Voice Work

In all preaching and public speaking it is important to understand the nature of speech and how words sound.

Pronunciation  (noun)   the way in which a word is pronounced.

Enunciation    is a skill of public speech. With enough practice, anyone can change mumbling, mispronunciations, or lightning-speed chatter into a clear, vibrant voice.

Avoid Monotone and ensure appropriate Vocal variety with intonation,  the variation of spoken pitch which indicates our attitudes and emotions,  signalling the difference between statements and questions, and between different types of questions, focusing attention on important elements of the message.

Public speaking is not like private speaking so vocal variety matters. Vocal variety is easier when there is relaxed delivery with natural pauses.

You need to exaggerate pronunciation – speak slower, speak clearer, speak with more volume.    Don’t rush – take your time. You don’t have to rush and say everything at once. Take a break and a pause for effect.

Here is a short video which discuses ‘Vocal Variety’

As Lay Preachers one thing we need to do is learn how to use our voice to the best advantage.

Exodus 4:11  Thank the Lord that He is teaching you the words to speak. He is putting His words in your mouth. Thank the Lord for the people and pray for them.

The old saying about ‘starting as you mean to go on’ can be applied in preaching.

Build Faith and expectation – don’t start off saying ‘sorry, I haven’t got much prepared’, ‘sorry, this won’t be very good’. Step out in faith – thank you God that you are leading me. Speak with confidence.

It helps me to start off talking about something else  something that is easy to talk about. I.e. talk about the worship, talk about an answer to prayer you had last week. As you get going with saying those first few words, the nerves start to fall off, and you can get on to your main points more easily.   In all speech’s or sermon’s there are three man features (1) The Opening (2) The body and (3) The conclusion.  The meat in the sandwich is what the Holy Spirit has laid on your heart and mind to share.  The body of the Sermon needs to :-

Explain:   Tell what the point means and why it is important. Have a clear central idea that you are sharing.

Illustrate:   Tell a story or provide an illustration to show us what the point looks like..

Apply:  Bring a personal application – how should this point affect my or our life.

Great Orators of History like Jesus used their natural environment, often on Hillsides or the Sea shores as their speaking arena. Jesus  obviously recognised the natural capacity of where he was to carry his voice to those who would hear him.

“Of all the talents bestowed upon men, none is so precious as the gift of oratory. He who enjoys it wields a power more durable than that of a great king. He is an independent force in the world. ”                                                                                  –       Winston Churchill


Many of us hesitate to get up and speak before others, not because we can’t but because of basic fear of being seen in front.   There are plenty of examples in the Bible where ordinary people have been used to do extraordinary things.

Acts 4:13  (GNT)   The members of the Council were amazed to see how bold Peter and John were and to learn that they were ordinary men of no education. They realized then that they had been companions of Jesus…

Exodus 4:10-12    (GNT)   But Moses said, “No, Lord, don’t send me. I have never been a good speaker, and I haven’t become one since you began to speak to me. I am a poor speaker, slow and hesitant.”   The Lord said to him, “Who gives man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or dumb? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? It is I, the Lord. Now, go! I will help you to speak, and I will tell you what to say.”

We will look at practical speaking tips – show you how to overcome common public speaking challenges, and also how to prepare a message to share as a short devotional, a bible study or even a full fledged sermon.

Ex. 4:10    When Moses was called, one of his main objections was that he was not a good speaker.  Because we are all different from each other few of us respond the same in all circumstances at different times.   There are many different techniques for public speaking, and there are no ‘rights and wrongs’.  We all have different styles, but the following tips can be a helpful starting point.

Overcoming Stage Fright is something everyone has to do if they are to stand up in front of other’s and talk. In order to make confident, captivating and meaningful utterances pause and take in the view, breath the air and feel peace within.

When you stand to deliver, don’t talk right away.  Give the congregation time to see you and relate.    Its not good to babble on talking small talk as you are establishing your presence.  Many times people start talking right away because they are nervous. Informal verbiage communicates a little bit of insecurity and fear which can hamper the ‘fee good’ matters of public speaking.

Quietly and confidently occupy the pulpit or preaching position,  take a deep breath, find your place, wait a few seconds and begin.   This may seem long, tedious and  excruciatingly awkward but it is a practice which brings results, showing the audience you’re totally confident.

In the business world people often give presentations to sell products or ideas, to get people to follow them on social media, buy their books or even just to like them. The techniques of public manipulation have no place in Christian ministry. Where people are artificial they show it in their presence and few people will engage.

Make eye contact with audience members one by one.  It’s much easier and effective  if you directly look at specific audience members throughout your Preaching.  Give each person you look at an entire sentence or thought, without breaking your gaze.  When you finish a sentence, move on to another person and keep connecting with individual people until you’re finished your message.  There is a thin line between speaking at the congregation and having an engaging conversation with them.

When you get nervous, it’s not just your heart beat which quickens. Your words also tend to speed up. Luckily most congregations are more patient and forgiving than we know. The congregation wants you to give them a message of hope, encouragement or motivation they can relate to.  The more you blether, gabble on   or rush, the more you they can disengage.  Pauses are completely relevant and appropriate in Preaching.  If you go quiet for a moment and take a long, deep breath, it creates a space of anticipation which can have amazing outcomes.

Many experienced orators will confirm it’s impossible to speak too slowly on stage.    It’s incredible when preaching and you accentuate and speak slowly even if there are several seconds between each of your words,   people… will… hang… on… your… every… word. It really works, paying attention.

There is an immense variety in humanity.  Some show acceptance whilst others appear to indicate disconnect.  When preaching dismiss the people furrowing their brows, crossing their arms or shaking their heads and focus on your supporters — the people who are visibly engaged, listening to your Sermon.  If the congregation are positively interacting with you, you’ll be much more confident and relaxed than if you try to convince the naysayers.

As Lay Preachers we are not in the entertainment business soliciting popularity and applause.

We are Gods Servants and He says,   “I will help you to speak, and I  tell you what to say” , just as he told Moses.