dever — You Shall Not Commit Adultery
Here is a clip about “companions,” in which Dever makes these comments . . . .
(audio clip @57:56 minute mark of the original message)
. . . . today we are so concerned . . . . . . . .
Friends, I would encourage you to recognize that other people have a powerful influence in your spiritual life. Do you want to know what you’re going to be like in five years . . . Look at the people you enjoy spending time with. . . .
#2) Clip — In another portion of the message, Dever moves to the Gospel and captures the nature of the Lord’s resurrection!
(audio clip @55:22 minute mark of the original message)
. . . . and then to die on the cross — accepting — the punishment due — to people like us — for our sins — and He took that punishment — all — and exhausted it — for all of us — who would trust in Him — that is why he was raised on the third day — not only did God the Father — raise the son, but the punishment had been exhausted — there was no reason for death to hold Him any longer — That punishment that you and I deserved — if we trust in Him — that was taken care of — all of it. . . .
What an insightful, thoughtful, mind stirring way to capture the nature of the resurrection! — Death was exhausted! It could not hold Him any longer, and therefore it is also exhausted to hold us!
David Platt has a lot to offer as an example of visual credibility. Indeed, he comes across with all of my friend’s descriptive portrayals. I am not sure that his “visual-ness” can be, or should be emulated — but speakers and preachers can and should work at becoming far better at visually connecting with an audience.
I can say this with certainty — If you are going to use a manuscript, you will impair and even lose your effectiveness if you are tied to it, and/or if you are not as visually proficient in engaging an audience as is Platt.*
* David Platt obviously — seemingly — (if not, he is transmitting that message) — relies on a “tablet manuscript.” If it were not for his ability to adroitly, skillfully, and/or smoothly use such a “tablet teleprompter,” it would distract at best, and significantly kill his effectiveness. It is his non-verbal visual and body language skills which overcome any loss of manuscript use and capture his effectiveness.
There are few, if any, other speakers which are so “animated” visually. While listening to other messages may support the position that Platt’s content and insight are what undergirds or highlights his speaking ability, this message is driven by its non-verbal and/or visual communicative effectivity.