Illustrations

One of the real challenges for a teacher/preacher/communicator is finding illustrations that actually illustrate. 

My first sermon at McKinney Church included an illustration about me standing at the top of a high dive, trembling with fear. I told the story well, engaged the congregation well, and transitioned away from the illustration well, but the illustration failed miserably. 

How do I know? Everyone remembers the illustration; nobody remembers the point. 

If people remember the illustration but not the point, you have the relationship of the two backward: the point becomes the illustration and the illustration becomes the point. 

Confusing? That's the point... 

You want people to remember your point, and you want the illustration to help them do that. Sometimes stories are too good to tell. They're so good they distract from the point you're trying to make. 

A good illustration helps your point be more memorable. The best illustrations become forever connected with the point you were trying to make. For example: Ask any of the teenagers from my youth ministry years what they think of when they think of "crocodiles." I have forever ruined going to the zoo for them...

Storytelling is probably my biggest strength as a communicator, but is also the area that can crater my effectiveness more quickly than anything else because it so easily steals the focus from what I'm really trying to say.  

6 comments:

Mark Hancock said...

Sometimes making a point can get in the way of telling a great story :)

I think that we, as writers and ministers, need to steward that gift of storytelling.

Thanks for reminding me to keep the main thing the main thing.

Which reminds me of a story...


Grace and Peace,
Mark

The Kinley's said...

True dat..... can remember a ton of stories you have told me in the short time I've known you, but can't seem to recall the point of any of them.....oh that's right....it was to get me to shut up!!

See you're better at it than you think ;-)

Chris Freeland said...

Crissy,

Guess I'm doing okay with illustrations but need to work on helping people apply the lesson...

chloeadele said...

I remember taking a class with you about communicating, and you shared the crocodile story. good times. I do know that the point was don't let the story overshadow the point.

C&P McKinzie said...

You did a fabulous job of all-in availability with the illustration of bungee cord jumping. (See, I remembered the point-- without even looking back at my bulletin!)
-PM

hock said...
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