Breakthrough Secrets To Engaging Students In Your Next Talk


“God doesn’t need flawless communicators just faithful hardworking ones.” – Doug Fields

At the National Youth Workers Convention you will find excellent speaking with an outstanding stage presence. Presenters have refined their skills to engage the crowds and it is easy to see that their hard work is paying off. At this year’s conference Josh Griffin and Doug Fields shared from their combined 50 years of ministry experience to challenge youth workers in how they lead from the stage. Here are breakthrough secrets to engage students in your next talk!

Be Authentic. 

Use your life but remember that not all of your stories are winning stories. You can expose your failures and pains but only share at an appropriate level. The real you is inviting, so take time to craft personal stories. If you are wanting to discuss a topic outside of your scope then it might be time to bring out an expert panel. Stay away from stories that you don’t own because if you are fake, your audience will know.

Be Funny. 

Humor opens the door to engaging your students. Doug explains the essence of humor as taking your audience down a path and then quickly jumping in an unexpected direction. Use images, memes, and videos but think through your transitions out of a funny moment. Get the audience laughing, pause, and then connect the humor to the principle you are teaching. Self-deprecating humor is the best because when you make fun of yourself the audience leans in and identifies with you more. Also, consider using call back humor by bringing back a joke from earlier in your message.

Be Different

Make the message come alive. To do this, you might use different tools like discussion questions, testimonies, or even a change in the venue. Know when in the message your audience is going to need a break or time to breathe. Silence can become a mini illustration. Use a dramatic pause to draw the students back into your talk.

Be Clear. 

For students to follow along in your talk, they need your message to stick: Study, Think, Illustrate, Construct, Keep-focused. When you introduce an object lesson or story, students might not need to see how it connects all at first, but you don’t want to leave them hanging too long. Create a clear call to action and help each student know what their next step is as a result of your talk.

Be Intentional. 

Always bait your hook. Walk on the stage with confidence knowing that you did the work necessary to deliver an engaging message. Know how are you going to grab their attention. You can make something feel spontaneous yet it is fully planned. Be intentional in connecting your humor, illustration, story, or object to the goal of your message. Also, work on phrases that build an authentic bridge to your audience. Saying something like, “and that’s what I want for you as well” or “here’s why I really want you to get this” are great phrases to engage with your students.

Proverbs 15:2, “The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.”

You have been entrusted with the responsibility of presenting the good news message of Jesus. Work hard to engage your students in your next talk! 

“If you think the gathering of biblical facts and standing up with a Bible in your hand will automatically equip you to communicate well, you are desperately mistaken. It will not. You must work at being interesting. Boredom is a gross violation, being dull is a grave offense, and irrelevance is a disgrace to the gospel. Too often these three crimes go unpunished and we preachers are the criminals.” – Charles Swindoll

How To Easily Network With Other Leaders Now


So what is your strategy to network with other leaders at your next conference?

Do you stand at the entrance, handing out business cards to everyone as they enter?

Do you pay thousands of dollars to advertise your social media content, hoping for followers?

Do you print your twitter handle on stickers and attach them to everything as you walk through the exhibit hall?

If you’re like most people, the thought of asking a stranger for help or reaching out to an author to ask questions begins a nervous feeling deep down in your gut. You know the value of networking but you find it easier said than done. Right now, I want to share with you a few tested tips to give you a successful networking experience at your next conference!

Know Your Goal.

Most people fail to network well because they don’t know what they are looking for in the first place. Are you looking for advice? Are you trying to land a book deal? Do you want to learn from someone further down the road then you? Are you just looking for someone to vent to? Start now by determining your goal.


If the presenter walked off the stage and asked you to go to dinner would you be prepared to ask meaningful questions? Do you know where you are currently in leadership and what you need to get to the next level? Take some time right now to write down a few questions. Prepare for the chance encounter. Know your schedule and when downtime will make networking natural. Print off a couple of business cards in case you need to cut a conversation short. And make sure you follow conference hashtags on social media to connect digitally as well!

Create Opportunities.

Make every minute count. Whether you are waiting in line for coffee or walking through registration, look up from your phone and connect with the people around you. If this is intimidating then consider getting a wing man to help you out socially or write down a few ice breaker questions that can spark meaningful conversation. Maybe you create an opportunity by hosting a meal or offering to pick up the coffee tab in exchange for a person’s time. Remember to be generous.

Be Worthwhile.

Nothing frustrates a leader worse than wasting valuable time. If someone agrees to invest their time into you, do the work necessary to return the favor. Ask targeted questions and actually listen, not just waiting for your turn to talk. Give the leader your full attention and take notes when appropriate. This can be a reciprocal relationship but keep close attention to how much you are talking and the body language of the other person. Remember it’s better to leave the conversation with the other person desiring more.

Follow up.

When you turn and walk away can you clearly articulate your next step? Did the leader give you a deep wisdom that you need to take some time to digest? Did you set up a conference call or ask if you can connect on social media? A sure fire way to building a lasting relationship with someone is to follow up with them, expressing what you learned and how meeting them has impacted your life.

Networking doesn’t have to be complicated. You can easily connect with other leaders and form genuine relationships. Take time right now and do the work necessary to set yourself up for future success.