One of the first questions we must ask as we plan events, is “how long should our speaker speak”?
Our discussion on this topic in the Women’s Ministry Toolbox Community (a free, closed Facebook Group for women’s ministry leaders) uncovered a wide range of suggestions and preferences.
Before to get to best practices, we need to establish this one thing:
Our personal preferences do not matter.
It’s not about:
- How long we think a speaker should speak
- Our attention span (or lack thereof)
- What’s been done in the past
So what does matter?
We must give our speakers time to share the message that God has given them.
But how do we decide what that number should be?
Shall we pin up a dart board? See what’s left after we plug in the rest of the schedule? Pick an even number?
Your speaker’s message should be the focus of your event.
We signal the importance of the message to our women by allotting more time to our speaker than to anything else on our event schedule.
We need to give our speaker’s enough time to develop and deliver their message.
You may not realize that most speakers spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each year traveling to and attending trainings to hone their craft.
At these conferences and trainings, speakers are taught how to deliver Biblical messages that your women will remember and that God can use to transform lives.
There is an art to crafting a memorable, meaningful message.
Two weekends ago I was at a conference for speakers and writers. In one of the workshops for speakers, the seasoned speaker and well-known author leading the session recommended speaking sessions should last between 3o-45 minutes. In her experience, 40 minutes is the sweet spot.
As one who has been on both sides of the podium, as a speaker and as the event planner, this recommendation is spot-on.
Forty-minutes almost always provides speakers with enough time to clearly communicate their message with stories, examples, and scripture. If a speaker has an activity that requires more time, she should let you know.
If you only give your speaker 20 minutes to share their message your audience is going to be short-changed.
While speakers develop and deliver their message in different ways, almost all speaking sessions include:
- At least one personal story
- The reading of scripture
- Communicating a Truth through that scripture passage (teaching portion)
- Application questions/suggestions
- An opportunity to respond
The teaching portion often has one main point with 3 supporting points. While speaking styles differ, your speaker is probably going to spend a good 15-25 minutes walking through those points.
Squeezing all of that into about 40 minutes requires a lot of prayers, preparation, and the work of the Holy Spirit!
We do our speakers and God’s message a disservice when we don’t allow enough time in our event schedule for our speakers to speak.
How long does your speaker want to speak?
It would be rude to assign and not discuss the length of the speaking session with your speaker.
Some speakers like to include activities or small group discussion as a part of their session and may need more than 40-45 minutes.
Don’t finalize your event schedule without input from your speaker.
We’re after depth, not breadth.
Three speakers, each speaking for 20 minutes at an event is equivalent to offering your women a sampler platter. They are just going to get a small taste of what the speaker has to offer. Instead, offer your women the opportunity to really connect with one speaker and include enough time that she can take them deep into God’s Word so they leave the event filled, not disappointed that there was no main course.
If your speaker only asks for a 20-minute speaking slot, follow up with a few more questions and ask for a video sample.
Protect the Speaking Sessions
Make sure you communicate prior, and again at the event, the speaker’s specific time slot once it has been finalized… And then do your very best to honor that time slot – cut a song, shorten an icebreaker game, or serve food faster to keep the event on schedule.
It can be tempting to use the Holy Spirit as an
excuse reason to allow the event to stretch beyond its scheduled end time but remember:
- We are responsible for starting the event on time
- We’ve invited the Holy Spirit into every step of the event planning process.
- We need to honor our women’s schedules and assume they have somewhere they need to be immediately after – many will!
- We need to honor our volunteers assisting with childcare and clean-up and allow them to return home promptly.
God’s given our speakers a special message to deliver, let’s set our speakers up for success!
Be sure to check out these other event planning resources:
Why Your Women Need Save-the-Date Cards
Gather and Glean: Speaker Search
What Your Speaker Needs to Know But Might Not Think to Ask
Questions for Potential Speakers
Women’s Ministry Binder Essentials
Post Event Evaluation Form (Free Printable)
One year ago: Teach Your Women to Be Discerning
Two years ago: 11 Time Savers for Busy Women’s Ministry Leaders
Three years ago: Fall Table Talk Cards (Free Printable)
Four years ago: Changing False Assumptions Women Make About Mentoring
Five years ago: Small Group Idea: Sister Six