Great Communication Part 2: Get Creative

There is really no situation much worse than finding yourself caught in a presentation or conference where the person speaking has something important to share, but remains clearly unable to share it. Those moments are a great reminder that, in order to reach someone with the message of the gospel, we first must be able to capture his or her attention.

As a church leader, you may be confident and used to speaking in front of audiences of all sizes. However, truly connecting with people requires more than confidence and experience. Great communicators have a plan for developing their message to present it in a compelling and engaging way.

Great communicators use only four types of storylines.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Show and Tell, by Dan Roam

For the vast majority of us, giving a presentation is an extremely difficult and nerve-racking process, whether we’re in a one-on-one meeting, a conference room with a dozen strangers, or a lecture hall in front of thousands.

But according to Dan Roam, the visual communications expert and acclaimed author of The Back of the Napkin, it doesn’t have to be so hard. We struggle when we forget the basic steps we learned in kindergarten: show and tell.

In this short but powerful book, Roam intro­duces a new set of tools for making extraordinary presentations in any setting. He also draws on ideas he’s been honing for more than two decades, as an award-winning presenter who has brought his whiteboard everywhere from Fortune 500 companies to tiny start-ups to the White House.

Even if you’re already a good speaker, you’ll learn more about understanding your audience, organizing your content, building a clear story line, creating effective visuals, and channeling your fear into fun. And you’ll master three fundamental rules:

  • When we tell the truth, we connect with our audience, we become passionate, and we find self-confidence.
  • When we tell a story, we make complex concepts clear, we make ideas unforgettable, and we include everyone.
  • When we use pictures, people see exactly what we mean, we captivate our audience’s mind, and we banish boredom.

From nailing the opening to leaving a lasting impression, you’ll soon be able to give the perfor­mance of a lifetime—time after time.


The foundation of every presentation is its content. Your accompanying visual imagery may be stunning, but if you say nothing, you will achieve nothing. You are standing before you audience for a reason – you are trying to communicate with them. The content of your message is what you want your audience to remember and act on.

You audience comes into the room with their own preconceived notions about your topic. They are also bringing with them any and everything that’s on their minds. Many of them are probably looking ahead to the next thing on their schedules.

How can anyone hope to grab the listener’s attention given those parameters?

It begins with the end result: “After I’ve finished presenting, how do I want my audience to be different from when I started?”

How you answer that question tells you which storyline to use.

Clear storylines are our best defense against confusion. They force complexity into submission long enough to be tamed.

Here are the four essential types of storylines.

The Report brings data to life. With a report, we change our audience’s information. A good report delivers the facts. A great report makes the facts insightful and memorable.

The Explanation shows us how. With an explanation, we change our audience’s knowledge or ability. A good explanation takes our audience to a new level. A great explanation makes it effortless.

The Pitch gets us over the hurdle. With a pitch, we change our audience’s actions. A good pitch gives our audience a solution to a problem. A great pitch makes that solution undeniable.

The Drama breaks our heart, then mends it. With a drama, we change our audience’s beliefs. A good drama makes us feel someone’s struggle. A great drama makes us feel the struggle is our own.

Every storyline is different, but they have two things in common:

  1. They have a beginning and an end. One reason many presentations fail is because they don’t go anywhere. Good presentations always move along.
  2. The end point is always higher than the beginning point. Another reason presentations fail is because they don’t trigger any change. Good presentations always move up.

In other words, an extraordinary presentation begins with knowing how far and how high we want to take our audience.

Dan Roam, Show and Tell


Select three top ideas that your team is considering for future action – ideas that have not been done before. Together with your team, identify the most important actors or stakeholders for each idea. Think about their role and influence on the success of the idea and list your thoughts on a chart tablet.

Define the moments when each stakeholder will get to know an idea, accept it, use it, or decline it. Create a “stakeholder’s diary” for each person chosen, and write down these moments in the diary.

Example of a stakeholder – members who want to know more about discipling in everyday lives. Moment – several members have reacted positively to a recent sermon series on disciplemaking, and want to know how they can begin to practice disciplemaking in their workplace. What will you tell them? Prepare the diary according to the specific moments and give it to the stakeholder.

Build a story to support your stakeholder diary, using one of the four types of storylines outlined above. Make sure your story is descriptive and helps bring the idea to life.

Do the same with the other two ideas and reflect on the answers the stakeholders have filled in their diaries to help you choose the idea and move forward with it.

Reviewing and understanding the answers and insights into their acceptance of ideas at different moments will help you craft the stories needed to move forward with the idea.

– Adapted from “75 Tools for Creative Thinking” by Booreiland Design

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 52-2, released October 2016

This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<

Download PDF

Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Communication >



Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

See more articles by >


What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.