Random Sampler


Ten Tips for Terrific Talks

Debbie’s turn to speak in sacrament meeting had come. As the youth speaker, she walked to the pulpit, arranged her books and papers, and literally proceeded to faint.

There are countless ways to approach a speaking assignment. Reactions like Debbie’s can be prevented if speakers will overcome most of their fear before standing up to speak. Here are some ideas to help you prepare and deliver your message better.

  1. 1.

    Prepare. The most important preparation comes from the Spirit, and prayer especially should have a high priority. Remember that sacrament meeting talks should center on Christ and gospel-related topics. In regular, daily prayers you can ask for help with your talk.

  2. 2.

    Brainstorm. Review all the ideas that have surfaced during your few days of carrying the subject around in your head. You might have jotted down story titles or descriptions, bits of quotes or scriptures you have remembered, personal experiences, examples, key questions, articles, poems, or hymns.

  3. 3.

    Let ideas incubate. If you have several weeks to prepare, ponder the subject for a few days. As you drive, jog, or walk, consider how your topic can be made relevant to Church members. Sift through your memory for ideas and record them, even if briefly, when they come to mind.

  4. 4.

    Research. Continue gathering material for your subject by using indexes, the scriptures with the Topical Guide, and the Church magazines. You can also search the indexes of priesthood and Relief Society study guides as well as other books on your shelf.

  5. 5.

    Expand research. Now is a good time to ask family and friends if they have any good ideas to share.

  6. 6.

    Sift and order. Concentrate on refining. You may have far more material than you can use in one talk, but you have probably already started to mentally sift through the ideas that appeal to you most.

    List broad headings that summarize the various groups of ideas. Don’t worry about scratching out and moving ideas at this stage.

    Now rearrange these headings in a logical sequence. Decide which material you won’t have time to include. Prioritize so that you don’t spend 90 percent of your allotted time approaching the subject, leaving only a few minutes to speak on the heart of the topic.

  7. 7.

    Prepare an outline. List a heading followed by the items or ideas that come under it. Arrange the talk so you will be able to say some things in your own words and look at the audience frequently.

  8. 8.

    Plan a creative beginning and end. Decide how best to interest the congregation from the start. Create readiness to listen by starting with a story, an interesting quote, or a question that will arouse curiosity.

    Now look at your ending. Don’t finish with a “whimper” by not knowing exactly how you will conclude. Plan a summary of your message, perhaps linking back to your opening thought.

  9. 9.

    The final stage. Time yourself in a practice run. You may be inspired with new ideas or be prompted to use quotes or ideas you previously discarded.

    You are now familiar with your talk. Consequently, you will be able to make eye-to-eye contact with the congregation as you speak, whether you are reading a quote or just glancing at your notes occasionally. You’ll be able to speak naturally and with expression in your voice.

  10. 10.

    Practice makes perfect. The more times you prepare for talks in this way, the easier it becomes. You will probably personalize the method suggested here. Don’t wait to be asked to speak, though. Simply choose a few topics and prepare some great talks you can condense onto small cards and keep in the back of your scriptures for emergencies. You’ll do a wonderful job!John F. Cary, Norwich, Norfolk, England

The Compliment Board

A poster emblazoned with the bright words “I Saw Someone Do Something Great” hangs on our refrigerator. A pen swings beside it. And filling the poster in as many different handwritings as there are people in our family are notes describing family members’ good behavior: “Laura has a great smile.” “Derek wrote a funny story.” “Jeff said, ‘I don’t want to fight right now.’” “Natalie got an A on her algebra test.”

Some writers compliment others in the family, and some jot down a few of their own accomplishments lest they be overlooked!

On Sunday mornings after breakfast, we go over the list for the week, reading all of each person’s entries at once and following with enthusiastic applause. As we do so, the Spirit warms our household. Not only are we looking for and seeing the best in each other (so we have something to write down), but prized behaviors are repeated!

In one family home evening lesson, we used our new skills of sharing good things about each other. Each person picked another’s name out of a hat and, reflecting on that person’s qualities and accomplishments, wrote a letter of recommendation to a possible future employer.

We read each letter aloud, chuckling and enjoying each other’s comments. For a few seconds at the end, we all paused and looked around our circle. A tender spirit of love and acceptance enfolded our family. Everyone positively glowed!Christy Williams, Bellevue, Washington

Blending a Family

When I married a widower six years ago, I was faced with the challenge of forging one family from two—his six children and my one—who ranged in age from one to eleven. The first year consisted of trials and tears as I adjusted to the children, the children adjusted to a new mother, and we all adjusted to a new home, school, and ward.

Although we still have normal family challenges, we are gradually becoming a unified family. Here are some successful guidelines that have helped us.

  1. 1.

    Even before the two of you discuss your wedding date, discuss your family goals and expectations. Showing parental unity does not mean that you will always agree with each other’s methods, but it does depend on your discussing your differences privately until you come to a mutual understanding.

  2. 2.

    Allow the children to love their absent parent. Avoid saying negative things about the absent parent.

  3. 3.

    Continue existing family traditions while creating new ones. Children need the familiarity of cherished traditions.

  4. 4.

    Love the children wholeheartedly.

  5. 5.

    Do not show favoritism.

  6. 6.

    Show your love by deed as well as word.

  7. 7.

    Don’t be afraid to say no, but say it kindly. If children are confident of your love for them, they are much more accepting of parental authority.

  8. 8.

    Don’t expect instant acceptance.

  9. 9.

    Have a gospel-oriented home. Learning about Christ and trying to live by his example can create a great environment in any home.

  10. 10.

    Look to Heavenly Father. Take your problems and frustrations about your new parental role to the One who knows all, our Father in Heaven. Pray for the softening of hearts. Pray for acceptance. Pray for those little miracles that the Lord can endow. Pray and give thanks when he blesses you beyond your expectations.R. Kaiulani Chai Unga, Nuku‘Alofa, Tonga

The Book of Christmas Past

Tradition is important in our family, especially at Christmas. This year we added a new tradition to our Christmas Eve festivities that promises to become one of our favorites. I decided it would be fun to go back over my journals and compile each of the family Christmas entries into one special book. The idea was a great success. The children loved hearing about Christmas celebrations held before they were born. They cheered as they heard of the time when each successive baby entered the Christmas scene. We all enjoyed reminiscing and sharing a warm feeling of family togetherness as we talked about Christmas memories.

Even if you’ve never written about past Christmases, it’s not too late to start. Write about this year, then continue on: the more details, the better. Record the good Christmases—the time when Grandma and Grandpa made a surprise visit—and the not-so-good ones—the year the pipes froze and flooded the dining room. As you record the events of each holiday season, mention each child’s age and anything special about him or her that particular year—mention, for example, that a child’s front teeth are missing. Make a note about new pets, new babies, or both (one year our pet guinea pig had six babies on Christmas Eve). Record favorite gifts and favorite guests. Then spice it up with a few pictures, and you’ll have the makings of a fun family tradition that gets better every year.Geanie M. Roake, South Jordan, Utah

[photos] Photography by Matthew Reier; photo props by David McDonald