By Kem Meyer
Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all. -Aristotle
It’s not that you’re not likeable or smart; it’s just a matter of survival for people in today’s world. There is simply too much out there and not enough time to take it all in.
The last thing they’re looking for is unsolicited information, or someone to tell them to change their ways. They will, however, take time to read or hear something that reinforces an opinion they already have, or speaks to a real need in their life. If they’re not looking for it, they won’t hear it. But, if you take the time to learn what they’re looking for, you can get in on a conversation already in progress.
So, about those platform announcements.
Whether it’s at your service, meeting, or event, there are eight great things you should know about people if you want them to hear what you’re saying.
This list may not make your job easier, but I guarantee it can help make you more effective:
1. People aren’t open to your change prescription
Of course, we want to inspire people to be part of something bigger than themselves, to break unhealthy patterns, and live a life of purpose. But, when we dictate, “You need to step it up,” or, “It’s time to go deeper,” we imply that we have all the answers, and we think people aren’t OK where they’re starting. They already know they’re not as good as they want to be, and we just make it worse. Instead, open their minds and get them thinking. Try: “This might be your next step,” “Here is an opportunity for you to consider,” or ask the question, “What is your next step?” Remember, everyone’s next step looks very different. One person’s next step might be to invest or volunteer more but, for another, it may be to finish out the evening without leaving early. And, each of these next steps is equally important.
2. People aren’t motivated by your need
When people hear, “We really need small group leaders,” or, “We really need your help,” they perceive desperation and self-centeredness. And, since they’ve got needs of their own, your ask feels like one more obligation to add to the pile. Your message should be about the great things that change life for the guest, not about what you (or your church or organization) need. When you communicate, “Here’s a cool opportunity not everyone knows about,” or, “You might want to be part of this one-of-a kind experience,” it makes it about them, not us, and it motivates people to move.
3. People don’t know who you are
Even if you keep it short, always take the time to introduce who you are and why you’re there, even if it’s just for the benefit of one new person in the room. When you just get up and start talking without introducing yourself, you communicate two things to new people: exclusivity (“Everyone’s already in the club except for you.”) and pretentiousness (“Everyone already knows who I am.”).
4. People multi-task and can’t remember squat
It’s human nature to tune out the talking head in the front of the room as you look through your purse, replay the drive to church in your mind, or mentally run through your to-do list for what’s next. And, if a speaker is lucky enough to have a room full of people with full attention spans who are actually listening, there is no guarantee they will remember what you said when they walk out of the room and back into their lives. Visually support your verbal announcement to grab and hold your audience’s attention, clarify information and raise their interest level. It doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate. A printed program, slide, table tent, or sign all work fine. Just remember, don’t read directly from your visual aids. They’re not your script, but a separate component that reinforces your words.
5. People are turned off by lack of preparation
Prepare your announcement so your audience “catches it” within thirty seconds. If it’s important enough to announce, then it’s important enough to prepare for. Try to cast vision by answering these questions: What is so special about this opportunity? Why should I spend my time on it? How is it going to make my life and me better? Remember, you’ve got no more than thirty seconds.
6. People can relate when you talk about them or people like them
Tailor your announcement to your audience. Whenever possible, customize a broad message to a specific audience to make a bigger impact. Even if the announcement doesn’t change, it makes all the difference when you find a way to highlight a unique attribute for your specific audience. For example, if you’re talking to a group of moms about volunteer opportunities at the food pantry, tell them to bring their kids. If you’re talking about the same volunteer opportunity to a group of students, tell them about the free donuts you’ll have. Help them see how they can specifically use the information you’re sharing.
7. People feel left out and frustrated when you use insider language
Don’t assume everyone is in the know; most people aren’t. Avoid the use of acronyms or nicknames, or you run the risk of alienating guests. Does everyone know what “The FUSE,” “TRL,” or “Lifeline” is? Be specific and clear, not clever. If a program or event is for middle schoolers, say so. Once people are on the inside, feel free to use insider language. But, it’s never cool to use it in announcements for large groups, connection events, first-serve opportunities, etc.
8. People are not impressed with your technical vocabulary or holy dialect
Use normal, everyday language. Skip the phrases that are weird and scary to normal people. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Picture yourself walking into a professional office setting and trying to have a normal conversation using words such as saved, sanctified and washed in the blood of the lamb. If we use religious words, guests either won’t understand, or they’ll run from us so they don’t “catch it.” Keep it simple and keep it real. Avoid over spiritualizing and over-complicating your conversation. Your announcements aren’t any more credible with an entire list of “blessed” or technical phrases.
Kem Meyer has spent nearly three decades helping people communicate better. She spent 15 years in corporate communications, and led communications at Granger Community Church. Kem lives to simplify complexity and reduce information obesity in churches and organizations. She is the author of Less Chaos. Less Noise: Effective Communications for an Effective Church.