Which type of speaker are you?

Most speakers fall into at least one of the following categories yet people assume that a person with the ability to communicate clearly is a great speaker.  I think more consideration should be paid to the type of speaking that a person does…

  1. Preacher, of course this is the first that comes to my mind because this is the speaker that I hear the most.  I believe that some preachers are actually teachers.  This is definitely personal opinion because no one knows the relationship between God and a person and what  He has called them to do.  However, I think that the difference between a preacher and teacher is in the delivery of the message.  A teacher is able to teach you something about a Biblical text while a  preacher is usually able to teach you something while also creating an emotional connection.  For many, the assumption that the person and their method of speaking is the conduit of the emotional connection, but I believe that the Holy Spirit working through that person is the source of the connection.  
  2. Teacher, which was addressed briefly above, is a person who has knowledge of a subject or the ability to convey information to a person or group of people.  This person, based on their comfort, can be used in a variety of situations but if booking someone to speak who is a teacher, you should be aware of whether they are an interactive teacher or a lecturer.  It is often assumed that teachers make great speakers because they are used to presenting information, however, depending on your group, the teacher you are considering may or may not be the right fit.
  3. Interviewers are very difficult to find.  There is an art to interviewing and most people can agree that Oprah is the master in the this category.  I have been interviewed by and listened to some interviews that were simply painful.  The art to interviewing involves voice infliction to match the mood and tone of your guest as well as active listening to identify where your next question should come from.  You should also be aware that your guest should do most of the speaking while walking the tightrope of asking enough interesting questions that they can expound on during the allotted amount of time. Most people who are just starting out will have a set of questions that they rely on but as you perfect your craft, you should be able to research your subject so that the interview feels more like a conversation between two (or more) people with the rest of the world listening in.  One of the reasons that Oprah is so successful at interviewing is because she has the ability to create a connection with her guests that allows them to block out the audience, cameras, crew, etc and become totally engrossed in their conversation which often leads to them revealing information that they may not have intended.
  4. Host/Hostess are important components of many events.  A host must have a dynamic and engaging personality that will make people stop talking, drinking or whatever else they are doing to pay attention to what you are saying.  Many people assume that comedians make great hosts but again you need to consider your audience because some people find certain genres of comedy offensive or uncomfortable.  A great host should make the guests feel comfortable, connected to the event and have a command over the time schedule to ensure your event flows smoothly.
  5. Workshop speakers often have traits of one or more of the other speakers but it is important to identify whether you want your participants to do something during the presentation.  If the session is informational only, then you need a seminar speaker.  It is vital that you communicate the difference to your speaker and to your audience because it creates an expectation.  I once attended a workshop that was supposed to be interactive but the presenter spoke the entire time and left the last three minutes for questions.  The attendees had an expectation that they would be participating in the conversation but found themselves listening to a monologue.  If you are a speaker and you are not sure what the expectation is, you should find out prior to creating your presentation.  A workshop should include bits of information with time for discussion or an exercise while a seminar implies that you will speak fluidly for a period of time with an allocation of time for questions or comments at the end.
  6. Keynote Speakers are much like preachers without the divine intervention.  Not everyone is capable of being a keynote speaker, no matter how much speaking experience they have.  Most keynote speakers are known for being able to tell a powerful story within a short span, because most keynotes are a part of a larger event, that creates an emotional connection with the audience or inspires them to action.  Choosing a flat keynote speaker can be harmful to your event because that will be the thing, aside from the food, that they remember the most.

I hope these tips are helpful for speakers and event planners.

Image Courtesy of nutritioneducationexperts.com

Image Courtesy of nutritioneducationexperts.com

I see a lot of people who tag themselves as Motivational or Inspirational Speakers but you should be sure that you have the tone and message that matches that description.  If you are unsure of your speaking style, record a couple of your presentations and listen to them critically.  Also, have your participants complete evaluations and take their assessments seriously so that you can improve your craft.

Side note to all event planners: do your research and listen to past presentations by your presenters then give them a clear direction of your expectations.  You may not be able to imagine the amount of pressure on a speaker when you say, “talk about whatever you want.”  Whenever possible, give them the approximate size of the audience, the demographics, the purpose of the event and a central theme that you would like them to focus on as well as a time frame for their presentation.


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