I imagine I’m preaching to the choir here. But if I were giving 5 tips on how to give a good sacrament meeting talk this is what I’d say…
1. No matter what the topic is, make it about Christ. This goes for talks about “getting the most out of Stake Conference” or Mother’s Day or tithing or the hazards of body piercings. Find some way to pull that surface topic back to the root of why we gather in the first place. This is the one meeting that is supposed to be His, so let’s keep it that way.
2. Use fresh vocabulary. Folks will get more exposure to some words than any person should have to hear in a lifetime. I make a point of not using them in talks I give just as a breather, a little vacay from the common lingo. Words I am not likely to use include: strive, duty, obey, righteousness, wickedness, evil, perfect, punish, condemn, special, indeed, and even. It’s not that I don’t believe in or understand the theological import and power of the obvious ones; I just prefer more original language.
Be smart about this, though. For example, to me it was TMI to learn that one fellow in the ward accomplished his post-mission objective of marrying a “hot babe with a bombshell testimony”.
3. Use Good Sources
A: Always include scriptures. When you are familiar enough with the scriptures to use them to support your points, you earn a lot of pulpit cred. Whenever possible and appropriate I try to work in scriptures involving a woman or women. Our scriptural sisters generally don’t get a lot of air time, so I do what I can to represent.
B: Use examples from other sources to support your points, too. Sometimes unusual sources get attention where the standard oeuvre won’t. I’d like to hear a talk with the wisdom of Mick Jagger:
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need
Oh yeah, hey hey hey, oh…
4. Be personal. People are much more likely to listen if you share examples and stories from your own life, especially ones that demonstrate your own vulnerability or struggles. But please, no travelogues and no embarrassing tales at the expense of your spouse or kids (or at least get permission from them before hand.) Believe what you’re saying. Avoid pontificating. Too much religious talk on broad topics puts people to sleep.
5. Take time to prepare well. Why are we so often plagued with dull talks read by droning adults? Because the talks are often pulled together on the fly. We can talk up the benefits of not having paid clergy to kingdom come, but if you grew up on good sermons like I did as a Protestant kid, there’s a stark difference. Address the topic (with the underlying focus on Christ. See #1.) If you work best from a written text, read it out loud beforehand. This will give you a better sense of how long it really is (shorter is generally better). You will also learn how to pace yourself so the important points don’t get lost in the shuffle. It will remind you to make eye contact, breathe, know where the tricky parts are, and to enunciate.
Okay, so maybe I packed more than 5 tips in there. What would your tips be?