“What is the problem to be solved?” is the question every speaker must consider before opening his mouth to speak. An effective speaker can bring courage in a fearful situation, clarity in confusion, passion in apathy, comfort in hurt, warning in danger, an icebreaker to warm up a cold room, or comedy to relieve tension.  Here are some thoughts about speaking as a problem solver.

Speaking when the Problem is Obvious

When the problem is obvious, a speaker can simply begin to resolve it by asking, “What do you want me to do for you?” Such was the case when Jesus approached the blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52. Problem, solution, done.

Sometimes the speaker walks into a situation where the problem is already being discussed. Then it’s his job to make sure the problem and desired solution are clearly identified, defined, and articulated, and to help those involved create steps to a quick and mutually satisfying resolution.

Problem solving is often the situation when a manager has to settle a dispute between employees, a parent between squabbling children, or a judge is presented with a legal case.  Sometimes it is the speaker’s job to point out a problem.

This is often done by debaters or panelists in a forum, by leaders of revolutionary movements, by community leaders on the campaign trail, by artists who desire to help people experience things in new ways, or by salesmen hoping to entice new clients by selling new products or services. The speaker’s job is to create awareness, shift perspective, or fuel unrest with the status quo.

Speaking when the Problem is Complex

Sometimes the problem is a little more complicated, problems within problems, that will require the speaker to engage more deeply by identifying key issues, defining terms, understanding key personalities and the motivations that drive them. He or she will consider a range of possible and desirable outcomes, help establish goals and priorities, and persuade the participants to apply themselves to bring about the best possible resolutions. This is the case when pastors stand before congregations, social reformers speak at rallies, media hosts invite guests to appear on their shows.

Skills a Problem-Solving Speaker Needs to Possess

In each of these scenarios, an effective and relevant speaker will possess:

  • Awareness of the problem
  • Ability to clearly identify, define and articulate the problem and desired resolution
  • Empathy for the those who are affected by the problem, and a willingness to hear their perspectives concerning the problem
  • Careful (and often prayerful) consideration of the problem
  • Ability to identify and articulate–and perhaps even suggest or create–possible outcomes and solutions
  • Ability to persuade people to move toward resolution

Final Thoughts on Speaking as a Problem Solver

Problems most often find their solutions when courageous speakers stand and give voice to ideas that bring about necessary changes. Whether in the courtroom, boardroom, classroom, living room or stage, the person people are most eager to hear is the speaker who has correctly identified, defined, articulated, fairly arbitrated, and resolved the problem. The speaker who has proven himself relevant, insightful, articulate and persuasive is one who will be invited to speak again and again.

By Kathleen Reed