What Pastors can Learn from TED Talks (2014)

If you preach on a regular basis or give any kind of lesson or business presentations, the one book you need to read this year is Carmine Gallo’s book Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds. I’ve been a fan of his since I read The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, another great speaking book.

In his latest book, Gallo gives nine lessons every speaker can learn from the best TED Talks. Here are 9 lessons I took away for pastors:

  1. The world was and still is clearly hungry for great ideas presented in an engaging way. While many lament the changing culture and the lack of morals and change of opinion towards Christians. This is all true. Yet, the world is still looking for hope. Whether they are a follower of Jesus or have never walked into a church, those who show up on a Sunday are looking for hope, they are looking for change. They are hungry for the gospel.
  2. If you can’t inspire anyone else with your ideas, it won’t matter how great those ideas are, because great communicators reach your head and your heart. Pastors tend to reach either the head or the heart of someone. They are either incredibly smart so they engage them intellectually or they have a passion and can tell stories so they reach the heart. You have to reach both. Depending on your ministry background and theological camp, you know which one comes naturally for you. For me, I can reach anyone’s head. The speakers I listen to so that I can grow as a communicator tend to be the seeker-church guys (Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, Craig Groeschel, etc). Why? They know how to do something that doesn’t come naturally for me and I want to grow.
  3. You cannot inspire others unless you are inspired yourself. For many pastors, they preach because it is Sunday, not because they have something to say. This has to do with their own heart, devotional time, sleep patterns, eating habits and how they are protecting themselves. Your church knows if you are inspired by what you are sharing or if you are just giving a sermon. Take care of yourself, prepare your heart, confess your sin and preach because you can’t keep it in any longer.
  4. Positive leaders are perceived as more effective and therefore more likely to persuade their followers to do what they want their followers to do. While their is a time for seriousness in a sermon, people must walk away feeling hopeful and knowing you believe what you said and knowing that you believe the gospel has the power to do what you said it can do.
  5. If you start with something too esoteric and disconnected from the lives of everyday people, it’s harder for people to engage. Always, always start with something that connects to real life. You have 30 seconds to convince people to listen to you. Showing them that you understand where they’re coming from and that you can help them move to a place they want to go goes a long way in raising the interest level in your sermon.
  6. Giving a presentation that truly moves people takes hard work. Let’s face it, many pastors are lazy. They become a pastor because it seems easier, they read a lot and most people don’t have a high expectation for a sermon to be great (sadly). They are simply hoping for short. Preaching is hard work. If you aren’t willing to put in the hard work, don’t preach. At the end of the day, someone pays a price for a sermon, the pastor or the church.
  7. Authenticity doesn’t happen naturally. This seems counterintuitive, because authenticity just happens. It takes practice. It takes learning how to share, what to share and when to share it. Sometimes, pastors in an effort to be authentic sound creepy. Sometimes, they skip it and sound like they never struggle with anything they are preaching on. One question I ask each time I preach and seek to answer in my sermon is: How has this passage affected and changed me?
  8. When you walk into a classroom you have two jobs: one is to teach and the other is to recruit everyone in that classroom to join the pursuit of truth. Let’s face it, preaching is about moving people to action. It might be for them to take a next step, follow Jesus, get baptized, start giving, work on an area of their life or join the mission of a church. A sermon is a call to move from where you are to somewhere else.
  9. If you can’t explain your big idea in 140 characters or less, keep working on your message. I’ve talked a lot in blog posts about having 1 big idea, one thing you are trying to get across. Not 3, 5 or 7. A pastor recently asked me to critique a sermon and after listening to it I asked him, “What was the main point?” He couldn’t recall it. Neither could his church. I love how Gallo says, “Every talk should be a twitter headline. If it can’t fit, you aren’t ready to talk.” For some great examples, just listen to Andy Stanley preach. By having a twitter headline, you are able to help control and influence what people walk out knowing.

As I said, if you speak, this is the one book you need to read this year. So, so good.

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