Guest Author - Terrie Lynn Bittner
In the previous two articles (linked below in related articles) we learned how to research and structure a talk. Today we pull all the pieces together and actually write the talk.
You already have a basic outline of what you plan to cover, so now you need to put it into the words you can actually feel comfortable saying in front of a congregation. Begin by writing the talk as if it were an article. This will probably result in a more formal language than you really want to use, but even if you never read your talks, you should always have the talk written word for word as a starting place. Having done so will focus your ideas and wording and keep you from wandering off topic. It also allows you to save the talk for future reference. If you move to a new area, you may even be able to reuse your talk at some point.
It is very rude to take more than your appointed time, and challenging for others if you take too little time. Be sure to ask how long you should expect to speak, and organize your talk accordingly. I usually write 6-7 pages of double-spaced material for a ten to fifteen minute talk.
Begin with the structure you outlined earlier. Put this outline into your word processing document. Now write the talk, using the outline as headings. Include all sources for quotes, even if you aren’t going to read them, so you can back up your information if needed, and so you know later where they came from. I’ve had people ask me for copies of my talks, and I like them to know where the information came from.(See my sample talk, When Testimony Doesn't Come Instantly, to see how this is done. It's in the related articles section below.)
Each section, other than those with personal stories, should include official resources—scriptures, quotes from church magazines, and quotes from leaders. Don’t use LDS fiction or non-official sources in your talks, since people sometimes confuse these with doctrine. If you’re saying something many people may not know, back it with a quote from an official source.
Make sure all your personal stories are on-topic and have a purpose. Personal stories should never be used just to entertain. They must teach a lesson. Remove all unnecessary details from your stories, and if you aren’t sure of a fact, just choose a detail and stick with it. For instance, if you can’t remember if you were ten or eleven when the story happened, pick an age. It doesn’t matter how old you were so don’t bore your listeners with a debate over the age. (For more on personal stories, see Preparing a Personal Story for Telling.
Balance your talk so you don’t find yourself spending four minutes just reading quotes. Mix stories, facts, scriptures, and quotes to provide variety. Make sure there are a number of places where you can look at your audience and deliver information in your own words.
After you’ve written the talk, note the places you can skip if time is short. I often add a section at the end that can be added in if I realize I’m finishing too early. I mark these and practice giving the talk both ways—skipping and adding, as well as the way I hope to give it.
Finally, create a detailed outline of your talk. You don’t need a formal outline unless you want it that way. Do put into it, though, any quotes you need. I also note what page that section of the outline is on in the full talk.
Next week, we’ll conclude by learning how to give the talk.
Amen: Speaking in Church with Purpose and Peace