Don’t ask, “What should I say?” Ask, “Which story shall I tell?”

Giving talks, messages, sermons, etc., is a complicated and daunting task that is made such by the paucity of original ideas and the taunting plainness of a blank page. It is therefore perhaps better to replace the common, “come up with something to say” with “choose which story to tell.”

What does this require?

  • 80% (90%, 95%?) of your “preparation” time is not spent “preparing for a talk.
  • Reading and study is done more for personal discovery and adventure than for the profession of speaking.
  • Curate stories first, principles, axioms, adages, second.
  • Listening first to your audience before deciding what story needs to be told.
  • Resist the subversively apparent and often assumed necessity to be original.

The power and effectiveness of your talk is therefore weighed more in how the story connects with your audience than how you connect, which can be quite liberating for a speaker. Telling stories also gives the audience/congregation permission to live their stories as well.

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