These notes provide hints on how to give a talk at the Ventures. They are not a definitive guide, otherwise I would have published them as a book and got well paid for doing so. They aren’t meant to stifle your creativity. There’s Bible passages to read as well – generally the scriptures are more wise than anything I could have come up with!
This is the most important thing you can do in getting ready to give a talk. Spend time with God thinking about it, what your hopes for the talk are, what your fears might be, and seek His guidance and inspiration. It might be good to spend time with someone else e.g. another leader or someone at your church, if you have a particular concern, e.g. public speaking, or if it’s your first talk.
James 4:10, Jeremiah 1:7-8, 1 Corinthians 1:26-27.
Study the Bible
In particular, you might want to start looking at different passages that might be relevant to your talk. A concordance or good relevant book might guide you about passages to look at (whoever asked you to give a talk will be able to help you with this). I would look at a few passages; You won’t need to use all of them in your talk, but it will help to give you an overview of what the bible has to say, and enrich your understanding.
Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 16:3
Read the brief!
Do look at what you’ve been asked to talk about. The whole talk scheme fits together. If you wander too far off the point and just talk about ‘all-the-things-I-ever-wanted-to-say-if-I-ever-got-the-chance’ then you will not help either the members or any leaders who have to give talks after you!
This is essential
Do not leave this to the Venture itself! A well prepared talk is easy to understand, engaging, and leaves you thinking.
Structure your talk
Writing the talk will be much easier once you have a rough guide for how it is to go, e.g. how will you introduce the talk, how will you use a passage, will there be illustrations, etc. It will seem much less scary once you have a “skeleton” for what you’re doing. More importantly, it will make your talk much easier to understand and remember. If it isn’t clear where your talk is going, then people quickly get bored – this generation has endured too much TV and finds to difficult to concentrate as it is.
The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing
What is the central point of your talk? Can you sum it up in a sentence, or is it 3 main points? You can introduce these points at the beginning and then communicate them, or build up your argument to conclude with your “hammer blow” at the end. Either way, it has to be clear what the ultimate message of your talk is. Don’t get bogged down in details. Using lots of different Bible passages can only confuse, especially as many members won’t be familiar with the Bible anyway; it may be better to focus on one passage that members can have open in front of them.
“Keeping it real”.
Most Venture members aren’t interested in theology as an academic discipline. Your talk has to be relevant. This doesn’t mean using “youth speak”, but rather talking about how knowing Christ can impact on their lives. Maybe give practical examples from your own life.
Spicing it up
A talk where all you do is talk runs the danger of being really boring. If you have sat through a reasonable number of sermons you quickly realise how easy it is to get distracted if all a preacher does is talk. It can really help a talk if it is broken up by helpful illustrations, stories, sketches, jokes, etc etc. The emphasis here is on the word “helpful” – these devices can be used to relax the mood and wake people up, and emphasise a point. But if they go off on too much of a tangent they can just be a distraction, and make it hard to get on with your talk. By all means be innovative - any technique or style which is novel can help keep members focused and make what you’re saying more memorable.
It can be really helpful to go over your talk with someone else. Ask them, or someone else to give you detailed feedback after you have done the real thing. Check that your jokes are funny, your points are clear, and that you won’t over-run! People get sore bums by the 20 minute mark…
Giving the talk
Yes, you might get nervous, but keep praying, and remember that people aren’t looking for you to make mistakes, they want to hear what you’ve got to say.
Speak fairly slowly and very clearly. Take your time. This will sound silly and maybe patronising. However, it is amazing how regularly people get this wrong and make it much harder for people to understand the (often excellent) points they are making. Check out the sound system before your talk, and the level you need to speak at.
Notes or essay?
Some people just use notes when giving a talk, others have it written out word for word in front of them. It is probably a good idea to have key points written out, so that you can be perfectly clear. You must never just read out your talk as if reading aloud in class; this won’t engage people at all. You have to look up at people continually, make eye contact, be expressive, and genuinely talk to people, not just read at them.
This can communicate so much. You’re not putting on an act or a performance. A heartfelt expression of who God is and how He has changed your life through Jesus can mean so much more than funny jokes or a pristine presentation. Sharing about your experiences can tell a lot, as can your demeanour. The genuineness of a talk is often what members later talk about.
1 John 1:1-3
If anything should go wrong…
Don’t worry. God is still in control. People get upset, microphones break, someone in a sketch is called to deal with a medical emergency, and so on, but it’s not the end of the world. There will be plenty of leaders around to help.
After giving your talk
Give thanks for what went well, and pray for the members who were there. Remember to keep praying for protection after you’ve spoken.
Taken on board criticism
There is no such thing as a perfect talk, so listen respectfully to what other leaders say in the leaders’ meeting. You might also wish to feed back on what you think might have worked better. Do seek out and listen to the opinion of people you asked to give you feedback. A key concern is that the leaders’ team goes on learning, and doesn’t get complacent as to how we do things.
Enjoy the rest of the Venture
There is more to being at a Venture than giving a talk!