WHAT are the main points of a talk? These are not simply interesting aspects that are briefly stated in passing. They are important ideas that are developed at length. They are the ideas that are crucial to achieving your objective.
A key to making the main points stand out is your selecting and organizing of material wisely. Research for a talk frequently yields more information than can be used. How can you determine what to use?
First, consider your audience. Are they largely unacquainted with your subject, or are they quite familiar with it? Do most of them agree with what the Bible says about it, or are some inclined to be skeptical? What sort of challenges do they face in daily life when they endeavor to apply what the Bible says about the subject? Second, be sure that you have clearly in mind your objective in speaking to that audience on the subject you plan to use. Using these two guidelines, evaluate the material and retain only what really fits.
If you have been given a basic outline with a theme and main points, you should adhere to it. However, the value of what you present will be greatly enhanced if you keep in mind the above factors when developing each main point. When no outline has been supplied, it is up to you to select the main points.
When you have your main points clearly in mind and have organized the details under these, it will be easier for you to give the talk. Likely, your audience will also get more out of it.
Various Ways of Organizing Your Material. A variety of patterns can be followed in organizing the body of your talk. As you get acquainted with them, you will find that several can be effective, depending on your objective.
A versatile pattern involves topical subdivision. (Each main point is needed because it adds to your listeners’ understanding of the subject or helps achieve the objective of your talk.) Another pattern is chronological. (Events before the Flood, for example, may be followed by events before Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 C.E., which, in turn, may be followed by events in our own day.) A third pattern is cause and effect. (This may be developed in either direction. For example, you could start with a current situation, the effect, and then show the cause.) A fourth method involves opposites. (You might contrast good with bad or positive with negative.) Sometimes a talk will include more than one method.
When Stephen was falsely charged before the Jewish Sanhedrin, he gave a powerful speech that followed a chronological pattern. As you read it at Acts 7:2-53, notice that the selection of points is purposeful. Stephen first made clear that he was relating history that his audience could not deny. Then he pointed out that although Joseph was rejected by his brothers, God used him to provide deliverance. Next, he showed that the Jews were disobedient to Moses, whom God was using. He concluded by emphasizing that a spirit like that manifested by Jews of former generations was shown by those who brought about the death of Jesus Christ.
Not Too Many Main Points. There are only a few essentials in developing any theme. In the majority of cases, these can be numbered on one hand. This is true whether you will be speaking for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or longer. Do not try to make too many points stand out. Your audience can reasonably grasp only a few different ideas from one talk. And the longer the talk, the stronger and more sharply defined the key points must be.
Regardless of how many main points you use, be sure to develop each one sufficiently. Allow the audience enough time to examine each main point so that it becomes firmly impressed on their minds.
Your talk should give an impression of simplicity. This does not always depend on the amount of material presented. If your thoughts are clearly grouped under just a few main headings and you develop these one at a time, the talk will be easy to follow and hard to forget.
Make Your Main Points Stand Out. If your material is properly organized, it will not be difficult to reinforce the significance of your main points by means of your delivery.
The principal way to make a main point stand out is to present points of proof, scriptures, and other material in such a manner that these focus attention on the main idea and amplify it. All secondary points should clarify, prove, or amplify the main point. Do not add irrelevant ideas just because they are interesting. As you develop secondary points, show clearly their connection with the main point that they support. Do not leave it to the audience to figure out. The connection can be shown by repeating key words that express the main thought or by repeating the gist of the main point itself from time to time.
Some speakers highlight the main points by numbering them. While that is one way to highlight main points, it should not replace careful selection and logical development of the material itself.
You may choose simply to state your main point up front before you present the supporting argument. This will help the audience to appreciate the value of what follows, and it will also emphasize that main point. You might reinforce the point by summarizing it after it has been fully developed.
In the Field Ministry. The principles discussed above apply not only to formal discourses but also to conversations that you have in the field ministry. When preparing, take into account any major situation that people in the area have on their minds. Choose a theme that affords opportunity to show how the hope the Bible offers will resolve that situation. Select perhaps two main points to develop that theme. Decide which scriptures you will use to support those points. Then plan how you will begin your discussion. Such preparation allows for the sort of flexibility that conversation requires. It also helps you to state something that householders will remember.