Tips for Speaking at Mass

Are you thinking of speaking for this Harvest’s Family Fast Day? Public speaking can be a daunting task, but don’t worry! With practice, preparation and some personal touches, your talk is destined to be a success. Here are some tips from professional speaker, John Sibley as well as some of CAFOD’s advice. 

Step 1: Preparation

First, be clear on what you are going to say. CAFOD has supplied a short talk to use which can be found here. John says “Feel free to change a few words here and there or add a line to two to make it feel more natural to deliver.  The talk is written to make it possible to read as is, so don’t feel any pressure!” If you do rewrite the talk, be sure to include these three points:

  1. Children endanger themselves by walking long distances to collect water for their families.​
  2. CAFOD – our Catholic charity – works with local engineers to install solar-powered water pumps in villages.​
  3. The support of parishioners will extend our reach to more communities in need of safe access to water.​
Girls speaking at Mass for CAFOD

Girls speaking at Mass for CAFOD

Also think about whether you will be using visual aids, such as photographs of Fabiano, props such as a watering can, a poster, or CAFOD’s video. Watching this video beforehand may help you to feel more passionate and connected with Fabiano’s story and therefore help your talk. Perhaps think about asking a friend to help you by holding the poster or props while you are speaking.

You could also light a candle to help you reflect on what you’re about to do and to calm any nerves.

Discover Fabiano’s story here and get equipped and engaged for this Family Fast Day 

Step 2: Practice

Next, make some notes. This might be the full talk or bullet points- whichever you find best to use. Then practice your talk, with the visual aids if you are using them. This will build your confidence. You could try practicing in front of a family member or a friend. Record yourself to make sure you are 4 minutes long. It’s a good idea to learn the first 2/3 sentences and the ending by heart.

Professional speaker John says, “Say your speech out loud when the house or flat is empty. It sounds silly and maybe it is but speaking to no one is harder than speaking to everyone! Then look at the clock and amend and practice till you get it right.”

We have all the resources you need to give your talk here 

Step 3: The Church Arrangements

Be clear on the arrangements at your church. Are you expected to speak in place of the Homily or at the end of mass? Will you be giving out the collection envelopes? Make sure the priest knows you have arrived and check it’s still OK for you to give the talk and when. Find a seat near to the front and sit at the end closest to the pulpit or lectern. When it’s time to get up, approach the altar with respect and make a small bow before stepping onto the sanctuary.

Step 4: Delivery

Fabiano next to the solar powered water pump

Fabiano next to the solar powered water pump

  • John says “Smile at the start and at the end.  Look up during the talk if possible.  The transformation we are enabling is a story of joy and hope.  It also helps if you feel nervous!”
  • Speak much more slowly than you think you should be.
  • Decide what you are going to wear. Dressing smart/casual is appropriate- perhaps what you would wear to a christening. You could also wear a CAFOD T-shirt.
  • Take some water with you to drink while you talk

Couldn’t find a speaker for your Parish? Contact CAFOD in Southwark on 02084 66 99 01 to see if we can arrange a roaming speaker for you 

Step 5: After the talk

  • Acknowledge the priest with a light nod of the head, make sure you turn to face the altar again with a final small bow before returning to your seat.
  • John says “After Mass, you might want stand at the back where you can be seen. Have a notebook ready so that volunteers can give their name and details. It is best if the church collection ushers do the collecting but if you do then take the money envelopes to the sacristy for the priest to put in the safe.”
  • Parishioners may want to ask you questions about CAFOD, but don’t worry- you don’t need to have all the answers. If you dont know, you could offer to find out for them, and if they are happy to give it, you could take a contact email or number.
  • Remember to thank the parish priest personally before you leave.
  • Arrange to speak with your local CAFOD team to de-brief (

John says “My guess is that having spoken at Mass once, you will look forward to doing it again! Speaking at Mass is not easy but if you know your subject and what you intend to say it will be much easier. A few deep breaths and off you go!”

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