This evening after work I visited the the Cottonwood Leadership College (CLC) for their open house. I am so glad I did. I got to sit in to the Homiletics class taught by Pastor Kenneth Mulkey, Executive Director of CLC. I had no idea what homiletics was all about, but I went into the class because I knew it was Pastor Kenneth who was the teacher. He is one of the finest communicators I personally know, and I am blessed to have him as one of my mentors. If you have not googled it yet, homiletics is the art of writing and preaching sermons.
In the class, Pastor Kenneth shared the four qualities of an effective sermon. I believe these are applicable not only to a sermon, but to any message that must be delivered or presented to an audience. Below are the key points and my personal notes from the learning experience.
- Central Theme: What’s the central theme of your message? Choose a theme that you will stay consistent to throughout the presentation. For example, if your theme is forgiveness, you can address different angles or perspective on forgiveness. Starting with forgiving self to forgiving others, then addressing the benefits of forgiveness for the forgiver and the forgiven. Keep the theme central to your presentation and that will help you in achieving the second quality of an effective message.
- Coherence: Transitioning from one point to another throughout your presentation should be a seamless and smooth experience. To help with creating a coherent message, organize your thoughts in a linear fashion. That will help your audience and listeners follow along. For example, if you are speaking about increasing profits for funding business growth, you can address cash flow in the organization from two perspectives, production (or manufacturing) and sales. Then for each subtopic, you can present series of steps that can be taken to reduce production costs and increase sales.
- Logical Progression to Climax: Sometime early last year I had a meeting over dinner with professional speaker and author Lee Pound. During our discussion that evening, Lee mentioned many times building to a climax throughout an effective speech. At that time I did not know exactly what he meant, but it makes much more sense now. When preparing your speech, you must have a destination where you will take your audience. Know what they will benefits from taking action after listening to you, and progressively sell them on taking that action. If your speech builds to a climax, all your audience members will be fired up to do something or think in a different way by the time you are done.
- Symmetry: Assign an equal amount of time to every subtopic in your presentation. When I was starting out in speaking, I fell victim to this one quite often (and still do once in a while – I am still growing). Inexperienced speakers who don’t know how to manage their time when they speak usually have asymmetrical speeches. For example, the three points above this one have an average of 90 words. A symmetrical presentation would want this section on symmetry be between 80 and 100 words in length.
Pastor Kenneth also emphasized the power of clarity when giving a message. Cluttered minds do not generally produce clear messages. Clear your mind and focus on your objectives when you start preparing a message for an audience.
Which one of the four points above do you need to improve on?