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Start with a PUNCH!

 “The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.” (Proverbs 16:23)

 

Our messages are meant to persuade, to transform.  Whether we are preachers, teachers, or leaders, our words should be weighed to have an impact.  Garr Reynolds uses the acronym PUNCH as a device for planning your message introductions.

 

We always introduce a subject by explaining why it is important.  We want our listeners to know why what we are saying matters.  We plan ahead and know where we want our listeners to be when we’re done.  We want to let people know that they really want to listen because this will be good. Starting your talk with a PUNCH makes them want to hear more.  Starting with a PUNCH will knock their socks off!

 

In The Naked Presenter Garr Reynolds teaches that the opening of a talk should carry a PUNCH.  The acronym PUNCH helps us remember five things that the beginning of a talk might contain to make its lesson memorable.  Good openings, Garr tells us, often contain something Personal, Unexpected, Novel, Challenging, or Humorous.

 

Share a personal story or fact.  Making it personal helps us to initially connect with people who are listening to us.  This does not mean we are to give our resume.  Rather, by sharing a bit of ourselves, we give our topic emotional relevance to our listeners.  Another great thing about a personal story is what we don’t need notes for it.  You can tell a personal story while maintaining direct eye contact with your audience.  The personal story we tell should illustrate in some way the main point we are trying to make.  A personal story not only sets our listener at ease it set us at ease as well.

 

Say or do something unexpected.  Most people’s attention spans are only about 10 minutes long.  You can get them interested and hold that interest a little longer by starting with something they didn’t expect.  Everyone loves a surprise.  It might be a quote, a question, or a fact, or you might do something unexpected.

 

Show or tell something novel.  Include a story or statistic that no one has heard.  Use a powerful or memorable image to introduce your subject.  If you’re not going to tell people something they didn’t already know why should they have come in the first place?  Most people are listening to you because they want to learn something new or hear something original.  Everyone in your audience wants to make a discovery about themselves or God’s word.

 

Challenge their assumptions.  Challenge their thinking.  Challenge their intellect.  Challenge their imagination.  People come to your church, study, or class specifically to be challenged.  Don’t disappoint them!  In a Christian setting the idea of a challenge takes on even more meaning because everything we say and do has eternal significance.  If we challenge someone, it should not be only a moral challenge but also the spiritual challenge.  Our aim is not to make people better but more like Christ.  Our goal should not only be to teach people how to live but also to show them how to have eternal life.

 

Use humor.  Laughter not only engages your audience but disarms them as well.  Someone once said, while their mouths are open in laughter you can spoon in the medicine.  (Or they said something like that.  The idea is not original with me, that’s for sure.  But it is a good one.)  Garr warns, however, that starting with a joke usually falls flat.  He recommends forgetting about jokes and instead  make an ironic observation, share an anecdote or tell a humorous story that is relevant to your point or topic.  You tap into people’s emotions with humor.  Laughter also releases endorphins, relaxes us, and can even change our perspective a bit.  Just be sure your humor is relevant to your subject and appropriate to your audience and setting.

 

The prophets of the Old Testament always used a PUNCH.  As we read their sermons and writings, we see that they were masters of the unexpected, the original, and the unforgettable.  God himself taught the prophets how to do this and commanded them to use these methods to get His message across.  Think of Jeremiah in chapter 19.  The Lord told Jeremiah to go and buy a new clay jar from the potter.    (Jer. 19:1-3)  He was to take some of the elders and the priests and warn them that the God of Israel was going to bring disaster on them because they had forsaken him and worshiped other gods.  They had even burned their children in the fire as offerings to the idol Baal.  Jeremiah was to take the elders and priests to the very valley where they made the sacrifices to the idols and when he was speaking to them, he was to throw down the new pottery jar smash it to bits at their feet.  (Jer. 19:10-11)

 

When God wanted people to listen he never pulled punches he struck hard.   If you want your introduction to really knock them out, start with a PUNCH.

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