[This post is part of our series on Preaching for Youth]. I have listened to sermons that were interesting in content, but so boring to listen to that I had to force myself to keep listening. I’ve also sat through quite a few sermons that weren’t spectacularly deep or rich, but kept my attention nonetheless. The difference often has to do with how speakers use their voice.
You can write the best sermon there is, with a great key message and a solid structure, but if you can’t captivate your audience while delivering it, it will be in vain. How you use your voice is a crucial element in your sermon presentation. The good news is: it’s also an aspect you can learn, practice and improve. Here are three tips to captivate your audience with your voice:
1. Be natural
When I took a preaching workshop a couple of years ago, we had to take turns preaching for the group. When one of the guys stepped up to the mike, the most amazing thing happened. His voice changed completely when he started to preach. He went from a normal male, quite informal voice and speaking pattern, to a sort of Churchill-like deep voice with all kinds of dramatic effects. It felt completely unnatural and wrong.
Your preaching and speaking voice should be as close to your normal voice as possible in terms of volume, timbre, speed, etc. You have to be yourself, it has to come natural. If you have to make an effort to speak a certain way, if you have to think about it all the time when you preach and have to force yourself to speak a certain way, you’re trying to be something and someone you’re not. As the quote says: be yourself, everyone else is already taken.
2. Find your rhythm
There’s no perfect rhythm and speed when it comes to preaching. There are extremes on both sides which should be avoided for sure, because too slow is really dull and too fast easily becomes incomprehensible. But what you need to do is find your own natural rhythm and tweak that a little bit into the right direction.
I tend to be a fast speaker, so I have learned to speak a bit more slowly. But I’ll always keep talking faster than many others. That in itself is not an issue. Look at Andy Stanley for instance, who is also a fast speaker. He’s doing just fine, because it fits him. It would be really weird of he slowed down to half his speed all of a sudden!
If you have to force yourself to speak a lot slower or faster than you usually do, chances are it’ll come across as fake and too practiced. You probably also need to think a lot about this while you’re talking, thus taking away your concentration. So my advice is don’t worry too much about how fast or slow you talk, just stick close to your own natural rhythm as long as you’re still speaking clearly.
3. Speak clearly
We had a guest speaker in our church recently who spoke so unclear, that I was literally leaning forward to be able to understand him. He mumbled, especially at the end of his sentences. He also had the tendency to start a sentence, than start another one halfway through and to finish with a third one. Most people in your audience won’t make the effort to keep listening when you’re not speaking clearly, trust me.
Be sure to speak clearly and check this by recording yourself and listening back. Be on the look out for patterns, like mumbling at the end of a sentence, fading away at the end of a sentence, cutting off words and only pronouncing the first syllables clearly, a strong dialect that makes it hard for people who don’t speak it to understand you or a lack of volume in general. Find your weak spots in this area by listening to yourself and practicing alternatives.
Tomorrow we’ll discuss three more tips to using your voice effectively to captivate your audience when you preach.
Do you have any weak spots when it comes to using your voice effectively? What could you do to improve in this area?