Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Question I Get Asked Most

There is one question that I’m asked most both here on the website and when I interact with speakers at She Speaks. They want to know, “How do I increase my speaking opportunities?”

It’s such a great question, but it has such a long answer. I want to help answer it today by reposting a series that my sweet friend Tracie Miles wrote for Next Step years ago. Today, I’m reposting the first of the series, and there will be a link at the end to access the series in its entirety.

If you’ve had the most-asked question, you’re going to LOVE this, and even if you’re down the road a bit, the series will be a great refresher! Take it away, Tracie!

________________________________________________________________________________

Doesn’t the term “marketing your ministry” sound crass, or too business like?

Isn’t ministry supposed to be about spirituality and walking through the doors that God opens? 

Isn’t marketing typically done to try to make ourselves known, raise our platforms, increase business, or just make more money?

Is trying to market my ministry a prideful or ungodly thing to do? 

The above questions are ones that most new speakers struggle with as they face the challenge of balancing their desire to speak, versus the fear of being prideful and self promoting.  I know this first hand, because I struggled with that balance when I first felt called into speaking about five years ago.

Even though I felt sure of God’s call on my life to be a speaker. I vividly remember wondering how in the world anyone was going to know that I existed. I also remember wondering why in the world anyone would ever consider hiring me as their event speaker!

However, my ambition and desire to do God’s will was stronger than my insecurities, so I took the plunge and embraced the mindset that if God had planted this dream in my heart,  that He would bless my marketing efforts to move forward with it!

So I began to take some baby steps – such as creating my own website through Yahoo, developing a brochure, a business card, and a promotional postcard, and formulating a mailing lists/database which I compiled from addresses on the internet.

We often fear that through intensive marketing, we will be overstepping God’s will, pushing our name, and trying to make our own paths.

Although these are valid and normal concerns for someone whose heart is sold out for Christ, I believe that God encourages us to invest in ourselves, just as He invests in us.  When our investment pays off, He gets all the glory. As long as we keep pride at bay, we can feel confident in pursuing God’s will.

Think about it this way.  It does not glorify God for us to acknowledge the spiritual gifts that He has given us, and even be thankful for them – but then never use them.

God desires that we use our investments wisely – just like the parable of the five talents in Matthew 25 . Although the word “talents” in the parable is referring to money, you can obviously extend the meaning to other areas as well. If you still have concerns, or even if you don’t, I want to encourage you to take some time to read over that parable in your spare time, and pray about how GOD is calling you to begin investing in YOU.

Now that I have dispelled the myth that you can’t invest in marketing your talents, I want to spend the rest of this marketing series giving you some tips on building your speaking ministry from the ground up.  —Tracie Miles

 

To read the rest of the Marketing Your Message series, click here.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Finding the Up-Sides to Failure

As I sat down to write today, I realized that something rare is happening. I. Have. No. Words.

It’s been one of those weeks with high highs and some low lows. God is doing a work in me, but it’s left me feeling tired and stripped. It’s days like these that I have to ask myself, “Is ministry worth it?”

Earlier today, God reminded me that the answer is always yes because of Jesus. And He reminded me that He has a sense of humor because He used the words coming out of my own mouth to do it.

Today I’m out of wisdom and lessons, but a month ago when I recorded Grit ‘n’ Grace, the new podcast that I co-host with Cheri Gregory, I had a lot of truth to share that I needed to hear (and live) today.

True confession: I actually yelled, “Shut up!” (in the mean way not the funny way) at myself as I listened the produced version. It hurt so good, you know?

So instead of new wisdom, I’m going to share words from a month ago that sank into my heart again today. Here’s a little glimpse of what’s included.

  • It’s actually scriptural that ministry stinks sometimes.
  • Why writing a book has been the hardest journey ever for me.
  • A new (genius) view from Cheri about how to see failure.

Click on the graphic below to listen. (Also I’d love your feedback. Is there anything you’d like to hear Cheri & I process? Anybody you’d like for us to contact for an interview?)

Episode-9-Quote[1] (1)

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Openings, One-Sheets, and On a Mission

Happy Thursday, friends! I’m a little late with the post this week since I was in Charlotte celebrating the release of Lysa TerKeurst’s amazing new book Uninvited. I’m going to answer a couple of questions from readers, but make sure to read to the end for a little more info about the excitement of yesterday and directions to a GIVEAWAY.

Question #1: Do you always begin your opening with a personal story?  I know they are extremely effective, but since I am doing 3 different messages for the same group, would opening with a story become too redundant and predictable? 

I usually do open with a story, but rules are made to be broken. 🙂 When I listen to Lysa TerKeurst, who is an incredibly effective speaker in every way, I always laugh because she breaks all the “rules” I put on myself. What I mean is that she doesn’t use a formula, but nobody would argue with the power of her messages.

Following Lysa’s example, I’m trying to become my creative which means that I can’t follow Andy Stanley’s message outline every single time! (You know I love his book Communicating for a Change but still.) Here are my thoughts about messages at a retreat… I would definitely start the first message with a story. That will allow the audience to connect with you right off the bat, but feel free to change things up in the following messages.

Try it and tell us how it goes. I’m cheering for you!

Question #2: I am wondering, as I am mentally planning to come to She Speaks 2017 with a Book Proposal…..  Do Authors proposing books need a One Page for their Publisher Appointments?

I’m truly impressed that you’re planning ahead to summer 2017! Working ahead like this will keep the pre-conference stress level low and position you for your best publisher appointments.

Yes, I’d create both a one sheet and a book proposal. The one sheet  will give you a concise summary of your proposal to give an editor in the appointment, and then you’ll have the complete proposal to send digitally if they ask for it. I’m not positive about this, but from what I’ve heard, most agents and editors aren’t taking full copies of proposals at the conference because of shipping, etc. Double check that advice when you register, though.

An important piece of advice about She Speaks: Registration for She Speaks 2016 was full a month from the time registration opened. It was a record! We also had over 1000 women on the waiting list at the time of the conference. If you are planning to go to 2017, you’ll need to register early. It usually opens late Feb or early March, but you can also usually enter your email on the site in January to get a notification of when registration opens. I hope to see YOU there next year!

Finally, it’s an exciting, exciting week!

Yesterday, Lysa’s new book Uninvited launched which I’m jazzed about for two reasons. First, it’s a truly tranformative book, and Lysa has leveraged her most vulnerable writing for the most powerful change in us. You’ve got to get a copy.

The second reason I’m so excited about the book is that Lysa is giving every cent of the profits to the work of non-profits, including Mission India. Our P31 International Initiatives team and I went with Mission India in April to see the work they do through literacy classes, and Lysa is sponsoring ten of these life-changing classes.

Uninvited: Mission India from Proverbs 31 Ministries on Vimeo.

Here are a couple more things to check out as you leave:

Click here to go to my personal blog to enter for a GIVEAWAY of Uninvited.

Click here to watch a video about Mission India’s literacy classes.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

An Announcement and Some Encouragement

 

Hi, friends! The month of July was crazy with travel, family activities, and She Speaks, but now I’m happy to be back with YOU. Thanks for hanging in there with me while I took a little blogging break.

I’m coming back with the best of news. Next Step is adding a coach!

My friend Melanie Chitwood is joining me to help those of you working on writing projects. You can click here to find out about her background and click here to read about her editing services.

Here’s what my friend Wendy Pope has to say about Melanie:

“Melanie has such a sweet spirit and a special gift of exposing the strengths and weaknesses in your writing. She is a wordsmith who will tenderly help you craft your message with excellence. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to work with her!”  ~Wendy Pope, Proverbs 31 Ministries Speaker and Writer

If you are interested in Melanie’s writing services, she’ll begin doing FREE consultation calls next week. Simply fill out the Request Information form by clicking here to schedule a conversation with her.

Melanie was always the friend I gravitated to at She Speaks when I first joined the P31 team, so I was delighted to have her back there with me this year. Here we are goofing off in the photo set.

IMG_5613

Out of the tenderness of her heart, she typed out a post for you as soon as she got home. She’ll be posting writing tips each month, but for August she shares some great advice about getting past being overwhelmed after a conference.

Take it away, Melanie!

What to Do After You Return Home

Many of you stopping by Next Step this week will have just attended the amazing Proverbs 31 She Speaks Conference, a P31 conference held once per year for aspiring Christian speakers, writer and leaders).

When you come home from this conference (or any kind of retreat or conference), sometimes your feelings and thoughts will be all over the place.

You’ve been filled up with such good teaching, ideas, and plans!  At the same time now you’re back home where the messy house and the piles of laundry are making you anxious.  And responsibilities of kids, hubby, and work are pulling at you.  Maybe some of these feelings ring true to you.  You’re….

  • Exhausted
  • Excited
  • Eager
  • Overwhelmed
  • Confused

We understand!  We both have been attendees and have been ministering at a variety of events for years – and we still get some of these feelings!

We’d like to make some post-conference Next Step suggestions for you. 

Take a deep breath and exhale. 

Literally do that right now.

Realize you don’t have to figure it all out today, right now.  You don’t have to map out your whole ministry plan today.  You don’t have to figure out how your ministry is going to come together, all while balancing your other responsibilities. You’re going to get there, one step at a time.

You’re not going to miss out on opportunities.

You’ll start to hear about the direction other women are headed in ministry.  You’ll hear about others’ blog posts and websites and speaking opportunities and book contracts.  You might start thinking, I’ve get to get on it or I’m going to miss out. 

No, you won’t.  You won’t miss out on God’s assignment because we know you have a heart longing to obey God.  Otherwise you wouldn’t be worrying about all this!

You are not going to miss out on God’s assignments for YOU.  Open doors will come at the right time for you and the ministry God has called you to.  Ecclesiastes 3: 1 promises us, “There is a right time for everything.”  Trust Him with the timing as you seek Him. 

Seek Jesus. 

That’s the bottom line. 

And that’s your NEXT STEP.   As you seek Jesus, ask Him to show you just the next step.  And then obey.  Whatever that is.  And then ask Him for the next step, and the next.  You don’t want to run ahead of God in your own efforts, and the converse is also true: you don’t want to lag behind out of disobedience.

God knows your heart.  He’s got you.  He’s the best partner you could ever have.

We’ll continue to blog about taking one step at a time in the ministry God has called you to.  We look forward to your feedback, questions, and comments on our blog.

Melanie

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Monday, June 27, 2016

How NOT to Drive an Event Planner Crazy

To get ready for my breakout session at She Speaks this year, I’ve been asking speaker friends like you to share your creative ideas for adding value to your events. It’s been great to get your feedback!

Last week I suddenly realized that I hadn’t tapped an important group for the information I was seeking–the event planners themselves. I figured it would be valuable to hear what had been important to them instead of just shooting in the dark for what might be important to them.

Duh! The responses I got were so enlightening!

In reading the lists they sent me, though, I realized that I’ve probably been one of the speakers that tends to drive event planners around the bend. I’ve never meant to be the vehicle to crazy-ville, but I probably have been. I realized that I do really well on some points but that in my heart’s desire to avoid being the diva speaker, I actually haven’t given them enough information.

Here’s an example…

When I arrived to one particular event, I realized that I needed a couple of things. I needed the wireless internet passcode, and I really needed the stage rearranged. It was set up with one of those humungous podiums in the middle and musician’s equipment close to it on both sides.

What to do?

I had to ask for the passcode since I needed it for the book table, so the event planner scrambled around asking about a dozen people before she found it.

By that time, I felt so bad that I didn’t want to bother her with the stage layout, so I didn’t mention it. That seemed like the right thing to do until an attendee afterwards said, “I felt so sorry for you up there. You looked so STUCK!” Oh, dear. I thought I hid it well and compensated, but the truth was that I felt so stuck!! I like to move around and hate to stand behind a podium, so I had been completely miserable while I delivered my message. Evidently, it showed. 🙁

One of the event planners listed both of those things as details she wants to know ahead of time, so I’ve developed a new tool to share with you. Click on the image below to see my new “Details for Amy” doc.

Details for Amy

I don’t want to lead with my “list of demands”, so I’ll send this as a follow-up to event planners after we’ve talked personally. I want to first load her up with my heart for service and warm-fuzzies so that she understands this is to be a help and to make the day of the event as smooth as possible. (You’ll also notice that I worked to make it look cute, warm and a little fun. Graphic design is a beautiful communicator.)

Feel free to make your own version of this doc if you think it would be helpful to you!

________________________________________________________________________________

This will be my last blog post until August. July is crazy-busy with She Speaks prep, so it’s a non-blogging month.

Would you help me to a make a decision by giving your honest feedback? I’m thinking about taking my “Added Value:Giving Your Events More Than Just Enough” as a webinar in the fall. Would that be a topic that would interest you? Would you be willing to make a small investment in your ministry to be part of it? Be honest–I promise you won’t hurt my feelings!

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

If You Like to Speak WAY Better Than You Like to Write

 

I don’t want to be a whiner, because I know that I have amazing opportunities to write. To be honest, though, I like speaking so much more than I like writing. Writing is hard, hard work for me, and sometimes I just don’t want to do it.

Imagine the delight I’ve been experiencing in two new mediums: podcasting and Facebook Live!

If you’re in the boat with me on writing, you’ve GOT to try these mediums! They are ideally suited for speakers and both are up-and-coming ways to communicate.

I started the day by listening to a recording of Chrystal Evans Hurst from She Speaks 2015. Her session was on podcasting, and she gave fabulous advice. Chrystal predicts that podcasts will grow in popularity because of the mobility factor on smart phones and because people can choose exactly what they want to listen to.

About six weeks ago, my friend Cheri Gregory approached me about being her co-host on a new podcast. Can I just tell you that we’re having a blast, and it’s my favorite thing I’ve done in a long, long time. I’m energized to the point of super-charged! If you want to listen to one of our first episodes with the fabulous Kathi Lipp, I’ve included the hyperlink below.

Today, completely on a whim (re: I’ve chickened out hundreds of times, and I decided if I posted that I was about to try it, I would have to close my eyes and leap!), I did my first video on Facebook Live. I had already decided that I didn’t want to write a blog post on my personal blog today, so I was going to video a vlog on my iPhone, upload it to Youtube, and embed it.

Instead, I did the video on FB Live, and it was fantastic fun even though it’s wildly imperfect! I hope I get better as I go along, but there are some definite instantaneous rewards for a speaker girl:

  • It’s fast and easy.
  • I can’t agonize over and and try to edit all my flaws out. Water under the bridge, baby!
  • I LOVE interacting with the people watching. I’ll have to learn to do that better, but I’m such a relational girl that I can already tell FB Live is going to become one of my favorites.
  • Seriously, FB Live unlocks Facebook! I have been incredibly frustrated at how little coverage my posts on my ministry page get. When I heard that video is loved by the FB algorithms, I figured their version of video would fly the farthest. I was right! That post has already gotten more views than anything else I haven’t paid for, and it’s been less than 2 hours since I did it. Awesome sauce!
  • You can embed your video in your blog and let it do double duty.

So there you go. I’m not the one to help you with all the steps to implementation, but there are lots of free tutorials out there to help you. I especially love the tutorial videos on Youtube.

If you’re curious, click here for the podcast and click here to watch the video (or watch below).

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Tips for She Speaks 2016

It’s only 5 weeks until She Speaks!!! Even though I know you’re not all going this year, I’d love to whet your whistle for going at some point and to encourage those of you who are going.

Years ago, I wrote a series of tips on She Speaks that tap into my first experience as an attendee. You can read the series by clicking on each link below:

Tip 1

Tip 2

Tip 3

Tip 4

Tip 5

Tip 6

Do you have any questions about She Speaks either as a 2016 attendee or a possible future attendee? I’d love to answer them in the comments!

_______________________________________________________________________________

BTW: My friend Cheri Gregory and I have started a new podcast. We’re so excited, and we’d love for you to check it out by clicking here!

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What To Do After an Event

 

Just on time! I was wondering about what to write to you this week, and my client Rachel sent me a great question.

How do I manage after I’ve spoken when I’m no longer running on adrenaline – when I get home and I’m replaying the event in my mind and how I did. It’s difficult.

Have you run into this too? I had asked Rachel to tell me about how her event went, so she started to evaluate… and maybe veered into picking herself apart. I’ve sure driven myself into the emotional ditch after an event!

Before the event, we study, prepare, write, and practice, but how do we deal with our thoughts post-event? I’ve learned to do two things in a specific order.

Celebrate what God did through you.

For about a day or two, I won’t allow myself to critique my message. I just bask in and celebrate God’s work at the event. I offer the flowers of positive comments to Him as a bouquet, praise Him for the results women shared, and rest in my delivery.

Ten Boom quote

I’ve learned that right after the event I’m too tender and too tired to do the work of critique without getting discouraged.

Critique your message. 

Celebrate and don’t negate the work of God, but assessment is important work too. This is easiest to do if you have an audio recording or video of your message. I ask for on every time I speak. Sometimes it’s not available–and that’s ok– but if it is, I ask for a copy. If you don’t have a recording, you can go through your message and think about the event.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you listen or think through:

  • Did the audience respond the way I thought they would in each section?
  • Was I holding their attention in each section?
  • Which sections felt too slow or “clunky”?
  • What felt unnatural to me as I presented?
  • Do I hear any vocal crutches– um, uh, and others?
  • Did I use my voice to its greatest potential with variation in volume, pitch and rate?
  • Did I employ pregnant pauses around powerful points in order to let the audience ponder a second?

If you’re watching video, you can also asses your physical presentation. You need to make sure to do that sooner than later even though it’s excruciating!

Usually, if I allow time to celebrate before I critique, I can be more dispassionate about it instead of feeling crushed by my inner critic. Self-evaluation is an extremely important tool to learn and grow as a speaker, but we don’t want to be our own worst enemies, and we certainly don’t want to forget the work God undeniably is doing through us!

 

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Boasting in You

 

My mama taught me that it isn’t nice to brag, and I’ll bet yours did too.

But it turns out that our mamas weren’t quite right. The Bible actually endorses bragging as long as it’s bragging (or the word is actually boasting) in the right person. Here’s how Paul says it to the Corinthians:

“We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory.  But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”  (II Corinthians 10:14-17)

Paul uses the word “boast” over and over again in his letters to the Corinthians, and when I was teaching on this passage in a session from my Breaking Up with Perfect retreat, I took a look at the definition of the root word. In scripture, the word boast could also be translated as “rejoicing in” or “glorying in.”

Our Proverbs 31 speaker team had a call last week, and Lynn Cowell began to encourage us to boast more– to boast in what we are seeing the Lord do as we go and speak.

I find it hard to break that old habit of not boasting at all, but I think Lynn’s right. When we boast in Jesus’ work instead of our own, it’s something entirely different. It’s rejoicing in Him. It’s giving Him the glory. Boasting encourages the people around us. It reaffirms the continuing work of God. It gives people hope that if God works in that situation, He can work in theirs too.

Listen to how my friend Sharon Glasgow did it on her Facebook page:

“Our 87 year old ‘Farmer’ neighbor fell off his tractor, it rolled over his chest, crushing bones and causing internal damage. He laid on the ground for 4 hours and couldn’t move. When help found him, they said his cows surrounded him in a circle! We asked the neighbor telling us the story what they were doing, he said, ‘Praying!, The Farmer came to a wedding in our barn this past weekend. Yep! He’s alive, well and still farming! God’s got more work for him here!” ~Sharon Glasgow

Sharon is always overflowing with stories of God’s power, and I often read her bragging on Him on Facebook by telling what she has seen Him do at her speaking events.

I want to begin this practice of bragging on Jesus! So here I go:

Last weekend I spoke at Highland Baptist Church in New London, NC. To tell you the truth, even though the women were warm and complimentary as they left, I wasn’t sure if my message had made much of an impact. I collected all my things,including the cards on which they had written a break up letter to Perfect, and left. The next day, I fished the break up letters out of my bag and began to read. Tears filled my eyes when I realized that Jesus had truly set women free. They declared freedom from:

  • Worry
  • Being in control of everything
  • Fixing everyone
  • Loneliness
  • Being judgmental, critical, and complaining
  • The insecurity of caring what others think of them more than what God thinks
  • Trying to be what they’re not
  • Feeling unworthy and not good enough
  • Working to do everything right
  • Trying to make everyone like them
  • Playing games
  • Worrying about not measuring up or having all the answers
  • Competing with others
  • Shame and feeling inferior
  • Being embarrassed by their physical appearance
  • Fear of not meeting expectations
  • Trying to be the perfect mom, perfect wife, perfect friend and keep a perfectly clean home
  • Feeling shame over past sin
  • Jealousy and distrust
  • Feeling responsibility for a loved one’s betrayal
  • Handling all the problems for their children
  • Holding on to hate

Whew! Y’all!!! Jesus was doing tremendous work behind those beautiful, smiling faces, and I wouldn’t have know if they hadn’t been so honest in their break up letters.

So I’m bragging on Him. He is good, and He is at work. How about you? Would you brag on Jesus here? How have you seen Him at work lately?

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Key Ingredient for a Growing Speaking Ministry

 

This week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by a former Next Step client and forever friend, Christy Mobley. I’ll share the whole interview (and a great new resource) when it’s available, but she asked me a question that still has me reflecting.

“Amy,” Christy asked, “what was the best piece of advice that you got as a new speaker?”

I didn’t even hesitate in my answer. Not only is it the best piece of advice I personally received, but it’s advice I pass on to other speakers all the time. Here it is.

Strong Messages

Don’t get me wrong. In this world of warring messages, marketing matters, but nothing counts as much as a strong message.

When I first joined the Proverbs 31 Speaker Team, I had no marketing materials. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. No website. No biosheet. Not even a business card. So you can imagine how I felt when I measured my ministry against the other amazing women on the team and all their bright, shiny marketing materials. I panicked!

When I started into high gear to produce the materials that I thought were essential to growing my speaking ministry, Renee Swope, who was then overseeing our team, intervened. She said, “Amy, your main focus should be on learning to create strong messages. If your messages don’t live up to your marketing, you will have missed the expectations of the event planners. Unfortunately, word of mouth works both ways–both positive and negative– so you want to exceed expectations, not fall short.”

Best. Advice. Ever.

How do you feel about your messages? Do you feel confident about your message development and delivery?

Here’s what I’ve decided for myself. Learning to develop strong messages that connect with the heart of my audiences is a life-long endeavor. It’s not that I just want to be perceived as polished and professional. The deepest desire of my heart is to communicate the Gospel in the most effective way possible. Because we live in an ever-changing culture, the learning curve to communicate a never-changing Truth is unending. I’m always working to create stronger messages!

Here are a few ways that I challenge myself to stay a learner instead of considering myself an expert:

  • Read books on communication. It’s truly a craft to study, so I love to be challenged and grow. A few of my all-time favorites that I use as constant references are Communicating for a Change (on sale right now in the P31 bookstore!) , Made to Stick, and Resonate.
  • Attend conferences. She Speaks is full this year, but why not start saving your pennies for next year? I love it more than my birthday, and that’s a mouthful for a girl who’s a narcissist one day a year!
  • Listen and listen and listen to other speakers. Make yourself a sponge when it comes to assessing another speaker. What do they do really well? What missed the mark? How do they keep their audience engaged? Where did they lose you? Since it’s important to be able to turn off this critique and just be a learner at times, TED Talks are a better time to do this than in your church on Sundays! 🙂

How are you learning to create stronger messages? I’d love to pick up some tips from you!

Note: Did you know that you can share the graphics from my posts in your social networks just by being on the website, passing your cursor over it, and clicking on your favorite network’s icon? Give it a try! If you’re a subscriber receiving this post in your email, just click on the title of the post in your email to go to the site. You can also get these graphics and other speaker goodies by joining Next Step on Facebook and Twitter. I’d be thrilled to see our Speaker Girl community sharing it up each week!

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