It seems obvious, but it needs to be said. When we speak we need to make sure we make sense. There are various reasons why we may not make sense to our listeners. Here are a few to be aware of:
1. Obscure Language – If you obfuscate using technical, rare or archaic vocabulary, then you will lose folks. They will probably still compliment you on your “deep” message, but be alert enough to spot the implication of that encouraging feedback!
2. Unknown Illustrations – Your illustration from the world of online war games, submarine technology, chinese martial arts, Finnish cuisine, Egyptian burial rituals or first world war poetry may make perfect sense to you. But are you including enough explanation to allow them to get it? (And if it needs that much explanation, is it really the best illustration to use?)
3. Omitted Connections – The logical connection between what you are currently saying and the larger point you are offering may not be so logical if you forget to mention it. Actually, you need to state, restate and underline the logical connection, just in case they were drifting in that moment. So easy to miss bits of messages we know, but are so needed.
4. Rapid Transitions – Maybe you include something of a transition from direct explanation to explanatory illustration, but the transition is so fast your passengers fail to make the turn with you. Disoriented they look around trying to figure out where they are now, almost oblivious to what you are actually saying.
5. Unclear Speech – If they can’t make it out, they can’t comprehend it. And there’s no need to get snooty about your accent either, every accent has elements that are unclear, so try to be aware of that and speak clearly. Watch for facial signals of misfiring speech. Restate if you suspect some may have missed what you said. Oh, and be careful of rapid fire sentence finishing, or fading away when the period is in sight.
6. Assumed Knowledge – It is dangerous to assume people know things. Do they have the biblical awareness necessary for the message? Do they know the cultural, historical, political, geographical knowledge that you are assuming for your explanation of the text to be vividly received?
7. Written Notes – I’m not having a go at notes. I’m just pointing out that almost anything can make sense in written outline form, but your listeners are listening. Sometimes what is written doesn’t make sense when it is heard. Write your messages for listeners, not for your own eyes.
What’s missing? Why else do we sometimes fail to make sense? (Number 8 – Don’t speak out of your depth – If we don’t get it ourselves, they have no chance!)