“Paralyzed at the Pulpit?” Ensign, Feb. 1998, 71–72
By following some basic tips, anyone can give interesting talks with confidence.
Choose an appropriate subject. Prayerfully consider your topic and purpose. “We are to teach the doctrines of the Church, emphasizing the first principles of the gospel, relating faith-promoting experiences, bearing witness of divinely revealed truths, and using the scriptures.”
Determine what you already know. What wisdom and insight have you acquired about your topic? What aspects of the subject are important in your own life? Brainstorm everything you know about the topic, then choose the approach that seems best. Use your own interests, questions, and strengths to develop your talk.
Keep it simple. Use words that are familiar to you and to your audience, and use simple but concrete words that create vivid mental pictures. Rather than trying to cover all aspects of a topic, emphasize two or three main points.
Use reliable and appropriate sources. Select information for your talk from the best possible sources, such as the latest conference talks, Church magazines and manuals, and books written by General Authorities. Your meetinghouse librarian may be able to assist you in finding additional materials.
Structure your talk. Divide your talk into an introduction, a few main points, and a conclusion. Begin with an attention-getting introduction, such as a story or quotation directly related to the subject. Stories are best when told, not read. It can be helpful to begin with appropriate humor. Once you have introduced the topic, develop each main point clearly. One way to do this is to explain the concept, then illustrate it with a story. Conclude with your testimony.
Practice beforehand. Create note cards or a keyword outline, and use these tools during a practice session. Don’t try to memorize your talk, but allow time for review until you feel comfortable with your talk. Remember to smile.
Teach with the Spirit. Prepare yourself to be in tune with the promptings of the Holy Ghost so that you and the congregation will “understand one another [and be] edified and rejoice together” (D&C 50:22).
Even though you may feel nervous, using these tips will aid you in your preparation and presentation.—Jennifer Shumway Ballard, American Fork, Utah