The One Thing Every Aspiring Speaker Must Do
Ask one hundred people what the one non-negotiable is for any effective speaker/preacher/teacher and you will get at least 50 different answers - everything from comedic timing to the power of persuasion. Some might feel a speaker must be empathetic, some like their speakers to have a depth of knowledge, others want someone who is relevant and cool. There are as many flavors of communicators in this world as there are colors of pink lipstick. But twenty-five years into my speaking career, I’m convinced that there is one thing that is the essential starting point. Well, let me take that back. A woman can probably get started as a speaker without this (I did), but she’ll never be able to sustain or grow as a speaker until she finds it.
So, let’s get right to it. The one thing you MUST have is this: Habitual time with Jesus. That may seem totally ‘Duh, Bo,” but I meet so many wannabe speakers who back-burner this essential piece. I, in fact, used to be one of those very people. I was so busy crafting messages and bible studies and sermons and stuff, that my time for Just Jesus and Just Bo was nearly nothing. I was living on the razor’s edge of burnout, losing my passion for the thing I loved most, and consumed by the fear that I was going to make a terrible mistake from the platform, like having an emotional meltdown or flying into a tyrannical rage while holding a mic in my hand. My life felt way too full to fit anything else in, but after some strong and specific pushes from the Holy Spirit (let’s call them “pulls” instead of pushes, because that’s what they were; He was pulling me to His heart), I promised that I would get up every morning at 5:30 a.m. for one week and seek Him for one hour.
The first night, I made a place in our guest room for my bibles and books and assortment of treasured highlighters, I got the coffee ready to brew in the morning, and went to bed prepared to hate the sound of that alarm clock. Much to my surprise, that very first morning I stumbled into my makeshift prayer room, coffee-in-hand, I felt an electricity shoot through my spirit about what was about to happen. It was like the Holy Spirit had been waiting there for me all night (maybe for hundreds of nights) and I felt Him welcome me in. The hour sped by and I stayed another hour without even realizing it. And then, instead of going back to that room for the next week, I have been going back for eleven years. 5:30 is my daily habit, my life force and my soul’s nourishment. It is my first love because He is my first love, not because speaking is my job. I DO get tons of ideas for messages during my time in the Word in the mornings, but that is never my focus. My focus is: What do You want to say to me today? What do you want me to know about myself? My family? My future? And also: Wow, I’m in love with You and Your ways. It’s just the most beautiful time and I can’t imagine my life without it.
“What’s the secret to being a good speaker?” is perhaps the question I’m asked most often. My answer never changes, but generally people seem disappointed by it. It could be they’re looking for something more interesting, maybe, or they don’t feel they have the time for it and I get that. It’s really hard with kids and schedules and noisy, noisy life. But I will contend that anyone who hopes to be taken seriously as a teacher of God’s word needs to take His presence seriously first. Women in leadership ministry will face plenty of criticism and resistance. The first and best place to build muscle, identity and security is at the feet of Jesus. In my book, it’s one of the only non-negotiables.
Later this week, I’ll tell you how I structure my mornings and why they’re the very best part of my day.