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The 3-Minute Sermon

July 14, 2010 at 3:41 am in Ecclesiastes, Executive Speaking, Speechifying by John Freisinger | 2 Comments

I happened upon the service by accident. I had a 2 hour layover at Chicago’s Midway Airport. At 11:00am an announcement came over the airport loudspeaker announcing that there would be a Mass celebrated at 11:30 in the chapel by the C Concourse. “Stop by and I’ll have you out in 30 minutes.” Intrigued I found my way to Father Bede’s (sp?) service.

Now a Catholic Mass is usually about 1 hour, 45 minutes if you have a short sermon and a tailwind, so a 30-minute mass intrigued me. One reading, the Gospel and a 3-minute sermon. Yes, a 3 minute sermon directly relevant to the day’s readings.

After the mass, which only lasted 26 minutes, I asked the priest how often he celebrated Mass at the airport. “2 – 3 times a week. Always a new crowd.” I joked that he could just recycle sermons and no one would know the difference.

“Why would I do that?” he replied indignantly. “They are so easy to come by. Just listen for the message in the Gospel, think of how that message impacted your life and tell them the story. Close it up with a line about how they can use this on their travels and you are done.”

Now that is a great speech formula. Message, story, immediate relevance for the audience and all in 3 minutes or less. If only more people thought like Fr. Bede. Thanks for the sermon.

Sleeping Through the Sing Song Sermon

July 14, 2010 at 3:37 am in Ecclesiastes by John Freisinger | No Comments

Our Father (3)

who art in Heaven (5)

hallowed be Thy Name (6)

Thy Kingdom come (4)

Thy Will be done (4)

On earth (2)

As it is in Heaven (6)

The cadence is familiar to most of us. Prayers broken into 3-6 syllable segments to make sure everyone can keep up. This sort of sing-song meter is very common throughout spoken prayer but on Sunday the sermon continued to follow the cadence. Speaking in clipped phrases the priest did his best to get to the heart of the Gospel message but sadly within minutes his sing-song tone had lulled just about everyone into a comfortable stupor. Trapped in the middle of his hypnotic delivery was his key point which fell on the deaf ears of a congregation that had struggled to keep their focus.

I even began to wonder why my mind was wandering. I work on practicing active listening and I was daydreaming about 4 minutes in. My mind kept repeating, “There is a direct correlation between the audience’s attention and the speaker’s vocal dimension.”

Vary your delivery, that’s the key. And there are so many ways to do it. Slow down or speed up. Vary the length of your phrases. Raise or lower your volume. Pause. Add emphasis to key words. Use alliteration, rhyming, free verse, iambic pentameter, dialogue, even repetition of a key phrase. Just change your delivery and change it often. Their attention is fueled by your dimension.


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