Monday, April 24, 2017

Do the Work

I have a confession:  I’m envious of my friend Carla’s beautiful legs.

They’re everything mine are not: long, tan, and fit. I know Carla’s beautiful legs can partially be attributed to God’s creation.

But there’s something more to those enviable legs: Carla’s commitment to hours of training at the gym and miles logged on the open road, as she commits to being a runner.

So what about you?  Ever feel envious? What about in the ministry arena? We know we shouldn’t, but sometimes deep down inside we might have those little twinges. As I see my cohorts’ ministries growing, I celebrate with them as they expand the reach of the Gospel with their writing and speaking.  But I’ve also felt twinges of envy at another speaker’s moving message or an author’s best-selling book.

Behind that success, though, just like Carla’s fit and toned legs are a product of hours of sweat I don’t personally witness, the same happens with my ministry friends.

There’s a behind the scenes world I don’t witness.

I don’t witness the times that speaker prepared her talk for several months, only to speak to an audience of ten when she thought it would be 75.  Or the times she serves in her local church teaching women’s Bible study, week after week, year after year.

I don’t see the writer tucking her kids into bed, weary from her day, but staying up till midnight to hone her craft.   I don’t see the rejection letters hidden in a drawer, producing doubts and discouragement.

So, dear friends, we, too, have to do that behind the scenes work.  If we want to be writers, we have to write.  If we want to be speakers, we have to speak.  Wherever and whenever God gives us a chance.

We do the work.

This phrase “do the work” is found in 1 Chronicles 28:20.  David encourages his son Solomon as Solomon is faced with the seemingly insurmountable task of rebuilding the temple:

“’Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.’”

God is with Solomon, but Solomon must do the work.

Just like us.

Melanie

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Business of Speaking: Contracts and Invoices

For the final video in the business series, I want to address the necessity of contracts and invoices.

I have a couple of horror stories about what happens if you don’t have these documents in place, so make sure to watch the video below to avoid having a story of your own.

Click here to watch the video if you’ve gotten this delivered to your email. (You can also click over to read through the comments.)

Click here to read an article about writing your own simple contract, or you can receive Word documents with an easy-to-adapt speaker contract, invoice, and planning tools by doing the Speaker Business Service with Amy Carroll. To find out more information about this coaching service, fill out the Request Information form to start the process for a free consultation call.

Amy

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Monday, April 3, 2017

The Business of Speaking: Taxes

Ugh! It’s that time of year for everybody’s favorite… taxes.

Here’s a short video about taxes for speakers where I talk about research, creating a system and keeping up.


Click here to watch the video if you’re a subscriber.

As promised, here’s an article to get your started on your research:

Complete List of Self-Employed Expenses and Tax Deductions

And my spreadsheet for tax records:

Click here to download

Amy

 

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Monday, March 20, 2017

The Business of Speaking: DIY vs. Hiring Help

It’s always a dilemma to decide if you should do it yourself or hire someone to help as you grow your ministry.

There are 2 categories of help to consider when you’re feeling overwhelmed or unequipped in your speaking ministry.

Watch the video below or click here to find out what they are!

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Monday, March 13, 2017

The Business of Speaking: Setting Up a Small Business Account

Happy Monday, y’all!

As part of working on the new Next Step website, Melanie and I got together and had photos taken together. Just to give you a peek… This isn’t the best photo of us, but it’s the happiest one. 🙂

We can’t wait to share the finished product with you!

When we were together, Melanie urged me to do a series on the business part of speaking, and I seriously hesitated. I wasn’t sure because I feel so under-qualified, but I decided to do it since I wish someone had shared these things with me.

Each Monday at 2:00 pm Eastern Time until I run out of things to tell you, I’ll be doing a Facebook Live video giving you one step each time to build the business side of your speaking. I’ll embed the video here and include an extra resource or two. You’ll get the most bang from the series if you’ll watch the short videos and subscribe so that you won’t miss any of the free resources.

The first video is about my early journey in setting up my speaking and Next Step as an official business. It turns out that there’s some legal steps and paperwork involved. Who knew?!

Here’s part 1:

If you’re a subscriber, click here to watch in Facebook.

Some additional information about becoming an LLC:

  • Click here to find out more from the US Small Business Administration.
  • Google “becoming an LLC in (fill in the name of your state here)”
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Monday, March 6, 2017

Why Is Engaging with Our Readers Crucial?

In February’s blog post we looked at some ways to engage with our readers. I ended that post with a question I’ll answer this week:

Why is connecting with our readers so important?

When we engage our reader with our writing, we create in her thoughts, such as I like this writer.  She makes me laugh and makes me think. She seems like someone I can relate to and someone I can trust.

This connection leads our reader to ask, What else does this writer have to say? Let me keep reading. And this is a good thing! We want our reader to keep reading! As she continues to read, soon she discovers our lives are about following Jesus. Our answers to questions and problems are found in Jesus.

As Christian writers we are not the stars of the show. Our writing must shift to shine the spotlight on the true star of the show, Jesus.

We use all of who we are– our personalities, our thoughts, our skills, our experiences – to give God glory, not ourselves.

Here’s an example of a writer doing this well from one of my favorite books: Your Sacred Yes: Trading Life-Draining Obligation for Freedom, Passion and Joy by Susie Larson 

We feel the ache in our soul when things don’t go the way we’d hoped. We feel frustrated with ourselves when we stumble in the same ways we have for years.  What’s the answer? Look up. Ask Jesus to help us see the worth in our story, the worth in our souls, because we belong to Him.”

Do you see how that works? Susie relates to personal journeys, but then focuses on Jesus.

Praise of our writing is encouraging and intoxicating.  But if we camp out there, the place where our reader thinks we’re awesome, we are in danger of pride and we’re in danger of being nothing more than a self-help book.

So to glorify God with our writing, we must put our reader friends in touch with Jesus.  We can imagine taking our reader’s hand, placing it in the hand of Jesus, and promising her, Jesus is the Life-Giver, the Way, the Truth, and the Lover of your soul. In His love you will find all you need.

Melanie

________________________________________________________________________________

Are you submitting writing for magazines, guest blogs, or other publications? To present a professional product, you’ll need an editor. Melanie Chitwood, the author of this article and Next Step writing coach, has written two of her own books and edited many others. For more information about her editing services and how she might help you with your project, click here.

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Monday, February 27, 2017

Answers to Your Questions: Promoting Your Resources

Happy almost-March, friends!

I want to continue answering your questions that you left via Facebook Live. You’ve led me to talk about some great content, so here we go.

How can you plug your website, offer or book without being tacky? Or is this a no no? ~Tammy

This is an area that has made me squirm too, but I say the answer is a definite yes, YES! However, it takes a shift in mindset to do it comfortably for you personally and for your audience.

In the past, I saw these kinds of promotions at my events as sales-y. I felt insecure in doing them because I didn’t have a clear view of how the resources benefited my audience. I saw it as a little self-serving and so it was self-serving. Yuck. Nobody enjoys that kind of promotion.

Things changed for me when I started really focusing on my audience and how I could leave something of value for them that would last far beyond the event itself. I started asking myself these questions:

  • What books that I personally have benefited from could I bring for my book table that would extend the lessons I shared during my message?
  • What free resources can I point women to that will benefit the whole group, especially the women with no money at the event?

Let me give you an example of how this started to look at my events and how you might fit it to yours.

Free Content

At each event I do an “in a nutshell” talk (less than 5 minutes) about Proverbs 31, and I let women know about our Encouragement for Today devotions as well as our First 5 app. Both of these are incredible content and free resources. I encourage them to download First 5 as I talk and to come to the book table to sign up for our devotions. I’m confident that everyone in the room can grow spiritually from these resources, so it’s easy to talk about them enthusiastically.

For you, you might tell people about your blog posts and give them an opportunity to subscribe. You could also develop a special resource to download on your website for the message you’re bringing. ie. scripture memory cards, a special prayer, a quiz to evaluate their growth, etc. You can put the link on your handout and mention it in your message. Giving away valuable content is generous promotion,so that alone puts most of us at ease and takes the smarmy-factor out of our promotion. It brings people to your website, but if you are faithfully shepherding your message there, that’s something you should feel confident in sharing.

Content to Purchase

I extend the idea of generosity even as I bring attention to my book table. I do a giveaway and let the winner choose between two or three books. I tell a little about each book and how it has impacted me personally to allow the winner to choose the one that’s best for them. That informs the rest of the audience too, so if they’re interested, they can visit the table and buy the book.

If you’re building your email list, have the audience fill out a card that has blanks for their name and email, and draw the winner of the giveaway from those cards. I always tell the audience that their name is the only thing required to win and what they’ll receive if they include their email. That way leaves room for everyone to be part of the giveaway and for the email opt-in to be optional. Again, knowing that what they’d receive via email (blog posts, devotions, a drip campain, a special offer) is  valuable content should give you great confidence as you ask!

One last idea to consider about your content with a cost… All the proceeds from my book table goes to Proverbs 31. Maybe you use your resources table to defray the costs of your ministry, and that’s completely ok. What about giving a portion to a non-profit that you love? You could let your audience know, and that gives you a chance to tell them about a wonderful cause, too.

What ways have you found to promote your resources that are comfortable for you?

Bonus: Last week, my dear friend Tara Furman, founder of Knowing God Ministries, came over for lunch, and she agreed to let me interview her on FB Live. Click here to hear about how she was led to start her own ministry. She’s got great advice! Don’t forget to like and follow Next Step Speaker Services while you’re there.

 

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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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