Margaret Thatcher, who died this week, once said that she was nervous every time she gave a speech, especially in the House of Commons. According to a 2001 Gallup Poll, she shares that anxiety with 40% of the population as public speaking is the #2 among Top Ten Fears polled. What are some steps those who agree to witness on stewardship topics can take to reduce the apparent stress public speaking causes?
Preparation is the key to a successful talk. First of all, plan so that you know what the stewardship theme for the year is and then do some research about the lessons that will be read on the day you are to speak. Try in some way to relate your experience to these lessons. For example, tell your own story about how you became a steward. What were some of the challenges, changes, insights and feelings you experienced on your journey. Is there some way that your stewardship practices relate to your relationship with God?
Some stewardship themes that you could share include stewardship as a caring for all of God’s creation, or tithing or proportional giving as a holy habit. Perhaps you could say something about offering as an act of worship or giving as an expression of faith. Is there a specific time or event that caused you to embrace stewardship that you can share? Was your decision somehow rooted in family and childhood,or life choices or church experience? Perhaps you could capture the story using the challenge, choice outcome model of storytelling. Could you relate how your stewardship disciplines changed your life? Perhaps your story is related to one of the Marks of Mission.
Good talks have a confident opening; they focus on a few key points which are supported with evidence; and they close with a call to action. So spend some time preparing your opening lines. These should be written out as the opening is too important to leave to chance language in the moment. Eye contact with your audience is always recommended and then lead with an attention-getter to pique interest. Depending on the length of time, choose 2 to 3 key points to make and support them with solid evidence or experiences you can share. Closings sometimes relate to the opening grabber but regardless, close with a call to action. You want to keep the attention of your audience, convey your own passion, and cause a response from your listener.
After all this preparation, it’s time to practice. It is important to rehearse – out loud – using all the supporting tools and props that you plan to use during the actual presentation. Make any changes to your script that are awkward to say or that seem too complicated. Use a timer to pace yourself as you take time to breathe. Also try to visualize yourself actually doing the talk in front of the group. It will build your confidence. Try to relax and recognize that audiences are rooting for you – they want a successful talk just as much as you do.
With so many p-words above, we mustn’t forget one final one: prayer. As you prepare and present, share your work with God in prayer. If you are stewardship witness, no doubt you are called to care, to act and to lead. You are probably a leader in mission and ministry in your parish and this is a form of prayer. Tell your story with confidence, knowing that God is right there beside you.