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public speaking and private thinking

I recently started reading Scott Berkun’s book, “Confessions of a Public Speaker” and I want to share this great line with you: “All good public speaking is based on good private thinking.”

The more I thought about that line, the more I became convinced it’s true.  For those of us who preach, I would modify it this way: “All good preaching is based on good private thinking, and praying, and studying.”

Natural talent alone is not enough.  Natural talent may make you a decent player in pick-up basketball but it’s unlikely to carry you all the way to the NBA.  Effective lawyers don’t stand up and “wing” their closing arguments because they are relying on their gift of gab.

If you think about it, you can tell the difference between a speech or a sermon that is well thought out and one that isn’t.  I’m not even talking about the depth of the subject matter as much as the cogency of the argument, the logical flow of thought.  When you sense that there is much more below the surface than what you’re hearing, that’s a sign that good private thinking has occurred.

“Good private thinking” is more than research, though it certainly includes that.  It also consists of thinking through your subject matter, how to best present it, and who will be in your audience.  “Good private thinking” anticipates the questions that might live in the mind of the audience.  It’s troubleshooting your own presentation before allowing everyone else to.  “Good private thinking” is carrying on an internal dialogue, often an argument, between yourself and the topic at hand.

One of the biggest temptations that preachers and public speakers face is this: to shortcut the private thinking part of the equation.  Why?  It takes time and discipline.  It means you might change directions based on discovering new evidence.  It might point out the flaws in your presentation.

But don’t do it.  Don’t take a shortcut.

Your audience deserves a well thought out point.