A guest post by Marc Schelske.
I’ve been a professional speaker for… well… a little more than 20 years now. I’m closing in on a thousand presentations. In two decades I experienced a series of stages. Maybe some of these are familiar to you:
- There was the “Karaoke stage” where I tried speaking in the style and tone of various famous speakers I admired. For a while I had a really good “Bill Hybels” down pat.
- There was the “Memorized Perfection stage” where I not only wrote the presentation word-for-word, but then memorized the tone, the gestures, where to stand, the whole darn thing.
- For a few years I was in the “Speaking Factory stage” where I presented three different original talks every week for two years straight.
I’ve channeled African American preachers, comedians, and TED talk presentations. All of this was part of shaping me as a speaker. I was gathering experience. I was strengthening my skills. I was growing courage.
All of this was also a part of finding “my voice.”
Writers talk about finding their voice, but it’s a concept that applies to preachers and public speakers too. Your voice is the personality of your speaking. It’s the unique thumbprint reflecting your life experiences, your speaking skills, your perspective and the way you see yourself and your audience. Most of the time when people say they like a certain speaker (and they don’t actually know them personally) what they really mean is that they’ve connected with that speaker’s voice.Your voice is the personality of your speaking. Click To Tweet
When you find your speaking voice, you find the stable center of who you are as a speaker. You can cover any topic, preach on any scripture, address any kind of audience, and you’ll still have a consistant, powerful, presence.When you find your speaking voice, you find the stable center of who you are as a speaker. Click To Tweet
The 1 thing that really led me to my voice.
All of those varied experiences contributed to me finding my voice, but one thing accelerated the process for me. One thing that I didn’t learn in school or in a book. I stumbled into it really. It might even be more truthful to say I hobbled into it.
I found my voice when I decided what I really had to offer.
Early in my life, I thought what I had to offer was great scholarship. So, I’d study, research and prepare so I could understand my material as deeply as I could. That helped me be accurate and thoughtful. It grounded me. But it wasn’t my voice.
Later (because I’m a big nerd and like to be the best I can be at what I do) I thought what I had to offer was well-crafted material presented with excellence. So, I’d write and re-write. I’d practice and practice. That made my presentations less painful for the audience for sure, but it wasn’t my voice.
At one point I thought what I had to offer was a twist, a new way of looking at an old truth. So, I’d hunt and pray and reflect on my material, always looking for a new angle. That made my work more interesting — sometimes in a helpful way, sometimes not so much… It also wasn’t my voice.
The Most Crucial Step to Find Your Speaking Voice
So where did I find my voice? I found it in the middle of my brokenness. I’d wish I could say that I had a genius idea and I’m sharing it with you now, but the truth is that through a season of great loss, pain and depression, I got to a place where the only thing I had left to offer was my honest, authentic, vulnerable truth. (Hint: This is how you find your speaking voice).
When I started speaking from this place, people responded like I had never seen before. At first I thought it was a fluke, but then it happened over and over again.
I’d put hours and hours into a presentation, crafting every edge, and the audience would be unmoved. Then I’d take a risk, push past the very visceral panic in my gut, and share something from my own journey. Some moment of insecurity or fear, a place where I blew it, my own weakness and doubt. Those moments? Every. Single. Time. People responded. They were moved. They were challenged. They grew.
Communication is a vital and necessary part of leadership. Whether you speak as a corporate leader, or preach in front of a family congregation every week, you have something important that you want people to connect with. But people don’t connect with raw information. We are wired up to be relational. That means, even for speakers we don’t know, we’re looking for that relational connection. We find that in the speaker’s voice.
I found my voice when I started telling my honest, authentic, vulnerable truth (Do this and you will find your speaking voice too). This is a scary place to speak from, I know. But it’s also when you turn the corner from sharing information—even important information—and begin connecting with people in a deep way.
Marc Alan Schelske ( @schelske on Twitter ) writes about life at the intersection of grace and growth at www.MarcAlanSchelske.com. He is a teaching elder at Bridge City Community Church in Milwaukie, Oregon where he has served for 17 years. He’s the author of Discovering Your Authentic Core Values. Marc is a husband, dad of two, speaker, writer, hobbyist theologian, and a recovering fundamentalist who drinks tea & rides a motorcycle.