I want to tell you about the fastest way I’ve found to preach better sermons.
This one thing will help you more than attending another webinar or reading another book about preaching.
Here it is:
The fastest way to preach better sermons is to record yourself.
Somewhere along the way, I think we’ve all heard this advice.
What shocks me is how few of us actually do it.
I think most people avoid this simple piece of advice because there’s something about hearing our own voices that makes us uncomfortable.
The first time I ever spoke at a church, they gave me a cassette tape of my message. My excitement turned to horror when I listened. I talked too fast. I didn’t make a clear point. There wasn’t a solid call to action. It was bad.
It was 16 years ago, but I still remember sitting there in my car thinking how awkward it was to listen to myself like that.
Famous singers know the feeling too.
In an interview with BBC Radio 1, British singer Jessie J said, “I don’t like listening to myself sing. It’s weird listening to your own song. You’ll be in Burger King or a theme park and you cringe.”
The great Eric Clapton admitted, “I hate my singing. It all sounds like I’m 16 years old…”
I don’t know the psychology behind it, but there’s something about hearing our own voices that makes us uncomfortable.
Even so, we have to do it to get better.
At a minimum, you should make an audio recording of your message. Then, as painful as it might be, you have to listen to it.
This is easy for me because the soundboard at my church allows me to record directly to a USB drive, and my car has a USB port that allows me to play it through the stereo.
If you don’t have those fancy things, don’t worry: all you really need is a phone with a voice recorder.
My habit is to listen to my sermon on the way home after church. I like to listen immediately afterward because everything is still fresh in my mind at that point. I can still see myself saying those words. I can still see the students’ faces when I told that story or explained that part of the verse. If I let a few days go by, then I’ll lose the connection to the moment.
Sometimes I find that I did better than I originally thought I did.
Other times I find that I wasn’t as clear as I originally thought I was.
Every time, I find something that I can do better next time.
A video recording is better than an audio recording.
At my church, we record and evaluate everything that happens during the adult service.
On one of my first Sundays on staff, I was the one on the stage welcoming people and getting the service started. Monday morning, I had a Vimeo link to the video with a message asking me to evaluate myself.
Here are my actual comments from that self-evaluation:
1) Transitioned without a pause from welcome to first announcement. Action Step: Slow down.
2) Probably shouldn’t have said, “Hit it!” when the slide was supposed to change. Action Step: Have fun, but remember the audience is primarily adults.
3) Paced too much back and forth across the stage. Action Step: Calm down. Understand body language.
4) Too many “uh’s.” Action Step: Practice replacing filler words. Space is okay.
If you thought audio was harsh, video is downright cruel!
But it’s necessary for getting better.
Media Training Worldwide CEO TJ Walker says, “You have to see video of yourself speaking if you want to improve, and there is absolutely no excuse not to do so.”
The next time I was on that stage, I did a lot better.
Again, this doesn’t require high-tech video equipment. A simple flip cam or smart phone can work.
Here are a few questions you can ask while you’re watching your video:
1) Are you making eye contact?
2) Are you expressing emotion or are you monotone?
3) Are you enunciating your words so people can understand you?
4) How is your speed: too fast? too slow?
5) How is your volume: too soft? too loud?
6) How is your tone: too passive? too aggressive?
7) How is your body language: nervous? confident?
8) Are you using filler words (um, uh, etc.)?
9) If you were in the crowd, would you want to listen?
Once you have a good feel for how you look and sound, it’s a good idea to continue with audio recordings every week and video recordings every 4 weeks or so.
Evaluated experience is better than experience.
Just because you speak every week doesn’t mean you’re getting better at it. John Maxwell says, “Experience teaches nothing, but evaluated experience teaches everything” (Leadership Gold, 155).
Recording yourself is one way to evaluate yourself as a speaker, and it’s the fastest way I’ve found to start preaching better sermons.
Question: How often do you record yourself?
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