Connecting with the people

By: Fr. Roy Cimagala

THIS is a big challenge to public speakers, especially to preachers who are charged to transmit nothing less than the living word of God. Given the way people are now—with all their differences and complexities—the task of effectively communicating with them without compromising the integrity of the message is indeed a tremendous job.

Offhand, what I can say is that first of all we have to appeal to God, asking for his grace, because no matter how good we are rated as public speakers and preachers, we can never tell whether we have truly communicated with our audience with the message integrally received, appreciated and sparking the audience’s desire to live it out.

It’s only God’s grace that does wonders and can accomplish what we cannot, given our limitations and the complications around. We should always feel the need for grace in our task of preaching and communicating.

Of course, asking for God’s grace does not and should not exempt us from doing what is humanly possible to connect with the people effectively. Grace does not supplant our human effort. In fact, grace requires the utmost cooperation of our effort.

Yes, we have to study the message well to see to it that we know what we are communicating and why. As much as possible the message should be so assimilated with us that the people who see and listen to us can readily get the message without much effort.

We should not forget that for preachers, for example, the challenge to transmit the living word of God is an overwhelming task, what with all the mysteries and other supernatural things that it contains. Yes, only God’s grace can connect the preacher and the preached effectively.

But as public speakers and preachers, we have to learn to dress the message according to how the people are. Thus, they have to be ready to use all the means for effective communication.

They have to prepare things, making outlines and talking points, etc. They have to use the appropriate rhetorical tools—logic should be clear and easy to follow, language should be pleasant and uplifting.

They should have a good command of the appropriate vocabulary and figures of speech. They should have the judicious use of anecdotes, stories, examples, even jokes and memes or the so-called ‘hugot lines.’

But for all of these to be effective and for us to know what to use and how, we need to know the audience very well. Thus, doing previous research about the expected audience would always be helpful.

In fact, the ideal is to have previous contact with them so the speakers and preachers would have first-hand knowledge of their audience and can, in a manner of speaking, customize and even personalize their message to them.

We have to be wary of the tendency to talk above the heads of the audience, which is now a common occurrence, sad to say. But neither should we go down to frivolity and inane talk to grab the instant attention of the audience. Yes, there may be initial jokes to catch attention, but an effort should be made that the main message is not lost.

Indeed, to connect with people is no easy thing. There is a lot of trial-and-error involved here, and let’s hope that we can derive precious lessons from the errors. The important thing to remember also is that the delivery of the message should be uplifting and edifying even if serious and negative comments have to be made.

Public speakers and preachers should aim to do their job in such a way that the audience should not only feel good, but also should learn something important. They should constantly monitor the facial reactions of their audience to see if they are still connecting with them or are already in some disconnect mode.