12 Step Checklist to Make You a Better Speaker or Teacher

Whether you are speaking to a large group, facilitating discussion in a small group, or mentoring an individual, you can never stop improving as a speaker.

“Communication is the real work of leadership.” –Nitin Nohria

Teaching through a translator in Torino, Italy

Teaching through a translator in Torino, Italy


1. OPENING HOOK: Start where your audience is to get their attention. Use stories, etc. (Make sure you start with points of agreement… You want people to say “yes” with you from the get go.)

2. WHY THEY NEED TO KNOW: Use a short phrase to communicate why your audience needs to know what you are about to teach them. Identify a felt need.


3. DISEQUILIBRIUM: Use a novel illustration, object lesson, or information that casts new perspective on something familiar to your audience.

4. ANTICIPATE: Tell your audience what they are about to learn. If teaching from a biblical passage for example, pick a story with an entire plot: 1) clear conflict, 2) rising action, 3) climax & resolution.

5. PRIME THE PUMP: Share a simple, unique problem to solve. For example, ask a question that is difficult to answer to show group that they have not mastered the subject and have something to learn about this topic. Help them visualize by using props, etc.

6. COACH/TEACH: Try to organize your talk around 2-3 main points and focus on micro-skills  on which you can call people to action.

7. ILLUSTRATE: Illustrate or tell story to demonstrate an example of each main point. Vulnerability is essential.

8. DRILL: Involve people with hands-on, tangible exercises if possible. Make observations in the passage you are teaching to show how it shows us how we can practice on this needed skill.

9. DEBRIEF: Creatively present exploratory questions throughout your talk to help people verbalize (to themselves or to someone next to them) what they are learning and what they WANT to do with this new knowledge or skill. If you can get a person’s desire then they are more likely to respond to your call to action.

10. APPLY/REFLECT: Help your audience personally reflect on how this topic effects their everyday lives or situations they face.

11. GENERALIZE TRANSFER: Find a way to motivate the group to transfer what has been learned into their future endeavors. What response do you hope for or expect from your audience? What are the potential spinoffs or benefits from learning this skill or knowledge and taking action on it?

12. EVALUATE: After you’ve given your speech, talk, or seminar, evaluate the strengths, growth areas, questions that arose that require further study so you can improve next time you teach on this topic.

  • Which one of these 12 points do you feel like is a strength area for you?

  • Which one is a growth area for you?

  • Do you have any other helpful resources to share with folks who read this post?

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8 thoughts on “12 Step Checklist to Make You a Better Speaker or Teacher

  1. This is really helpful Ash, now to let the challenge grow me so I can challenge those I lead to grow in the same ways.

    • G’day Madeleine! Great to hear from you all the way from Down Under. Thanks so much for your comment… I agree… speaking is one of those things that one can always keep improving. I hope your ministry and family is going well in Australia.

  2. Being in Northern Italy for over 10 years, the great challenge of cross cultural teaching is to create appropriate disequilibrium in the message. This still challenges me. As for an area of strength, its the ability to generalise and transfer the teaching to the learners through the concept of coaching. Thanks Ash for the timely reminder as we prepare for our next season of wilderness ministry!

    • Thanks Anthony! I wonder if part of this is because there has been such an emphasis on application of the message to make it practical, so speakers seem to be more comfortable with that aspect of teaching. But when it comes to disequilibrium, that is uncomfortable and somewhat unpredictable as well so it is easy to shy away from it. I am comforted by the example Jesus set that he often created disequilibrium to get people to think. I know I tend to grow more when I am made somewhat uncomfortable by a speaker. It is an art… it will take us all a lifetime to keep mastering this aspect. Thanks Anthony!

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