Balloon tangles in a ceiling fan: Leadership lesson on how to successfully handle interruptions of your public speaking.


One public speaking skill and leadership lesson to learn is this: redeem interruptions into illustrations! Below is a story, audio clip and two tips to help you get ready for your next public speaking interruption during a work presentation, a Sunday sermon or wedding reception speech.

One of the fears you may have about public speaking is “how do I handle it if I get interrupted by someone or something”.  It will happen to you if you speak to groups: Cell phones, coffee spills, aggressive hecklers, technical or electrical failures, questions at awkward times, medical emergencies, children on the loose, a balloon in the ceiling fan. 🙂 How will you handle interruptions like the one I had on Sunday? It can be a challenge to both your emotional composure and your message recall. You can loose your cool or your point…maybe both!  That is scary.

On Sunday, I was blessed with an opportunity to redeem an interruption into an illustration.  I thank God for enabling me to think quickly and creatively when one of the lovely orange balloons (pictured above) ascended to the sanctuary dome and got bopped around by our ceiling fan during my sermon. As all eyes went to the balloon, I knew everyone was now visually and audiblly distracted from the Biblical text and sermon idea that I was trying to communicate.  It happened at the 29 minute mark of a 42 minute sermon.  I knew that I needed to act quickly to save everyone from the akward moment, protect the parties who may feel responsible and get attention back on the Biblical point for their lives that was so important. All this while trying keeping my cool and my point on track!  So, here is what I did in a split second.

I redeemed the interuption into an illustration.  Listen to this audio clip from my sermon on “Defining Success Story Faith” that includes the balloon hitting the fan at the 1:27 point of this 2:33 audio clip. Listen here: BalloonFaithWorks

The illustration goes like this: Balloons without air are dead. Air without balloons is invisible. When air is put in a balloon, the air is visible and useful. Air is manifested by balloon. It is the same way with faith and works. Works without faith are dead.  Faith without works is invisible.  When faith is put into works, the faith is visible and useful. (Explaining the point found in James 2:14-26)

2 tips for redeeming interruptions into illustrations:

Teaching people in dynamic group settings opens you up to unforseen interruptions that you cannot ignore. Here are two tips:

1. Know your stuff!  If your knowledge of the material is very high, then you are more likely to remain on your point. There is no substitute for the confidence that preparation gives!  Memorize your manuscript.  Internalize your idea and outline. Live your illustrations. Bring notes up as added security, like a Linus blanket, so it is there if you need to get back on track with your message.

2.  Like your audience!  If you love or like the people you are speaking to, then you are likely to keep your cool and make everyone at ease.  Rapport makes it all smoother.  Try getting to know your audience better at the start of the event with some casual chit-chat.  make a friend beforehand.  This will also make it more likely that when you ask for help, like turning off the ceiling fan, that someone will want to help.

I knew my stuff, liked my audience and those are two reasons that I was able to redeem the interruption into an illustration and get the fan turned off! 🙂 So, in conclusion, if you know your suff and like your audience you may be able to redeem interruptions into illustrations. I hope this helps you be prepared for when it hits the fan during your next sermon, work presentation or special occasion speech, like a wedding reception.

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