MacBain chose the meeting of the American Atheists in March to make public her beliefs, before a crowd of 1,500 people who gave her a standing ovation immediately after her first sentence: "My name is Teresa. I'm a pastor currently serving a Methodist church — at least up to this point — and I am an atheist." Here are three tactics you can take away from this speech:
- Address your audience directly: Despite the national controversy connected with her announcement, MacBain doesn't forget the audience in front of her and speaks to them directly to thank them for their support and understanding, and to apologize for years of working to show "how wrong you were and how right I was." Her directness forges a strong connection and brings the issue down to a human level.
- Stick to "I" statements: With an issue this controversial, the speaker could have made generalizations. Instead, MacBain keeps this individual and personal. No one can tell her what her feelings are or should be, and she doesn't tell anyone what theirs should be. It keeps her from, well, preaching and keeps this statement an honest one.
- Don't describe what you don't know: Despite months talking to other clergy in the same situation online and at the conference, MacBain has to confess that she doesn't know what will happen next, and that she is somewhat afraid of what the reaction will be to her announcement. I wish more speakers would stop at the point where they meet a topic they don't know. In this case, the uncertainty hangs in the air and reflects the tension that comes along with making this public.