Whenever we communicate with people—whether in a speech, a letter, a meeting, a memo or at a social activity—we run the risk of being misunderstood.
Giving this speech will help you master one of the most neglected principles of clear communication: Have one main point and say it clearly. When you master this principle, people won’t have to wonder what you were talking about.
There is no room for digression in this speech. There is no time for rambling detours. When you finish this speech, your audience must have no doubt about what your main point was. No matter how juicy an anecdote or fact is, take it out of your speech if it doesn’t relate directly and specifically to your point.
It is much more challenging to tighten your focus like this than to take a broad, fuzzy look at a topic. But it is also much more effective. Your audience won’t leave wondering just what it was you were trying to say.
The problem usually begins with the topic a speaker chooses for a speech. Many speakers choose a broad topic and leave it at that—something like Asia, world history or the universe. The problem with these topics is their immense size. It would be difficult to cover them in 10 years, let alone 10 minutes.
From these broad topics, you must narrow your focus to one specific topic—like the top five tourist attractions in one specific Asian city, or how to spark an interest in world history in your children, or the search for the outermost planet of the solar system.
This process is much like going on a journey. When you leave your home, all the roads around you are possibilities, as are all the places they lead to. Soon, though, you choose one road and follow it. You have eliminated all destinations except the ones that lie down this particular road. As you go farther down this road, or turn off onto other roads, you eliminate more and more destinations. Eventually you reach the place you were headed.
Imagine what would happen if you tried to take more than one road at a time! So choose one road and save the others for another day.
When preparing a speech, this narrowing process is done through research. When you start out, you will have one general point of departure. When you begin your research, the possibilities are wide open, offering many more avenues than you could possibly pursue. First, you must get rid of approaches that are impractical to pursue, boring or useless to your audience. As you eliminate more and more approaches, you narrow your focus until finally you have your one point.
Research is an important part of the preparation of any high-quality speech—so important that we have included a section on the subject of “Excellence in Research” in this manual. Be sure to read that it before beginning work on this speech.
Your final product will be a model of good communication. Your main paint will stand out clear, distinct and unburdened by verbal clutter. When you finish, you will have accomplished something that many of this world’s professional communicators find difficult to do. You will have clearly gotten one main point across to your audience.
You must let your audience know where you are going from the very beginning of your speech. Every word, every sub-point, every gesture and every vocal inflection should be a solid step in the direction of your one main point. If any part of your speech, no matter how tiny, does not take you closer to that point, drop it.
For the evaluation
Did the speaker make the point absolutely clear? Did the speech digress from that one point? Did every fact, word, gesture and vocal inflection lead toward that one point? At the same time, did the speaker hold the interest of the audience and give the audience something of value? Was what the speaker said worth saying, and was it said well?
Paul writes about the importance of clear communication: “If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:8).
Lesson 2: Persuade
Romans 4:21 says that Abraham, the father of the faithful, pleased God because Abraham was “fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” The apostle Paul tried to persuade people of the truth of the gospel (Acts 18:4). “Since we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others” (2 Corinthians 5:11).
Great men and women of the Bible were persuaded of the truths of God. But how persuaded are you about your beliefs? And how well can you persuade others to accept and support those beliefs?
Persuasive speaking is not a matter of talking someone into something against his or her will. It is not a hard-sell job from a high-pressure salesman. It is a complex art of mixing facts, logic, psychology and emotion to move an audience to change an idea or concept about a particular subject, or to take some specific action. In this speech you will learn how to do this.
This speech is unlike the one point speech (Lesson One) in that you may make several points about the idea or course of action of which you want to convince your listeners. But just as in the one-point speech, the persuade speech must have one clear theme, or a specific purpose. In other words, you must know what you want your audience to believe, and they must get that message and be moved to believe or do it!
Don’t choose an easy-to-agree-with subject such as “We Should Love.” Don’t choose something that the entire audience already believes. And don’t choose a subject for which you can easily quote an encyclopedia for one minute to silence all disagreement.
Rather, pick a subject about which there is some controversy—a subject on which you have been persuaded. Examine an issue about which there are two or more schools of thought, each of which has its merits and weaknesses. Choose a theme or purpose about which you feel strongly, and use all the tools of argumentation and persuasion to move your audience to agree with you.
You need to know your subject inside and out. You need to understand not only the points that seem to prove your side of the issue, but the potential objections that may disprove it. Further, you must discuss the points for and against all within ten minutes. You must be able to dispel any opposition the audience may have to what you are trying to get them to believe or do. You must persuade them!
Approach the lectern confidently. Show enthusiasm and determination. Establish immediate audience contact. In most cases, this is not the time for a joke or small talk. Get to the business at hand.
Use an effective introduction to grab your audience’s attention. State your purpose clearly: “We need to [whatever you are trying to persuade them to believe or do], and I’m going to show you why.” Think out your points and present them in a logical order.
Illustrate your points with examples. This is called “visualization.” This is where you show the need to think or do what you are saying. First, list every negative result that will be caused if the audience does not follow what your speech says. Then show, point by point, every positive result that will come from believing or doing what you say. Be thorough. Tie your points in with the personal interests of your listeners.
Try to anticipate and answer all possible objections. This is the real heart of the persuade speech. Now that the audience can see the importance of the subject, don’t let anyone say, “Sure it’s important, but what you’re asking is impossible in my case.” Don’t leave anyone out.
In this speech, you will be evaluated especially on how well you have answered all possible objections, so the speech should leave no stone unturned. You should take your listeners down a one-way corridor from which the only way out is to agree with you and do exactly what you say. Pour on the persuasive power!
Remember that the art of persuasion involves more than sound logic and argumentation. It also involves moving the emotions of the hearers to sympathy with your position. Therefore appeal to your audience’s feelings when appropriate.
Everything you say in your speech should build to a strong conclusion. Make a final, positive appeal. When you have finished, leave the lectern confidently—don’t slink away. Stride back to your seat. Everything about your manner, down to the look on your face, should show that you are sure you have persuaded your entire audience to think or do what you have said.
For the evaluation
Listen for the exact idea or course of action the speaker wants to present. Is the speaker’s specific purpose clear? What were the strong points of the argument? What were the weak points? Did the presentation really move you? Most importantly, did the speaker answer all possible objections to the thesis, or are there holes in the argument that were not addressed? Are you persuaded to think or do what the speaker said?
Lesson 3: Difficult Scripture
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Are you able to clearly and plainly explain the meaning of a passage in the Bible?
Some parts of the Bible are easy to understand; others are very difficult. In that regard, the Bible is similar to many other pieces of literature. Parts of Macbeth are easy to explain; other parts are not quite so clear.
In this 10-minute speech, you will examine a verse in the Bible that some people misunderstand, and you will explain what it really means.
Your goal here is to clearly and completely explain one scripture. It is not to explain an entire book of the Bible, or to completely cover a doctrine from a theology textbook. It is to take one verse, a verse that many people have misunderstood, and examine its context to see what it means. Be thoroughly familiar with the ways the scripture is misinterpreted and the major counterarguments people may give to your explanation of the scripture.
Your choice of difficult scripture is important. It must be one that you can clearly explain in only 10 minutes. If you are having trouble finding a scripture to explain, ask your club director or pastor for help.
Make sure that the scripture you have chosen is relevant and profitable, that it is really helpful for people to have the right understanding of the verse. Ask God to guide you in the choice of this scripture and to inspire your understanding and your explanation. If you are trying to correct one misunderstanding, you do not want to replace it with a different misunderstanding!
There are three main ways of showing the true meaning of a verse:
- First, you could show how that verse fits in with the Bible as a whole, comparing it to principles discussed in other parts of the Bible.
- Second, you can compare it to other scriptures that deal with the same topic and shed light on the meaning of your difficult scripture.
- Finally, you can examine the scripture in its immediate context, showing what is really being said by what’s being said around it.
Choose one of these approaches. Don’t try to use all three. Keep the number of additional scriptures you quote to a minimum. The more you jump around in the Bible, the less time you will have for the verse that you are focusing on, and the more you will lose your audience.
In some cases, the problem is cleared up in a modern translation, such as the New Living Translation. But you must still explain why this other translation is to be preferred. You might want to see if the church’s website (dev.gci.org) has anything to say about the verse. You can also check some published commentaries.
Your introduction must vividly set the stage. It must get the audience’s attention and challenge them so that they, too, want to thoroughly understand the meaning of this scripture. Anecdotes, startling facts or figures, thought-provoking questions or even a challenge to the audience are all good ways of evoking immediate interest.
At some point fairly early in the speech, you will need to read the entire scripture in question. If you are discussing two seemingly contradictory scriptures, you will need to read both of them. You will also need to give a clear explanation of how the scripture is generally misunderstood.
Next you must show that another meaning is much more likely. Do not just show that someone else is wrong—you must present what is right. Be direct, clear and concise in your presentation. Boil your explanation down to its simplest aspect.
Warmth and friendliness are valuable tools in this speech. Do not be cocky, self-righteous, or sarcastic. That can undermine your credibility and possibly reflect poorly on the true meaning of Scripture as a whole.
For the evaluation
The most important thing this speaker should have done was clearly, concisely and truthfully explained a portion of God’s Word. Did the speaker give a clear explanation of how the scripture is generally misunderstood? Did he/she accurately state the meaning of the scripture? Did the speaker answer all possible objections? Did he/she present the speech in a way that was easy to follow and that brought the meaning out for everyone to understand?
If the speaker dealt with a teaching of some other Christian group, did the speaker fully understand that doctrine before attempting to explain why it was wrong? Was the topic a useful one, or did it deal with a question that didn’t really affect anyone?
Lesson 4: Fulfilled Prophecy
This fourth speech focuses on Bile prophecy. Perhaps more mistakes have been made in prophecy than in any other area of the Bible. Numerous sincere people have led themselves astray with erroneous speculations about what is happening on the world scene right now, and what will happen in the near future.
To avoid such pitfalls, this speech is to focus on prophecies that have already been fulfilled—either in ancient Israel or in the life of Jesus. Jesus said, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39). Many Old Testament prophecies pointed toward the salvation that we have in Jesus Christ, and we are on safer ground when we seek to explain prophecy in the light of Jesus.
There are numerous topics you could choose. But some are not suitable for this speech’s 10-minute time limit. For instance, you cannot explain every verse of Daniel 11 in this speech. On the other hand, you might be able to give an effective speech on one part of Daniel 11.
In this speech, you could give your listeners information about the historical setting in which a certain prophecy was given. You might cover the life and work of a biblical prophet. But do not come up with any pet theory of your own – make sure that what you are saying can be supported by published commentaries.
Find a non-controversial point on which you can be confident, one that is encouraging and edifying.
Strive to grip and hold your audience’s attention. Make your subject intensely interesting to these people who have generously offered you their time and their ears. You must give them something worthwhile. To do this, you must make your subject relevant.
Ask yourself how your material relates to the personal interests of your audience. Why should they want to listen to you? Will your speech make them healthier, wealthier, and wiser? Better capable of living the Christian life? Will their knowledge of the Bible be increased in practical, effective ways?
Many people are already interested in prophecy, but do not take your audience’s attention for granted. So when you give your speech, demonstrate by your posture, your vocal inflection, your intensity and your serious attitude the urgent nature of the material you are delivering. Convince your listeners with logic. Use simple terms and strive to communicate with your audience rather than to impress them with how smart you are.
Use other scriptures to support and clarify the main scriptures you cover, but be careful not to get lost in a muddle of overlapping points so that your central purpose becomes unclear. Know what you want to get across, and make everything you do during the speech serve that one, clear purpose.
For the evaluation
Accuracy is important in this speech. Were you convinced by the evidence, the logic, the confidence of the speaker?
Did you personally gain from the speech? Was it relevant to your interests and needs? Did you pick up something you can use in your own life? Did you come away from the speech moved by the subject that was covered?
How well did the speaker prepare? Did you get the impression that speaker knew what he/she wanted to get across, and that everything the speaker did supported getting that across? Was the specific purpose clear, or did the speech include tangents that were not necessary? Would most people benefit from this type of material if it were presented to them in a church service?
Lesson 5: Human Interest
People are interested in other people. This is the starting point for all truly effective, moving and memorable speeches. Joy and sorrow, despair and triumph, pain and laughter—they are emotions that add color to the stories of our lives and bring those stories to life for others. Your challenge with this speech is to recreate those emotions and use them to touch your listeners not just in their minds, but in their hearts. You need to make them feel your speech, not just hear it.
The topic you choose is of great importance in the ultimate success or failure of this speech. You will know you have created human interest when you see your audience completely drawn into your speech, waiting eagerly for every word. You can create this kind of human interest in your speech several ways.
Tell them about people—great and small—who have achieved something, triumphed over something at great odds or done something out of the ordinary.
You can build human interest into your speech by involving your audience’s emotions in the speech. If your story is a triumphant one, make your audience feel triumphant. If it is bittersweet, make them feel it. Touch their hearts!
Gripping stories create human interest. If you tell them right, your listeners will actually help you give your speech by adding to your words with their own imaginations. They will shiver in the cold as the explorers approach the summit. They will see the storm ravaging the sailors. They will feel the warm love of a grandmother for her grandchild.
Finding stories like these can sometimes be a real challenge. You may want to begin a file of interesting, thought-provoking stories several months before giving this speech. Even after you’ve given it, keep updating it. These kinds of stories are useful in many other speeches.
If you choose a gripping story, be sure to practice your delivery beforehand. You may want to plan out the specific wording and cadence of certain parts of the speech.
Humor is a powerful way to involve your listeners in what you are saying. But beware: It can also turn on you. Inappropriate humor can destroy your speech. So be careful how you use this tool, but by all means do learn how to use it properly and effectively.
People are interested in themselves and things that affect their lives. You can capitalize on this by relating your topic directly to the daily lives of your listeners.
Your speech must be of value. It should do more than just entertain. If you use a story in your speech, it should lead cleanly and smoothly to your purpose. You may be forcing your story into the speech if you have to shift gears at the end of your story and go into a lengthy explanation of how it relates to your main point.
Reflect the emotions you want to evoke in your audience. A colorful, lively delivery full of warmth, drama and humor will touch the hearts of your audience. It will make them feel the way you feel about your subject. You must be moved yourself to move your audience in this way.
Go beyond the mere mechanics of giving a speech—put your heart into it. You can’t fake this speech. It must come from within you. With this speech, you will be sharing from within yourself.
Your challenge with this speech is to recreate those emotions and use them to touch your listeners not just in their minds, but in their hearts. You need to make them feel your speech, not just hear it.
For the evaluation
Look for sincerity and warmth in the speaker. Was the speaker able to transmit this to the audience? Did he/she feel deeply about the subject? How about the audience—were they enveloped in the speech, feeling and seeing the things the speaker was talking about?
With a human interest speech, it is often easy to get wrapped up in listening to the speech and neglect to give the speaker any solid points to improve on. Try not to let this happen; don’t deprive the speaker of an opportunity to grow. But don’t be so overly concerned with looking for points of improvement that you diminish your enjoyment of the speech. If the speech is so gripping that you become unaware of the mechanics, then it has been a successful speech.
Did the speech have a clear, useful purpose? And was the purpose woven throughout the fabric of the speech? Was this speech truly interesting?
Lesson 6: World News Analysis
We are all affected by news events and trends, not only in our own nations but in far-flung spots around the globe. Events on the other side of the world can affect prices in the supermarket down the street.
Television networks and internet sites bring world turmoil into our own homes. But the problems are nothing new—they just seem to be escalating because the world is much more connected than it used to be. World news is important, but not as a “sign” that the great tribulation is near.
Jesus said, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains” (Mathew 24:6-8).
And indeed, there have been hundreds of wars and famines since Jesus spoke those words. Sometimes events seem to settle down; sometimes they seem to be riled up. The ebb and flow has continued for thousands of years. Is the turmoil we see today the beginning of the end, or simply part of the usual fluctuations? It’s impossible for us to know.
World news is important because people are important. People in far-flung places are part of the human race. They were created for the same purpose that we were; the meaning of life is the same for them as it is for us; we were all made in the image of God, designed to be part of a community of love and kindness. In some world news, we catch glimpses of the image of God, as kindness and compassion are expressed in difficult circumstances. In other news, we see how humanity is falling short of the glory that God has designed us for. We see opportunities for us to express compassion ourselves, we see reasons to pray for change.
We should all have a good general grasp of the people, places and events in world headlines. We should not only understand current events in general, but be able to intelligently analyze and explain news of international significance. This lesson will give you practice in doing that.
In this speech, you are to give an in-depth presentation on an important current event or trend. But more than just reporting facts, you are to analyze the causes and potential effects of the situation. Help your audience understand what the situation means to them personally. Point out developments that your listeners can watch for in the near future.
Your topic may be a major current event of the day, or a story that has been neglected in the popular media. The story must have international significance, not just local trivia. Look for points that are not obvious to the general public—information beyond the headlines.
Be specific. Don’t choose too broad a subject. Instead, zero in on a specific aspect of a topic. Research your subject thoroughly. Use credible, authoritative sources, and don’t rely totally on the views of just one person or publication. Show both sides of any issue you discuss. Know what you are talking about—this is not the place for unfounded speculation, shallow thinking, sweeping generalizations or quick solutions.
You should be able to answer most questions that members of your audience ask at the conclusion of your speech—and you should open the floor to two or three questions after you finish. Think creatively. Probe and analyze and explore the subject so that you can give your listeners worthwhile, useful information that affects them.
This is not a prophecy speech; you should not speculate about how the event fits into a prophetic timeline.
It is usually best to present a logical progression into the material you cover in this speech. You might organize your material into a story flow or into chronological order, for example, pointing out the cause-and-effect connections between events. Whatever you do, keep your material clear and interesting.
During this speech, visual aids such as maps, charts and handouts may help your audience understand what you are saying. But if you use such props, use them intelligently and effectively. Don’t let the prop create more questions than it answers.
Strive to radiate credibility. If you have thoroughly researched the subject and carefully planned what you say, you will gain the respect and interest of the audience.
One final word about delivery: This world is in tragic shape, and we as God’s people should lament the sins and sorrows that occur all around us. Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw the difficulty his fellow humans were in (Matthew 9:36). He even wept openly on occasion (John 11:35).
If your speech is about some tragedy, it should be clear that you feel deep concern and compassion for the people. There should be no hint of coldness or a condescending, judgmental attitude. God is not punishing them for their sins, nor are you blessed because you are more righteous than other people. Sin is involved in every world event, and sin is therefore such a broad “explanation” that it does not add much to our understanding of the subject.
For the evaluation
As an evaluator, you should come away from this speech profitably enlightened about an important news event or trend of international significance. Was the speaker thoroughly prepared? Did you sense that he/she knew the subject well, that the sources of information were credible, and that the speaker offered original and insightful thinking? How well did the speaker handle impromptu questions from the audience?
Did the speaker seem condescending and judgmental, or did he/she seem to desire that the problem be solved?
 You do not have understand the entire Bible – just understand one passage. There may even be parts of the Bible you do not believe, but don’t talk about those – talk about a part that you do understand.
 Various lay-level commentaries are available on the Internet. In some cases, amazon.com or books.google.com will allow you to read enough to see how the verse should be explained.
 Many published commentaries engage in unwarranted speculation about the future. Just because something is published does not mean that it is appropriate for this speech! Remember that the title of the speech is “Fulfilled Prophecy,” not “Never Before Understood, Soon to Be Fulfilled Speculations.” See the GCI website for some reliable guidance on understanding Bible prophecy.
 Be careful when using stories from the media: If the story was recently published in a widely read source, some members of your club may have already heard it.