Speak For Yourself – Discovering Your Voice As A Speaker
I once watched a youth pastor speak to a crowded room of students during a youth ministry event. The 30 minutes that he was on stage was painful to witness. It was not because his illustrations were bad. It was not because of poor exegesis. It was not because of a lack of eye contact. The reason for the uncomfortable experience was because he was clearly trying to be someone he was not in terms of his delivery. It felt forced. It was disingenuous. It felt inauthentic. He clearly had not spent the time discovering his own voice as a speaker and so he found himself working hard to imitate someone else’s.
This is a common scenario for speakers in the age of social media and instant access. Never before have so many sermons and messages from other youth pastors around the globe been available at the touch of a button. With this influx of content and delivery styles, it has become hard for some student leaders to engage in creativity rather than just settling for being a copy.
Here are 4 practical ways to speak for yourself
1. Allow your speaking style to be an overflow of your natural communication
An audience wants to feel connected to the person they are listening to and learning from. The best way to build this connection is by allowing your personality to shine through in your communication. If you are someone who has a jovial and fun personality, use appropriate humor, and smile as you speak. If you are someone who is more serious, don’t see this as a negative, use it to set a tone of importance as you speak. When you speak to people in a program setting the same way you speak to people in an everyday setting, you are displaying an integrity that makes your speaking even more effective. Students want to know that their youth pastor is the same person no matter what setting they find themselves in.
2. Listen to good speakers
Find communicators who have styles that you appreciate. Watch and listen to speakers who you believe to be effective. Watch and listen to them often. Make note of the things that you believe make them successful as a speaker. The goal is not to become that person. The goal is to develop the kind of skills that person has with a flare that is unique to you. Maybe it is the way that person pauses at certain points in their message. Maybe it is the way they tell a story with dramatic emphasis. Maybe it is the way they unpack the scriptures that you find to be powerful. Identify the skill and make it your own.
3. Record your messages
Any person who wants to hone a craft does intentional evaluation. You will never improve if you are not able to identify where you have room to grow. For some people, this feels horrible. Forcing yourself to go back and see how many times you said “um” or “like” and how you hand your hands in your pockets the whole time you spoke can be very awkward, but it will make you better. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t pat yourself on the back too much. Take an honest assessment and work to become a more polished communicator. A cell phone will do the trick or you can invest on an inexpensive camera like a GoPro to capture your messages
4. Focus on your inner life rather than try and impress with your outer life
A speaker’s long-term effectiveness is in direct correlation to his/her private devotion to God. Without a vibrant and meaningful relationship with Jesus, your messages will be hollow and your ministry will lack passion and power. We must be dedicated to stand before God on behalf of people before we ever stand before people on behalf of God. In the end, we can only take people to places we have gone ourselves, and unfortunately, for many, that is not very far. Take regular retreats alone to refresh and rejuvenate. Develop a routine devotional life. Read the Bible not just to prepare for the next sermon. Pray besides when you are about to step on stage.
You have been given a unique voice that God wants to use for his glory. Do the hard work of discovering yours and speak for yourself.