Blueprint for a Successful Talk

by Darrin Lythgoe

Like a tall building or a sturdy bridge, a great talk takes careful planning and sound design. Effective speaking isn’t always easy, but with a little know-how and the right tools, it won’t be a problem for you.

Choose a Topic

If you’re given a certain topic, stick to it. But if it’s up to you, pray for the guidance of the Spirit and try to choose a subject that’s Christ centered. It might help to ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there something I feel inspired to tell people?

  • Do I have a favorite scripture, story from the scriptures, or gospel teaching that has given me guidance and might help others?

  • Have I had a spiritual experience that’s not too personal to share that I think might touch and teach the congregation?

  • What gospel subject would I personally like to know more about?

  • What age groups will be involved?

  • What is my time limit?

  • What gospel topics am I most comfortable with?

  • Can I say something related to the time of year or season?

Determine Your Objective

Just what do you want the congregation to learn from your talk? Whatever you decide, everything you say should center around it. Having a purpose will give the congregation a reason to listen.

Gather Information

Before you can give a grand discourse on your subject, you have to know something about it. Here are a few resources you might want to try:

  • The scriptures. To find things quickly, use the Topical Guide, the Index, and the Bible Dictionary.

  • Church magazines. You’ll find interesting stories, experiences, advice from General Authorities, and more.

  • Other gospel books. Seminary manuals and institute study guides are great sources.

  • Your own personal experiences. Check your journal or jog your memory.

  • Experiences of friends and family. Make sure the stories you use are true.

Assemble Your Material

The best talks are simple and easy to understand. They’re also well organized. The following tips will help you achieve this:

  • State the purpose of your talk in simple language, at the beginning. Be direct.

  • Develop your subject with scriptures, experiences, and analogies that illustrate and support your purpose. Each point should follow the one before it naturally.

  • Stay away from gimmicks, stunts, or jokes that might be inappropriate.

  • Write all this down in an easy-to-read outline, so you’ll be able to remember the sequence and not forget any important points.

  • If you plan on quoting scriptures, copy them on a card or make sure they’re marked in the books so you won’t waste time looking for them at the pulpit.

  • Wrap things up by again stating your purpose. This may also be a good time to bear your testimony of the principle you’re teaching.

  • Practice your talk, either in front of a friend or family member, or the mirror. Note the time it takes, and cut it or lengthen it if necessary.

Stand and Deliver

Remember these tips when you finally find yourself in front of all those people:

  • Talk into the microphone.

  • Stand up straight.

  • Talk slowly, and loud enough for everyone to hear.

  • Look out at the congregation as much as possible. Try to make some eye contact with a number of people in different parts of the room.

  • Don’t make apologies for being unprepared or for not being able to do a great job.

  • If you get nervous or shaky, pause, take a deep breath, find your place, then go on.

  • Stay focused. Don’t let something small ruin your concentration.

  • When closing, don’t say, “In the name of thy son. …” That wording is more appropriate for prayers. Try, “In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

The Key to Friendship

Seventeen-year-old Daniel Kimberling of York, England, knows just how to handle his peers. “The people who are really your friends understand what you believe and respect you for that,” he says. “Those are the people to associate with.”

Although Daniel leads an extremely busy life playing the piano, running on cross-country teams, and taking three science subjects at A level, he still puts church and seminary first. “The gospel is central in my life,” he says. “It’s great.”

After his mission, Daniel would like to study to be a doctor.

Only in the Rockies

There are few places in the world where every member of an entire state champion basketball team would be LDS, but Murtaugh, Idaho, is one of them.

All of the boys pictured above are priests. Thirteen of them are from the Kimberly Idaho Stake, and three are from the Oakley Idaho Stake. Fourteen are early-morning seminary students, six are Eagle Scouts, nine are National Honor Society members, and eight hold student-body offices.

All of them attend church regularly and are diligent home teachers. Their coach, Craig Stanger, is a graduate of Brigham Young University.

A Gentle Reminder

Just in case you’re wondering how to get your inspiring information in the FYI section, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Make sure your information has a spiritual or service aspect to it. A piece about someone with top grades is okay, but we’d prefer a story about someone who did something wonderful for someone else.

  2. Make sure you include pictures. You’ll note we don’t run many pieces without them. Slides or glossies are fine, but newspaper or magazine prints won’t work. Also, do not send negatives—only copies. It’s best that you don’t send us anything you can’t replace.

  3. Make sure your photos are appropriate. We can’t run pictures of people in short shorts or sleeveless tops. One person dressed like that in a group can make it impossible for us to use the rest of the picture.

  4. Make sure you have patience. It could be a year or longer before your material appears in print.

  5. Make sure you include an interesting quote or two. We love it when we can use a direct quote from someone who actually experienced whatever occurred.

  6. Send all this great information to FYI, New Era Magazine, 50 E. North Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84150.

Aboriginal Playwright

Amy Roberts, 15, of the Warwick Ward, Perth Dianella Stake, is a descendant of the Nyunghas, the original inhabitants of the southwest part of Western Australia. Aboriginals make up less than 2 percent of the Australian population. Amy has received recognition for the play she wrote, entitled The Bird, which is based on themes from aboriginal folklore, combined with gospel teachings.

“By combining the two, I can pass on to other teenagers messages about strengthening family ties, obeying the Word of Wisdom, and maintaining spiritual values to overcome the pressures of living in the world today,” Amy says. The Aboriginal Youth Theater Group of Western Australia is planning on producing Amy’s play sometime this year.

Amy is a Theater Arts student at Girrawheen Senior High, a Perth performing arts school. In addition to her award-winning theatric skills, she gets high marks in English and art, is a basketball referee, and coaches a team of 10–12-year-old boys.

What most people don’t know about Amy is that she was born hearing impaired. This has not kept her from full participation in just about anything she chooses. Amy is currently studying for university entrance exams, and is planning a career as an anthropologist.

A Mormon in Armenia

Fourteen-year-old Ripsy Bandurian thought she was going to the LDS church with her English teacher in Yerevin, Armenia, to learn English from an American couple. But when she got there, she learned much more than their language.

“When I met the missionaries they said to me, ‘We love you. What is your name?’ That sounded good to me.”

Ripsy and her teacher, Sister Nara, ended up taking the discussions and attending church together. Sister Nara was soon baptized, but Ripsy had to wait for her parents’ permission. In the meantime, she read all the LDS literature she could get her hands on, and translated into Russian the discussions the missionaries were giving. Most of the people she translated for were baptized.

Finally, after more than a year, her parents gave her permission to be baptized. Ripsy says it was one of the happiest days of her life. Since then, she has continued translating in English, Armenian, and Russian. She gets the highest marks in school, is a leader in the local Young Women’s program, and helps her mother, who is a pediatrician, with sick children in the hospital. Ripsy would eventually like to be a doctor too.

Czech Mates

Meet Jana Hedclinova and Iveta Stechova, great friends in the Mlada Boleslav Branch, in the Czech Republic. Jana was baptized when she was 13, and then helped teach the gospel to Iveta, her best friend from school.

Jana now attends a school of economics in Mlada Boleslav itself, and Iveta attends a school of athletics in Jablonec, which is about 60 kilometers away. She comes home on weekends, however, and attends church, fulfilling her calling as a Sunday School teacher. They both attend Mutual activities, usually held on Saturday evenings.

Branch members say their relationship is an inspiration. Through these girls, they can see the Spirit of the Lord working.

Celestial Squares

True or false: Youth in the Fairgrounds Ward, Keizer Oregon Stake, recently played their own version of Hollywood Squares, called it “Celestial Squares,” and learned about Church standards at the same time. The answer is: true.

Ward member Buzz Thedes built a wonderful, 15-foot set with boxes that lit up with X’s and O’s when correct answers were given. The stake presidency and other stake leaders served as panelists, and they were asked questions taken from the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet.

By the end of the evening, friendships were made, relationships strengthened, and moral values were reinforced. One participant summed the activity up by saying, “Learning the gospel can be a lot of fun!”

Recycled Fashions

“What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know. What do you want to do?”

It was one of those days when the Mia Maids of the St. George (Utah) Second Ward couldn’t come up with an interesting activity that wouldn’t cost anything. Suddenly, inspiration hit. They’d have a recycling fashion show.

They used all sorts of donated items, like large garbage bags, paper towels, balloons, colored crepe paper, ribbon, paper plates, butcher paper, and duct tape, then let their imaginations run wild. They came up with outfits for a princess bride, cheerleader, Miss America, Queen Elizabeth, flapper, prom queen, and Little Red Riding Hood, among others.

Best of all was that this little project helped create a spirit of cooperation, unity, and love among the girls. They realize that it doesn’t necessarily require money to have fun.

Loves Learning

Sunshine Coles, a Laurel in the Bannock Creek Branch in Idaho, is really into education. Not only does she attend seminary and high school during the school year, but she is also involved in a state university educational program for six weeks during the summer and helps with special-education students.

Sunnie, as her friends call her, is also a prize-winning poet. Her work has been published in an anthology called The Space between the Lines.

Photography by Welden Andersen