“Blueprint for a Successful Talk,” Liahona, Apr. 1997, 27
Like a tall building or a wide bridge, a great talk takes careful planning. Effective speaking isn’t always easy, but with a little know-how and the right tools, you can build and deliver a sturdy talk.
If you’re given a certain topic, stick to it. But if it’s up to you, pray for the guidance of the Spirit. Subjects that center on Jesus Christ are always appropriate. It might help to ask yourself these questions:
Is there something I feel inspired to tell people?
Do I have a favorite scripture, story from the scriptures, or gospel teaching that has given me guidance and might help others?
Have I had a spiritual experience that’s not too personal to share that might touch and teach the congregation?
What gospel subject would I personally like to know more about?
What age groups will be involved?
What is my time limit?
What gospel topics am I most comfortable with?
Can I say something related to the time of year or season?
Just what do you want the congregation to learn from your talk? Whatever you decide, everything you say should focus on that objective.
Ponder the subject you have chosen for a few days. Write down bits of quotes, examples, key questions, articles, or other ideas that occur to you. You might also consult some of the following resources:
The scriptures. To find things quickly, use the helps provided in them.
Other gospel books and Church magazines.
Your own personal experiences. Check your journal or jog your memory.
Experiences of friends and family. Make sure the stories you use are true.
The best talks are simple and well organized. Sift through all your material and organize it into groups of ideas. Rearrange the ideas into a logical sequence and get rid of material you don’t have time to include. Prioritize the ideas so you will spend most of your time speaking about the main points. The following tips will help you outline your talk:
At the beginning, state the purpose of your talk in simple language. Be direct but interesting. Try a creative approach to get the congregation’s attention.
Stay away from gimmicks or jokes that might be inappropriate.
Develop your subject with scriptures or stories that illustrate and support your purpose. Each point should follow the one before it naturally.
If you plan on quoting scriptures, copy them on a card or mark the pages so you won’t waste time looking for them at the pulpit.
Wrap up your talk by again stating your purpose. This may also be a good time to bear your testimony of the principle you’re teaching.
Practice your talk, in front of a friend or family member—or the mirror. Note the time your talk takes, and cut it or lengthen it if necessary.
Remember these tips when you’re finally in front of all those people:
Stand up straight.
Talk slowly, and speak loud enough for everyone to hear. If there is a microphone, speak directly into it.
Look out at the congregation as much as possible. Try to make eye contact with a number of people in different parts of the room.
Don’t make apologies for not giving a better talk.
If you get nervous, pause, take a deep breath, and find your place; then continue.
Stay focused. Don’t let something small ruin your concentration.
When closing, don’t say, “In the name of thy son. …” That wording is more appropriate for prayers. Try, “In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”