Remember, your audience doesn’t owe you anything.
When’s the last time you listened to a stand up comedian and laughed at their joke because you felt like you owed it to them? Probably never (minus the times your kids share their nonsensical knock-knock jokes). When you go to a comedy show, you expect to get your money’s worth. It was a good show if you laughed, better if you cried.
It’s the same when your audience walks into church on any given Sunday. They don’t owe you anything.
Sure, you and I could say that Jesus never expected us to measure ourselves against a standup comedy routine, but he does expect us to hold the attention of our audience. We have to be more engaging then their phones, then their grumbling stomachs, even more engaging then their wandering minds.
So how in the world do we compete with that? Takes some cues from the comedians.
Become a better story teller.
A great comedian can keep you engaged just by telling you a story. It might be personal, pulling back the curtain on their own life or it may be telling someone else's story. Help your audience understand the characters. Engage them in a bigger story.
Study some of the greats. Shoot, when is the last time you read fiction? When you hear a great story, what makes it a great story? Is the the level of detail? Is the anticipation of what comes next? How much is too much? What can kill a good story? Become a student of storytelling.
Help you audience relate.
Think of your favorite stand up comedian. Are they just funny? Or are they funny because “they get you”?
This is why it’s imperative that you understand your audience. How are they dealing with the issue your message is addressing? You have to know where they’re coming from if you want to help them move beyond it. It’s all about teaching to the gap. (See "The Most Under Recognized Ingredient in a Powerful Message")
Make it interactive.
Ask your audience self assessing questions. Help your audience internalize the problem. If you’re talking about money, ask them to identify with a feeling that comes to mind when they think about money. You could even provide some choices. This gives you the perfect opportunity to teach to those choices providing a far more relatable and interactive experience for your audience. Not to mention it validates your audience and honors where they are coming from.
Standing on stage and commanding attention means you’ve got to deliver. You owe your audience a relevant and engaging experience.
Question: Outside of preachers, who keeps you most engaged?