This is the last in a series of posts about “the next sentence.”
I’ve been talking about the importance of being intentional about the next sentence, whether that is the sentence after the compelling story in a speech, or the sentence after a powerful video in a sermon, or the mailing that is the followup after a major event. Call it the next step, the next party, the call to action. Call it whatever you want.
Just don’t forget it.
Here are 8 ways to write the next sentence. Of course, some of these relate to sentences, others to events. But deal with it. If you are reading this blog you are incredibly gifted at filling in gaps and reading between the lines and making sense of inferences.
I know you.
1. Write a clear outcome for your presentation. In my life as a speech teacher, I would make students write a measurable outcome: “When I have finished speaking, my audience will be able to ____.” I don’t do that anymore. Unless I want to make sure I’m actually effective.
2. Practice the story you are telling. Ever start telling a story and then wonder what your point was? Your audience was wondering, too. So take some time and tell the story out loud. Unless, of course, the point doesn’t matter.
3. Stop and look at the audience, even before the event. When we are speaking, when we are planning events, we are working with real people, people with short attention spans and learning styles not our own and bladders and broken hearts and, well, lives. I get consumed with my presentation and planning and cool graphics and neat events. However, I need to stop and look at the people who will be in the room. When I do, I often change and simplify and clarify. Of course, maybe that’s just me.
4. Create a checklist. I talked in the second post about remembering everything but an attendance list which would allow followup for an event. If we had assembled a checklist, one of us would have remembered. I am horrible at lists. All the more reason. (“cool story. check. next sentence. check.”)
5. Pray. This may not apply to you. If not, jump to number 6. I have this belief that God actually knows people inside and out. So when I’m trying to figure out the next sentence, I occasionally ask what to say. And sometimes, I am told. And sometimes, I even have to erase something.
6. Wait. So you told an incredibly moving, incredibly appropriate, incredibly inspiring story. You can tell that it moved people, mostly because you have tears in your own eyes. So wait for a bit. Before you say that next sentence, wait. Let people think and feel for a bit. Just wait. (You want proof? Think of a really moving episode of Extreme Makeover. Lives changed, people helped. You want to sit and think about whether you are doing the same. And immediately you hear “stay tuned for Desperate Housewives.” Suddenly you realize that the network isn’t about moving your heart.
Don’t be like the network.
7. Pretend. Pretend for a moment that you actually know what you are doing. Because you probably do. I was talking with someone today about the imposter syndrome. This is best illustrated by that fear in teachers that someday while we are teaching, someone will stand up and say, “you made that up!” and we will say, “You are right. Finally, someone saw the truth about me.” It is possible however, that you do know what you are doing and if you quit thinking about your insecurity you can think about helping people change the world.
Because that’s what you are about, right?
8. Pilot. Experiment. Tell your stories to friends before the event. Have a few people for dinner before you have 1,000 people at a banquet. Occasionally have your spouse or friend read a post before you hit publish. The thing that seemed really cool inside your head may not be.
So that’s it. A digital workshop on the next sentence. This will be an ebook soon. I’ll let you know.
For now, you can follow these links to the first four segments.
Part One: The next sentence
Part Two: How I messed up
Part Three: Teaching as a performance
Part four: Afraid of what comes next
And let me know if this helped.
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