Why you shouldn’t use a Table of Contents

Too many people treat their speeches like term papers. Great recipe for putting your audience to sleep! In the odd case the you aren’t a sleep therapist and have to speak to people at some point in your life, you might want to read this post.

Don't like boring speeches? (Courtesy of Shilly Shallys World on Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Don’t give the punch line away

Your introduction is important. The first 30 seconds is when the audience decides whether to listen or tune you out. If they already know everything you’re saying, they’ll stop listening. If you reveal everything you’re going to say… well, would you listen for ten minutes when you already know everything in the first minutes?

Your speech is not a book. You don’t need a table of contents. Think of it this way: when was the last time you were deciding whether to read a book from the table of contents? Seriously; your introduction should look like the back cover of a book; not the table on page xii.

Don’t bury the lead

Anyone who knows anything about journalism knows this is key. Don’t bury your lead. Taking too long to get to the meat of the argument also puts your audience to sleep.

The trick is to give your audience just enough to want more. Use a good murder mystery as your guide. Good authors always give you just enough to ask questions (“whose the killer?” “who is going to find him?” “is the victim telling the truth?”) but not enough to guess the end. Sometimes it’s even useful to mislead the audience in order to bring to light and shatter some misconception they may have.

Make your audience ask questions - like it's a mystery. (Image from Gregory Wake - used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

“Say what you’re going to say, say it, and then say what you said.”

Probably the worst advice for a speech you want people to listen to. Definitely the most boring.

Still, can’t really blame those who give this advice. I mean, repetition is good. It’s the root of learning. Instead of saying the same thing over and over and over, come up with different example, application, and phraseologies. Keep hammering the same point, just use a different hammer. Say it a different way each time. (get my point?)


just take it from me. Go read Beth’s the three points of death.

This is a big ‘ol list of “don’ts.” To hear about the “dos” of making ideas interesting, my recommendation is Made To Stick by the Heath brothers.


He's in the Whisper

1 Kings 19: (NASB)

11So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD ” And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.

12After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound [whisper] of a gentle blowing.

13When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Where are you?

Are you in a place were you could hear God if he came in a whisper? Or will he have to bring an earthquake into your life to get your attention? Maybe if you’re waiting for the booming voice of God, you should start listening for a gentle blowing.

I know I haven’t reached that place. Lord Jesus, give me the power to listen, not just talk.

Something to think about.