5 Brain-friendly Tips to Enhance Your Presentations

It’s all about the brain. When you preach a sermon or make presentations and want to maximize your impact with your presentation, keep the brain in mind. More than anyone else, cognitive psychologist Richard Mayer has studied the link between learning and multimedia. In his experiments, those exposed to his learning concepts recalled details more accurately and problem solved better, what we hope happens when we preach, teach, or present. Here’s a summary of his findings with practical tips you can easily apply in your next Powerpoint or Keynote presentation.

How to enhance your presentations.

  • People learn better when you use words and pictures versus words alone.
    • Application: include applicable pictures in your slides, not just filler type pictures.
  • People learn better when you simultaneously use words and corresponding pictures rather than using them successively.
    • Application: include words AND pictures on the same slide.
  • People learn better when you place the words and pictures close to each other rather far from each other on the slide.
    • Application: make sure you keep your words and related picture close to each other on every slide.
  • People learn better when you exclude extraneous material.
    • Application: keep your slides simple, the fewer words and pictures the better.
  • People learn better when you use animation and narration rather than animation and on-screen text.
    • Application: when appropriate, sprinkle animations into your presentations to illustrate key concepts. SermonSpice is a great resource for churches.

What have you discovered that has helped make your presentations more sticky?


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E-mail Etiquette for Busy Leaders

We’ve all gotten emails that either wasted our time, took us off task, or stirred up our emotions because someone just dumped on us. Email is both a blessing and a curse. One study discovered that we waste over eight hours a week from the distraction caused by emails [1]. Yikes! If you’re a busy pastor, ministry leader, or business professional, we can probably help each other by incorporating some simple e-mail etiquette pointers.

E-mail etiquette:

  1. Keep emails brief and to the point. Put the key message you want to convey right up front.
  2. Limit emails to one main subject. Try not to mix several subjects into one email.
  3. Don’t ‘Cc’ everybody. If you need to copy your email to another, make sure it goes only to the person who needs to get it, not to everybody that may have received the initial email.
  4. Don’t email messages that are emotional. If you need to communicate something emotional, criticize someone, or give negative feedback, pick up the phone and speak to the person. Or better yet, talk to them face-to-face. It’s easy to take an emotional email the wrong way.
  5. DON’T USE ALL CAPS. IT SOUND LIKE YOU ARE YELLING!
  6. Avoid the power play game by copying the email recipient’s boss. Sometimes it’s appropriate to copy the boss for information purposes. But if you’re trying to coerce the recipient by leveraging the boss’s influence, that’s not fair.
  7. Include your contact info in your signature.
  8. Re-read your email before you press “send.”

Any email tips you’ve discovered that make emails more useful?


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[1] www.drthomasjackson.com/pdf/Bad%20Habits.rtf

5 Benefits of Working Outside the Office

Although I’ve been a pastor 35 years, only in the last few years have I discovered the value of studying/working outside my church and home office. I’ll either go to McDonalds (cheap food) or when I lived in Chicago, Panera (good atmosphere and the place I preferred). Both provide free Wi-Fi. While I don’t advocate spending all your time working outside the office, I’ve found that doing so once a week benefits me and the ministry in these ways.

5 Benefits  of Working Outside the Office

  • Productivity: Less interruptions from others.
  • Creativity: A different environment spurs it.
  • Focus: Less distractions help me concentrate better (like being tempted to clean up my office or play with something on my desk).
  • Energy: A different ambiance/atmosphere gives me more.
  • Stress management: I feel less of it in a neutral environment.

When I do work outside the office, I use an app I play into my sound suppressing headphones. It’s called Ambiance which offers zillions of nature sounds to listen to. I use Audio-technics active noise-cancelling headphones. They’er cheaper than Bose and about as good.

If you can, try working outside your office a day or so a month and see if it benefits you as it does me.

What other advantages of studying outside the office have you discovered?

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4 Obstacles Pastors Face in Setting Boundaries

Henry Cloud and John Townsend wrote the wildly popular book, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of your Life. Dr. Cloud also wrote Boundaries for Leaders. I recommend them both. Essentially a boundary for a ministry leader or a pastor is like a property line around your yard, only in this case that yard is your soul. Healthy boundaries make for healthy souls. Unhealthy boundaries make for unhealthy souls.

In my 34 years in ministry, I’ve seen many pastors with poor boundaries. Sometimes I’ve not kept healthy ones myself. Why is that so? I suggest 4 reasons and 4 potential ways to build healthy boundaries.

First, our call and vocation is rooted in our desire to help people. And helping people takes time, and lots of it. If you are successful as a ministry leader, people with needs will keep coming your way. So, you’ll never check everything off your ministry to-do list. There will always be one more person who needs to hear the Gospel, one more person who needs prayer, one more person to counsel, one more call or email to return, one more hour you could spend polishing your sermon, etc., etc. Our vocational call places us in a position where needs will always vie for our attention.

  • Solution: Remind yourself that Jesus didn’t heal everybody and he didn’t make himself available 24/7. In fact, he often spent time along with His heavenly father away from people. If the Son of God needed healthy boundaries, it seems that we do too.

Second, our 24/7 connected world makes it hard to disconnect. I recall the first cell phone I owned. It was a Motorola flip phone that looked like a brick with one edge angled. It was novel and fun. Few other people owned cell phones at the time. And because cell phone usage was expensive, I didn’t give out my number to many people. So, I didn’t have to field many calls even though I looked cool as it hung off my belt. As cell phones evolved from ‘stupid’ phones to ‘smart’ phones they no longer served as tools for talking. Now not only can someone call us, but they can text and email us. My current phone is actually set up to send me a text when I miss a call (ugh!). We can be reached 24/7 in multiple ways which blurs boundaries.

  • Solution: Put your phone away after 6 pm. Don’t answer emails after 6. Don’t put your cell phone next to your bed even if you put it on vibrate. If it’s within reaching distance, you’re still connected.

Third, our brains are social. Neuroscientists are now learning boatloads about how our brains impact life and leadership. It’s one of my passions and why I’m pursuing a masters in the neuroscience of leadership. And next year my book Brain-Based Leadership: The Science of Significant Ministry comes out. This month Leadership Journal’s theme is called Neuro-ministry: How Brain Science Informs Discipleship. I wrote this article in that issue for LJ on neuroscience and communication.

When I say our brains are social I mean that human interaction stir ups biological processes within our brains. When we say, ‘No’ to someone (we attempt to establish a boundary) and feel disapproval from them, it actual hurts. Even mild forms of rejection light up the same parts of our brains that register physical pain. Since it actually feels bad, we often acquiesce to a request and say, ‘Yes’ to avoid that uncomfortable feeling that rejection brings. In doing so, we again blur our boundaries.

  • Solution: Expect to feel an uncomfortable emotional tinge when you try to establish a boundary and feel disapproval from another. Remind yourself that feeling that way is normal. Give yourself an hour and the feeling will fade, as long as you don’t feed it by ruminating on what the other person is thinking after you said, ‘No.’

Fourth, we want to feel needed. God gave us a desire to feel needed, that we matter, that what we do counts. And when we help others, preach a good sermon, or lead a meeting well, it feeds our souls and feels good. However, sometimes we can get hooked on feeling good. Dopamine, one of the feel-good brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) moves into our brain’s pleasure centers when we accomplish a goal (preach a good sermon, etc.). Serotonin is another one we feel when we get an ‘atta-boy’ from another. Just as some people get addicted to alcohol and drugs because it feels good (they affect neurotransmitter production), we can can addicted to the jolt we get when we serve another well or check off something on our to-do list. Addiction to affirmation and accomplishment can subtly overtake our motivations and blur our boundaries. In this post I discuss how to leverage four key brain chemicals.

  • Solution: Ask yourself if you may be addicted to feeling good. Can you take your day off and turn off ‘productivity’ and ‘helping others?’ If you can’t, I’d read Cloud’s two books on boundaries.

How do you keep healthy boundaries?

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Preaching with a mini-iPad: My First Experience

I’ve been a fan of the iPad since it came out. I’ve owned the original and the iPad 2 and I began to use it over two years ago when I preached. I even wrote an e-book, Maximizing Ministry with your iPad that you can download free  by clicking this link: ipad ebook final. However, I experienced a few limitations so I purchased a mini-iPad that I thought might address those issues. I preached for the first time with it recently. I loved it. Here are some highlights from that first experience.

  • The smaller size made it easier to hold while I preached. With the regular sized one I had to leave it on the lectern or the table and had to return to it for my next point. However, I was able to hold the mini the entire time and my hand never tired. It’s like holding a slim Bible.
  • Since the back of the iPads are quite slick, I needed to improve the grip. I bought a Poetic ThinShell Back Smart Cover Partner Case that worked great with just the extra tackiness I needed. At $8, you can’t beat the price.
  • I also purchased a new stylus. I paid a bit more, but this one is great. It’s more responsive to my writing. It’s called the amPen New Hybrid Stylus.
  • Finally, I now use a new PDF markup app that is superb. It’s called Notability and as of March 18 it was only $1.99 in the iTunes store, a steal.I create my sermon in MS Word, save the doc as a PDF, transfer to DROPBOX, and open it in Notability. I then can easily highlight and mark up as needed. Simple. One pointer: play with the font size until it’s large enough in the PDF for your eyes. Since the real estate is smaller on the mini, I had to make my font larger for my eyes.

If you use a mini for preaching, any apps or tricks you recommend?


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