5 Indispensible Questions for Public Speakers

Monday May 23 2011 6:07 PM
Posted by Geoff Surratt

This past week as I was wrestling with a message for the weekend I had to go back to five basic questions I try to answer every time I speak. If you are a speaker these are great questions to ask before you hop on the stage:

  1. Who am I speaking to?
    What is the average age of the audience? Are they more blue collar or white collar? Is it a “churched” crowd or more seeker-ish? What is unique about their culture? Jesus tailored his message to his audience; I should to.
  2. What is the felt need?
    What common human need am I addressing? If I am not addressing a felt need then the audience won’t listen, and my message will be wasted. This is always true; if you did not feel a need to improve your speaking you would not read this post.
  3. What is the real need I am addressing?
    Felt needs and real needs seldom line up. The goal of speaking is to catch people’s attention by identifying what they are feeling, then lead them gently (or not so gently) to the real need in their lives. (You feel lonely, you need God) 
  4. What is the theme of the message?
    Can I boil the message down to one succint statement. If I cannot then I am not ready to speak. And the theme is not the catcy title or the passage of scripture. The theme is the one essential truth that will change people’s lives if they can grasp it. 
  5. What do I want people to do as a result of hearing this message?
    What action step or steps do you expect people to take as a result of hearing your message? If there are no action steps then there really isn’t a reason for me to listen to you. If you are just passing on knowledge then write it down; I’ll read it later. 

Several times, including this past weekend, I thought I was done with a message only to realize that I hadn’t adequately answered the questions. That’s when I find myself on a Saturday taking the message apart piece by piece and putting it back together again. I hate the work of building a message, but I have to remember that my goal as a speaker isn’t clever words or stunning logic; my goal is life change.

Hope this helps.

Source: Geoff Surratt


Geoff Surratt is the Pastor of Church Planting at Saddleback Church. Before that he served Seacoast Church as Pastor of Ministries. He is the co-author of The Multisite Church Revolution and The Multisite Church Roadtrip as well as the author of Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing. Geoff blogs here and Twitters here, but he juggles for no man.

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