Sunday, May 1, 2011

Speaking with Spirit (Thoughts on an Excellent Book, and a Heavenly Prodding)

I haven't done a whole lot of public speaking, but neither have I shied away from occasions to stand in front of a group and discuss topics I'm passionate about. I admit to thinking I would enjoy more opportunities for public speaking, even though I'm not an unflinchingly brave extrovert. I quiver with as much self-consciousness in the limelight as the next gal who'd just as soon be sitting before a computer screen letting her characters do all the talking.

But neither am I shy.

I bring this up because I feel God compelling me to learn more about effective public speaking. And I don't take His still, small nudge lightly. It may be I'll never have to do more than speak in front of a local community group. It may be only for my personal growth. But the last time God started leading me to "investigate an idea" it changed my life. I ended up homeschooling four children from kindergarten through high school graduation. (The fifth and final will graduate in 2012.)

With His prompting in mind, the most delightful book I've read on the subject thus far has been Speaking with Spirit - A Guide for Christian Public Speakers by Dr. Wanda Vassallo. I discovered it through American Christian Writers, a small but very worthy national organization devoted to the development of Christian writers in both fiction and non-fiction. I won't go into all the details, but Ms. Vassallo has a list of speech writing and speaking credentials a mile long, and she's one of the only writers out there to have written an entire book on this subject from a Christian world view. The opening of the book not only draws on Jesus' example as we consider audience, anecdotes, and personalization, but Ms. Vassallo addresses the issue of impact, and what it really means to speak before an audience as a Christian.

Topically, she addressed everything -- stage fright, vocal warm-ups, stage presence, mechanics, audience connection, humor, Q&A sessions, visual aids, technique, speech-writing, 16 types of speeches, length, meetings, evaluations, television, organization, and speaking the Scriptures -- not to mention a myriad of sub-categories within each of these.

As a writer, I was especially drawn to her material because of the way she stressed the importance of developing our connection to our audience. In that, there's no real difference between the written and the spoken word, and yet it's done at an entirely different level.

Do you feel as if God might be calling you to speak? Do you teach Sunday school? Preach? Lead meetings? Host Bible studies? Act as a club member or leader? Work as any kind of liaison, in your job or otherwise?

There are hordes of ways we are called to speak or teach, even if it is not our primary calling or ambition. I recommend Dr. Vassallo's book whole-heartedly.

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