Monday, February 13, 2017

Creating Connections with Our Readers

 

I had met Chere once at church, but didn’t really get to know her until the day I ran into her at the mall at the inside play area.  On a dreary winter day, I was desperate to get my kids out of the house, and apparently so was Chere. There she was with her three kids doing exactly the same thing I was – spending way too many quarters in the little ridey-machines.

When I greeted Chere, she said, “I was going to run away from these kids, or sell them to the lowest bidder if I didn’t find something to tire them out today.”

And she laughed, hard.  And I smiled big.  And I thought, This is my kind of girl. She’s just like me. She gets it – what it’s like to love your kids, while simultaneously wanting to cry, scream or run away.

Isn’t that the best feeling when you meet someone, and you feel that connection of loving acceptance and understanding?

That’s the same loving connection I want to feel when I read a book.

When I read a book, I want to experience that feeling of, We’re in this together. I’ve been there in those hard times, too. I don’t want to be preached at, like the blows of a hammer coming down on me.  I don’t want to be condemned, like a stern preacher pointing his finger at me.

That’s not motivating.  Love, understanding, acceptance, and encouragementthese qualities motivate me to keep reading and to wonder, What else does this writer have to say?

How can we writers deliver a loving connection that engages our readers?

Let’s look at a couple of writing samples that create a loving connection between writer and reader. Let’s also identify the writing elements that deliver engagement with the reader.

 An example from Breaking Up with Perfect by Amy Carroll

“Here’s a little challenge for us girls with our to-do lists clenched tightly in our hands and written on our hearts.  Do a measurement on a long-list day.  End the day with this question, How did your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) hold up today?  You’re probably nicer than I am, but I’m telling       you, those godly virtues go up in smoke on my long-list days.  On those days, nothing pleasant comes out of my mouth…”

Elements that create connection in Amy’s writing:

  • Amy shares vulnerably about her own weaknesses.
  • She writes in first person plural – okay, all that means is she writes using “we” or “us, as opposed to writing in second person using “you.”

An example from One in a Million by Priscilla Shirer 

“All we can feel are the walls closing in.  All we can be sure of is that there’s no way out.  All we can see are the Egyptian hordes on one side and the vast Red Sea on the other.

The rock. The hard place.

But, my friend, this is God’s place – the place where He wants to show His miracle-working power in your experience.”

Elements that create connection in Priscilla’s writing:

  • Priscilla occasionally addresses her reader as “my friend.” I love that!
  • She points us to God.

We can learn from these gifted writers and apply the same techniques to our own writing to engage with our readers.

As we write, let’s imagine we are sitting with our reader, looking into her eyes, sharing stories, tears and God’s Word, together as friends who love and care about each other and Jesus. 

Why is connecting with our audience so important?  I’ll address that in my next blog post.  But I’ll give you a hint found in this verse:  “For Christ’s love compels us…”(2 Corinthians 5:14).

Melanie

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Answers to Your Questions: Promo Videos

Hi, gang! Before I answer another one of your questions, I want you to know some exciting news…

Registration is open for She Speaks!!!

If you’ve been to She Speaks before, would you do me a favor and leave a comment today? Tell us what She Speaks meant to you for those who haven’t attended before.

If you haven’t been before, click here to check out the beautiful 2017 site. Once you’ve checked it all out, I have one more thing to do. Pray Fast!! The conference fills quickly, and we had over 1000 women on the waiting list last year. I don’t want that to be you, so if this is your year, go ahead and register today. If you think this is your year, read the cancellation policy very carefully and then go ahead and register. Better to cancel than to miss out.

Now… on to the question for the week.

Is a small time video (not a big crowd) better than no video? ~Kimberli

Yes! Every speaker should see a sample video as an essential part of your speaking ministry. A savvy event planner friend of mine said, “I’d never hire a speaker without seeing a video first.”

Thankfully, in our digital world, it’s not difficult to have a sample video. Here’s some advice I’ve received mixed with what I’ve learned along the way:

  • Sample videos should be short. Contrary to what I originally thought, three to four minutes suffices.
  • You should use the best snippets from your message(s), highlighting your range and strengths. Show some funny and some serious. Some Bible teaching and some story-telling. Some loud and some quiet. You’re trying to give event planners a feel for who you are as a speaker.
  • Get the best video possible. Shoot for having something with a high resolution. If it’s shown on a large screen, you don’t want it to wash out.
  • Crowd shots are something your videographer can purchase and add. I wouldn’t ever be deceptive about the size of crowds you’ve spoken in front of, but in my case, the camera was only on stage.
  • Let your creative person create. Both of my sample videos were done by the pastor at my church who produces video for our church. The first time we worked together, I tried to micro-manage him, and the result was dismal. The success of the two videos I actually use on my website is due wholly to giving him what he asked for and letting him go. You might want to provide things like– extra photos, focal scripture, quotes from your blog posts or books, ideas for focus. I ended up loving mine because of the story my videographer told.
  • Don’t worry if it’s not “slick”. Have it produced at the level where you are. If you’re a new speaker, a less produced video is fine. If you’ve been speaking for years, you probably need to save a budget for something a little more.

Here’s the video I just had done. It’s not perfect :), but I tried to put all these principles into practice.

Here are some other sample videos that I think are well done:

Chrystal Evans Hurst (it’s embedded in her home page)

Lynn Cowell

Dale and Jena Forehand

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Answers to Your Questions: To Write or Rewrite a Message

 

Thank you, thank you to all of you who have participated in the Facebook Live session last week either in real-time or by watching the video after the fact! It was so much fun that I’m thinking I’ll start doing something a few times a year in the form of mini-breakouts. Any requests for topics you’d like me to cover?

If you missed the video, click here to watch the Q & A video and while you’re there, follow our Facebook page for more encouragement and resources!

One of the benefits of our time together is that you gave me enough questions to blog about for months. Some weeks I’ll tackle two with short answers, but most weeks I’ll answer one at a time. Feel free to add yours to the comments if one answer sparks another question for you.

Here we go…

Do I write a new series or tighten and update the seven retreat series I have?   ~ Sue

It’s possible that either option is the right answer to your question.

When I first started speaking, I felt I had to write a new message for every event, but I don’t do that anymore. There are good reasons for repeating messages:

  • Having 3-5 finely honed messages shows that you understand our ministry niche. Your niche determines whether you’re the right speaker for an event or not. None of us are qualified to speak on every topic an event planner might desire, so we shouldn’t say “yes” to just any topic that’s assigned.
  • Repeating messages allows us to rewrite and refine them. Just this weekend, I rewrote an ending to fit an event better, and I believe it made my overall message stronger. It made me more excited to deliver it.
  • I never just “dust off” a message and deliver it at the next event. I revisit that message prayerfully ahead of the event and ask God how it can be individualized for the women who will be attending. Having said that, having 3-5 messages developed allows us to improve our delivery as well over time.

Sometimes, however, I feel called to write something new for an event. I have one coming up in March for which I believe God is giving me a brand new message. I’m excited that God is using a lesson that He’s been teaching me to encourage other women!

Often, God will use “message fatigue” to show me that it’s time for something new. The first retreat that I ever led is still the topic I get asked to do the most. Last year I delivered it multiple times. While I still love the messages, I’m a little weary of delivering them, so I’ve de-emphasized them on my website and emphasized some others. I don’t want to delete it entirely, but I’m ready to move on to fresher pastures.

I hope this answers your question, Sue! How about you, Speaker Girls? How do you decide it’s time for a new message?

Note: We’ve got some changes in the works for the website, so hold on tight. We’re so excited!

This week, we’ve switched to a new email delivery service which may mean some glitches– possibly including the delivery of some past posts. That shouldn’t occur again, so please extend grace while we grow and improve for you. 🙂

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Join the Fun Tonight

 

Tonight is the night! This is our chance to be together via FB Live from 8:00-8:30 pm Eastern Standard Time.  It won’t be the same without you, so follow your FOMO and make plans to join us! Here’s what we’ll be doing:

  • You can ask any question you’ve ever had about speaking ministry.
  • I’ll cover as many questions as I can in 30 minutes.
  • Some time between 8:00-8:30, I’ll be doing a giveaway for a FREE 30-MINUTE COACHING CALL. You have to be present and have commented to win!

Not sure about how participate? It’s easy. Here are some instructions:

  • Go to the Next Step Speaker Services Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/NextStepSpeaker/) and follow us.
  • On Tuesday, January 24th at 8:00 pm Eastern Time, go to the page, and I’ll be there. Easy peasy! Note: I won’t be able to help with tech glitches but here are a few to try if you can’t see me or hear me…
    • Make sure to restart your computer before 8:00 and make sure you have a good internet connection.
    • Click on the video if you don’t have any audio.
    • Log out of FB. Log back in, and try again.
  • Have your questions ready to type into the comments. I’ll have someone helping me on my end so that I can answer as many as possible.
  • You can type questions and responses into the comments which creates a live conversation where you take part.
  • You can click “thumbs up”, hearts or the other reactions FB gives. I have to tell you that hearts floating by thrills my heart!
  • I’ll answer as many questions as possible in our 30 minutes together. Any that go unaddressed will be future blog posts.
  • Everyone who leaves a comment live that night will be entered into a fun giveaway! You must be present live to win.

If you can’t participate live:

  • When I finish the video, it will be posted to the page permanently. You can go to the page latter to watch.
  • You can submit your questions to me ahead of time by emailing it to me at amy@proverbs31.org. Questions submitted live will be prioritized, but I’ll get to as many as I possibly can. Any that go unaddressed will be future blog posts.

Will I see you tonight? Can’t wait to be with you! (Hey… and I’d love for you to share it up with you speaker friends too. Let’s make this a real party!)

Amy

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Pick My Brain

I have a new love, and I want to share it with you…

Facebook Live!!

Although it’s a somewhat scary format (LIVE and all not to mention the tech part), I’ve fallen hard for this tool for communicators. I had the idea last week to combine two of my loves– FB Live and YOU.

So let’s get together, ok? I’ve been longing to meet many of you, and here’s our chance.

Mark your calendars… I’ll meet you on FB Live on Tuesday, January 24th at 8:00-8:30 pm Eastern Time (check your time zones before you write it down–I mess this one up all the time.) I’ll be there to answer any questions you have about speaking. Anything at all. (Except how much I weigh. I’ll tell you how old I am but not what’s on the scale.)

And here’s another goody… A Great Giveaway!!! One participant (you must be present to win!) will win a free 30-minute coaching call with me which values $115. We can talk about any speaker-y topic you choose.

Here’s what you’ll need to do to participate:

  • Go to the Next Step Speaker Services Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/NextStepSpeaker/) to like us and follow us.
  • On Tuesday, January 24th at 8:00 pm Eastern Time, go to the page, and I’ll be there. Easy peasy! Note: I won’t be able to help with tech glitches but here are a few to try if you can’t see me or hear me…
    • Make sure to restart your computer before 8:00 to make sure you have a good internet connection.
    • Log out of FB. Log back in, and try again.
  • Have your questions ready to type into the comments. I’ll have someone helping me on my end so that I can answer as many as possible.
  • You can type questions and responses into the comments which creates a live conversation where you take part.
  • You can click “thumbs up”, hearts or the other reactions FB gives. I have to tell you that floating hearts encourage me greatly!
  • I’ll answer as many questions as possible in our 30 minutes together. Any that go unaddressed will be future blog posts.
  • Everyone who leaves a comment live that night and is present when the timer goes off (like musical chairs) will be entered into the giveaway for a FREE 30-MINUTE COACHING CALL.

If you can’t participate live:

  • When I finish the video, it will be posted to the page permanently. You can go to the page latter to watch.
  • You can submit your questions to me ahead of time by emailing it to me at amy@proverbs31.org. Questions submitted live will be prioritized, but I’ll get to as many as I possibly can. Any that go unaddressed will be future blog posts.

I hope you’ll be there live with me! Have you marked your calendar? Let me know if I can watch for you!

Amy

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

17 Ways to Grow Your Speaking Ministry in 2017

 

2017 has begun! Do you feel the anticipation of a fresh start? Or the dread of feeling overwhelmed by the possibilities?

I loved Melanie’s post last week on choosing one resolution. I felt myself relax and sigh in relief at the weight of self-imposed expectations lifting off of me. I hope it gave you a sense of hope too.

One of the ways I have to approach growth and change is to make a pray-oritized (prioritizing under God’s direction) list, and I’d love to give you some ideas that you may want to put on your list this year as you seek to grow your speaking ministry. Having a list helps me to keep me from being overwhelmed as a work on one item at a time.

Speaking is a never-ending learning curve of always stretching to communicate in a clearer, more compelling way. No matter where you are in your speaking–a beginner or a seasoned veteran– you can take tangible steps to grow your speaking ministry. Here are my top seventeen tips for 2017:

  1. Spend a day (or as much time as you can carve out) in a quiet place with just your Bible and a journal. Worship, pray, and read God’s Word. Ask Him to speak to you about His agenda for you for the year. Write down what God shows you and ask Him to help you pray-oritize your steps. Read this blog post for more details about a retreat with Jesus.
  2. Pray before you speak, “Lord, help me to love You first and to love these women as you love them.” Watch your focus change and your nerves subside.
  3. Lay aside a percentage of each of your speaking fees for reinvestment back into your ministry.
  4. Purchase a book that will challenge you in your speaking and implement at least one new idea in your next message. My top two suggestions are Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley and Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath.
  5. Schedule time each week to work on your speaking ministry–studying, writing new messages or working on marketing tasks. Put it on your calendar and protect the time!
  6. Seek out someone who lives very differently than you as a friend. One of the ways God is expanding my horizons and teaching me new things is through some friends who do ministry in different arenas as well as two friends who live with significant handicaps. These friendships and the lessons we learn through them impact our messages significantly.
  7. Start saving your pennies and attend She Speaks. It’s a feast for your mind and soul! Registration will open early March. You can go the website today to sign up for an email alert when registration opens. Last year there were 1,000 women on the waiting list, so if this is your year, please, please register early so that you don’t miss out.
  8. Prayerfully set a goal for how many times you’ll speak this year. Be open to all kinds of venues for speaking (including making announcements, emceeing events, teaching Sunday school, etc), and speak as often as possible. Pray for chances to share God’s message and exercise your “speaking muscle”.
  9. Record yourself (smart phones make this super easy) and ask to be recorded each time you speak. Then, listen to yourself. I know it’s excruciating, but you’ll identify more needs for improvement by doing this than by any other single thing.  Video is even better (worse?). Watching yourself will alert you to areas that need work.
  10. Create an updated sample speaking video for your website this year. I went years and years without a video on my website until a friend of mine who is an event planner said, “I would never hire a speaker without seeing a sample video!” It should be short and contain your best moments. Click here and scroll down a little to watch the video produced for me last year. I’m in the midst of working on another one this year. It’s that important!!
  11. Subscribe to blogs that will give you information about being a better speaker and getting the word out about your ministry. We’d love for you to subscribe here for our free weekly speaker tips, of course!  We also have additional information posted on our Facebook page.   Also, I recommend Micheal Hyatt’s blog as well as signing up for Rob Eager’s Monday Morning Marketing Tips.
  12. Listen to great speakers and analyze the structure of their messages.  A few of my favorites are any of my Proverbs 31 sisters, Jennifer Dukes Lee (a former coaching client), Andy Stanley and Ravi Zacharias.
  13. Watch TED Talks to fill your mind with challenging ideas and the opportunity to listen to some fabulous speakers. Here are a few of my favorites: Reshma SaujaniDiana NyadBill GatesJane FondaAmy Cuddy, and my all-time favorite, genius TED Talk by Jane McGonigal.
  14. Choose 12 of Tracie’s marketing ideas, and implement one each month this year.
  15. Get out and live a bigger life. Take a day-trip. Ride your bike. Play with children. Cook international food. Break out of your rut, and do something different! Not only will it energize you, it will give you material for your messages.
  16. Listen to podcasts for communicators. Communicator Academy by Kathi Lipp and Michele Cushatt has shows on topics for both speakers and writers. I don’t miss an episode!
  17. And last but not least…use Next Step Speaker Services to help you individually with message development, editing your writing, message evaluation, developing marketing pieces. If you’d like to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION CALL click here

Melanie and I are here to be your cheerleaders for all of 2017! We’re in this growth process right along with you, so let’s take some next steps together.

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’re planning your speaking year! Which of these tips will you add to your pray-oritized t0-do list? How about copying this list and putting it into your own Word doc so that you can add, delete, and change the order according to your pray-orities?

Amy

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Don’t Miss the Moment

I love the start of a new year filled with possibilities and freshness, a chance to look forward and take steps in a new direction.

And, yes, I even love making New Year’s Resolutions.

I’m embracing some small changes – not sleeping with makeup on and taking care of yucky paperwork immediately rather than procrastinating.

And I’m also moving forward with one bigger resolution.  That’s right.  Just one. In the past I found I didn’t like resolutions because I never could stick with my list of fifteen or so resolutions. That failure defeated and deflated me.

So I’ve found a way to resolve and then realize my one New Year’s Resolution.

Consider adopting these steps, too!

Keep it simple. I often failed in the past because I tried to realize too many goals. So now I reach for one, doable goal.  For example, my resolution this year:

Don’t miss the moment. 

Let me explain a little about my resolution this year. I have a busy, busy mind.  I think about writing ideas, the errands I need to run, is it time to color my hair, or the conversation I just had with a son.  I also ruminate on the past – a lot – to the extent that I miss out on the present.  That’s some of the reasoning behind my resolution. I want to savor and sing in the new moments God brings in 2017.

Find a verse to support your resolution. Pray about this, and trust me – you will find a verse to support a heart’s desire in line with God’s will.

My verse:

Psalm 98:1

O sing to the Lord a new song,

for He has done wonderful things.

Pray about your resolution each day. Read your chosen Scripture each day. Find other related verses. Praise Him. Sing to Him in thanks for the new moments.

Let the Lord produce the new thing in you. Let’s not make this year about measuring ourselves against an imaginary yardstick that is omnipresent for so many of us.

Let’s soak in His presence; worship and adore Him. This will release a new thing in us, like a watered seed bursting from the ground to green stalk, buds, and flowers. Or like a song bursting from the deepest part of our souls. 

That’s it! I’d love for you to join me in keeping your resolution simple this year.  

If your one resolution includes getting a speaking or writing project completed, Amy and I at Next Step would love to help you.

Melanie

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Celebrating with You

 

In the new Communicator Academy podcast hosted by Kathi Lipp and Michele Cushatt, they always end by saying, “You’ve been given the very best message in the world. Now go live it!”

Oh, sisters. We truly do have the world’s greatest message and the best news ever to share. Jesus came. He lived a sinless life in the midst of us that He gave up on the cross. He was resurrected in victory over death to give us victory over the fatality of our sin.

It makes your heart soar, doesn’t it?

This week I’m thankful to celebrate Emmanuel, God With Us, with you!

Worship.

Celebrate.

Rest.

Soak.

Enjoy.

Merry Christmas,  y’all!

Melanie & Amy

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sweet Aroma of Christ

 

Certain sights, sounds, and scents trigger Christmas memories and highlight what we like most about the holiday season.  Today’s verse makes me focus on the scents of Christmas.

2 Corinthians 2:14,15, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of  Him in every place.  For we are a fragrance of Christ…” (NAS)

Along with fragrances like hot chocolate simmering, sugar cookies baking, peppermint candles burning, what does the sweet aroma of Christ smell like?  And more importantly, how do we manifest the fragrance of Christ, especially during the Christmas season?

christmas-mugs

Maybe some of these ideas will help sweeten our aroma.

… spend quiet time every day with Jesus, even if it’s just a few minutes.  Our sweet aroma comes from soaking in Jesus, not trying harder.

… lay down perfection when it comes to Christmas decorations or other traditions.

… show grace with a challenging relative.

…be completely present, listening attentively, unrushed, with a good friend or relative.

…extend patience with cashiers in stores.

…ask family members to choose their favorite Christmas tradition.  Can you do just those things?

…Consider not saying yes to every invitation.

…Call a friend or relative you haven’t talked to in a long time.

…Take a walk in the woods.  Enjoy the hushed quiet.

…Have a pajama night with your family and watch a favorite Christmas movie.

…There’s a time for everything… maybe put aside writing or speaking projects right now, if you can.  Focus on time with the Lord, friends, and family.

May all our Christmases be filled with the sweet aroma of Christ, wherever we go and whenever we speak.

Melanie

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Only You

 

For years when Karen Ehman led our Proverbs 31 speaker team, she gave us an incredible gift–she evaluated messages for us. I faithfully sent one every so often because I learned a tremendous amount from her feedback.

Here’s a re-run of a post by Karen back when she coached with me that includes one of my favorite funny/disasterous stories that she tells. I’m thrilled to share her wisdom with you today!

________________________________________________________________________________

I remember sitting with my friend as she tried to figure out what went wrong. She was a workshop leader at the conference at which we both were speaking. A seasoned communicator, she had opened her session by telling a hilarious story she had snatched off the Internet. While usually the women in her audience roar loudly with laughter at the telling of the tale, that particular morning her funny story had been met with only a few nervous, awkward giggles.

“I can’t figure it out.” She exclaimed to me. “That story has always been such a great opener. Maybe it was my delivery.”

Since I had been in another room teaching my session at the same time, I hadn’t heard the story so I asked her to tell it to me. A few sentences in, I stopped her to inform her exactly why it had bombed.

“Oh no!” I declared. “Weren’t you in the opening main session this morning?” She responded that she had left a few minutes before it ended so she could get to her room and go over her notes before her breakout session started 15 minutes later.

“The keynote speaker in the opening main session ENDED her message with that exact same story!”

So, the women at that conference were told the same story. Yes, just moments apart.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with telling a joke or story or even reading a quote that you found on the Internet, the only way to be sure that your audience hasn’t heard the material in your talk before is to generate your own unique content. But how?

Here are a few methods I have learned over the years:

~ Keep a notepad in your purse. When you see something funny happen, jot it down. When you witness an altercation or interesting interaction, write it in your notebook. Always be on the lookout for situations that happen in your personal life that you might be able to use to make a point or open a message and set up the topic of your talk.

~ Keep a notepad on your nightstand. Some of our best ideas come at bedtime or even in the middle of the night. Also keep a pen and notebook next to your bed so that you can record these too. You know if you wait until morning you may forget. Or, you will be so worried about forgetting that you won’t get to sleep!

~ Watch your loved ones. Oft times our families and friends can provide some great material too. One of your kids needed to learn a lesson the hard way? Does it translate into how God disciplines us? Your spouse have a difficult interaction at work? Your sister have a crazy encounter with a wild animal? Record it and ask God how it might fit into one of your talks.

~ Take a trip down memory lane. Every so often let your mind wander back in time. Type up stories from your own life; from grade school; high school; young adulthood or even last year. Keep them in a file on your computer and check them out every so often to see if one can slip nicely into a message you are working on.

~ Look to scripture more than to social media. Do not spend time just poking around the Internet looking for material. Spend time in God’s word growing your relationship with Him. A strong connection with God is your absolute best resource for great speaking material!

With a little pre-planning and purposeful recording, you can generate some relevant material and thus deliver a unique message that only you can give. And you’ll have no fear that your audience has ever heard it before.

Visit Karen’s delightful blog and make sure to check out her wonderful new book Listen. Love. Repeat.

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