At one time or another we will all be asked to speak in Sacrament meeting. I’ve found that there are two schools of thought on the matter: either you run screaming when asked to give a talk, or you are the kind of person that actually enjoys standing in front of all those people. Maybe you’re a little bit of both, depending on the topic. But when it comes down to it, we are all faced with the same dilemma: What to talk about?
If you are lucky you are given a topic to prepare on. At least I feel that way, I’d much rather have something to talk about, instead of having to decide on it over the next few weeks. But I know people who move frequently who simply recycle their talks. It is easy to change your going away talk to your introduction talk at your new ward. If you’re not given a topic choose something you have a strong testimony of. It could be family history, or scripture study, or family home evening, or the Atonement of Christ.
Once you have your topic, it is time to start preparing. Again there are two schools of thought. People either begin preparing a week or two in advance or they stay up late the night before getting the talk ready. For either method, it is important to remember that prayer is one of your best tools. Ask for Heavenly Father’s guidance as you prepare what to say. I’ve personally found that my talks are more prepared and flow better when I’ve taken a week or two to look over material and pray about what I should cover. Don’t forget to utilize the church’s site www.lds.org, because you can access talks and articles on every gospel-related topic there. I can usually come up with a few stories that have to do with the topic from my own life. I think personal stories (when not too personal—you don’t want to tell people things that would make them uncomfortable) make talks a lot more interesting.
After I have studied out the topic, I will spend about an hour writing my talk out. I then go through and bold or highlight all the quotes and scriptures that I am going to use. This helps me because I don’t like to look at my talk while I am talking, so I can quickly jump from quote to quote when I look down for it. I write the entire talk out in case I stumble while I am in front of everyone; it helps me to get back on track.
I usually don’t practice my talk in front of the mirror, because I am not uncomfortable in front of large crowds. I got over my fear of public speaking when I taught school. However if you are not used to speaking in front of people, you may want to practice your talk in front of the mirror, or with your family.
People will usually listen better if you can look over the audience. If that makes you more nervous have your family sit in the back of the chapel, and simply focus on them the whole time.
Remember to say a prayer before you go to church the next day. If your ward has the speakers come early for a prayer before Sacrament Meeting starts, be sure to be there. And then relax, it will soon be over. Speaking in Sacrament Meeting blesses both you and the people listening. I feel I always learn more if I prepare the lesson. But I also enjoy listening to people speak every Sunday.