I find it interesting that Mormons don't get paid to speak at any of their meetings. While professionally speakers usually earn from $1 to $10,000 dollars per speaking engagement, when you get into higher speaking engagements a speaker can make from $25,000 for a certain Presidential candidate speaking all the way up to Mr. Clinton who makes up to $350,000 for his speaking engagements. Now I am not suggesting that Mormonism's lay clergy should start hiring speakers. Paying members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to speak defeats the very purpose of the Church, which is focused on the development and progress of each of the Church members. I mean honestly, the Church already goes way beyond other Christian churches by allowing every male member of the Church to be an ordained minister (most churches only have an ordained pastor and sometimes a youth pastor or assistant pastor). It would be tough to pay the whole congregation when they speak.
For those of you that may not know, a Mormon congregation is called a Ward and the leader of a Ward is called a Bishop. The bishop chooses speakers from the local congregation that prepare and deliver the sermons for Sunday worship services. This provides a variety of benefits for the member to more fully learn a topic and also allows for a variety of delivery styles and approaches to gospel subjects. Having local members of the Church deliver sermons is a great way to develop youth leaders.
One of the classic starting moments in Mormon sermons is to tell the story about "how the Bishop asked me to speak". While these are sometimes funny they lack a lot of staying power. In order to improve the openings in LDS sacrament meeting talks, I summarize and adapted the following article written by comedians Jan McInnis and Frank King called How to Be Funny on the Fly found in the Toastmaster magazine, June 2008.
- Stick to the basics - For jokes create analogies, take things to the extreme, or make word associations. You can even use the common experiences shared recently by the ward. For instance, I was able to recently use the following joke, "As member missionaries, you want to get the attention of your neighbors. It's probably not necessary to start a pan on fire and bring in the fire department............................. like I did at the ward breakfast on July 24th."
- Check out the room - Is it too big, small, cold, etc? Then associate the state of the room with something. If the room is freezing, you could think of igloos, ice chests, snow, ice or the North Pole. From there it's a short hop to "It's my first time speaking at the North Pole."
- Pay attention to demographics - Jan once opened a speaking engagement by saying, "It's nice to be in front of 900 women, but I've been trying to get in the bathroom since 8:30 this morning."
- Read the agenda thoroughly. Look for misspellings. If you're the last speaker you can always use the "I'm the only thing between you and breaking your fast."
- Food is fair game. One great technique is to make up a funny name based on what it looks like, such as "I-gotta-get-rid-of-this-now green jello." Another Mormon joke is about zucchini. I say a guy tell about how he let his zucchini plants grow for two weeks, and when he finally went out to the garden he had grown a "Godzinni" sized vegetable.
- Actually listen to the speaker ahead of you. Be careful when you comment on others talks as they are not professional speakers. However, if someone pounds home a point over and over and over, such as "Don't gossip," then you can lead with the opposite: "So a group of friends and I were gossiping the other day..."
Anyway, paid speaking is a lucrative profession. I wonder why there aren't more Mormons as professional speakers? If you're interested in improving your speaking skills I recommend Toastmasters, the National Speakers Association, and/or joining the Mormon Church.