Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Message Only You Can Give

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 fro 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.


We’d like to alert you about an amazing free resource.  On March 15 at 1:00 pm EST, “Preach Better Sermons” is doing a free online event.  You can find out more here:  http://www.preachbettersermons.com/.  We know we’re not pastors, but with the likes of Andy Stanley teaching, there are sure to be things to learn!

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Into the Future!

I have in my in-box a fabulous new blog post from my partner-in-crime, Karen Ehman, but I’m going to make you wait in suspense until next week while I do some updates.  As we say in the South, come back now ya’ll, ya hear?

She Speaks–Big news!  She Speaks registration will be opening soon.  If you haven’t been, you just have to make plans to join us.  I know I’m prejudiced because I love my Proverbs 31 sisters so much, but it’s honestly one of the very best conferences I’ve ever attended.  You will receive not only a head-spinning amount of information about every aspect of speaking and writing ministry but also the most heart-expanding spiritual retreat you’ve ever experienced.  I promise.  Any former attendees care to testify?

You can go now and see all the breakout sessions that will be offered this year so that you can plan ahead.  The best thing to do is to go ahead and subscribe to the blog.  There aren’t posts all year long, but it will guarantee that you are alerted when registration begins.  It should be within the next week or two.  If you plan to attend, you need to go ahead and register so that you don’t end up on a waiting list 200 women long (seriously).  We’d be so sad to miss you!

Social Networking–If any of you have already joined us on Twitter or Facebook, you know that we’ve done pretty minimal posting.  That’s changing!  We’ll have regular posts at least once a work-day with encouraging scripture, inspirational quotes, helpful tips and fabulous outside resources.  We’ll also pop in a couple times a week with extra insights.  You can join us on Twitter or on by clicking on the box to the right.

Entering the Current Century–One of my clients couldn’t believe that she actually had to find a stamp and write a check for our services.  I know.  I know.  We’re dinosaurs.  Soon we’ll have PayPal on our website for your convenience.  We will also be adding quarterly conference calls to allow you to receive some of the same teaching that we’re offering our individual clients.  Karen and I are so excited to get to know even more of you!

A Request–If you’ve enjoyed our weekly speaker tips on our blog, would you be willing to share and recommend us to your friends who speak or teach?  We are so thankful for each one of you, and we’d love to add to our speaker-girl community.  Since you know that Karen’s post for next week is something to look forward to, now is a terrific time.

Any other questions?–I think I’m caught up on the questions that have been submitted so far.  Do you have any pressing questions about speaking or ministry that you’d like to have addressed on the blog?  Please submit them as a comment, and we’ll be sure to get to yours in the coming weeks.

Thank you for all your love and support, speaker-girls.  I love doing Kingdom building with you!



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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Connecting with Your Audience

We approach the platform; take a breath and pray that the Lord will be honored with our words.

We speak, praying to make a connection with the audience.

Things are going along perfectly and then it happens…

We mispronounce a word, lose our train of thought, forget that important scripture verse, and maybe even walk off the end of the stage.

Yes friends I’ve experienced every one of these things while speaking, yet the Lord still opened the door to make a connection with the audience.

While I don’t recommend you walk off the end of the stage just to make a connection there is an important lesson here.

When speaking, perfection does not guarantee connection. However sincerity, transparency and authenticity create a real opportunity to connect with your audience.

This connection is important if the audience is to receive God’s message, accept His invitation and ultimately change their lives.

You may be the most eloquent and polished speaker, but if your audience doesn’t connect to you and your message, the prospect of them remembering or implementing your message is small.

Here are a few practical steps to help you make a connection:

1.  Be prepared – Study and Pray, pray, pray.

Design an outline to use when speaking instead of using detailed notes.

Generate your PowerPoint or handouts.

Create a memorable opening by posing a question or stating an interesting fact.

Fashion a “call to action” and use this to close your talk.

2.  Keep it simple – Having a simple message encourages your audience to remain engaged. A complicated or complex message will frustrate and confuse your audience and they will be less likely to make that connection.

3.  Let them know you’re human – Telling personal stories will build trust and a connection. Your stories will create a sense of shared values, motivation and inspiration.

4.   Be yourself – Let your personality shine through. You are a precious, unique creation and God has called you to share that.

5“Practice makes progress” – Your goal is connection, not perfection. By practicing and rehearsing you will gain confidence and your presentation will flow in a natural and relaxed manner.

Practicing will allow your personality to shine through.

6.  Be organized  – Having everything you need and packing your bags hours prior to your event will foster a calm and composed spirit.

7.  Minimize potential distractions – Technology is a wonderful tool when it works, it can be a major distraction when it doesn’t. Check with the audio/visual staff to be certain your power point or other technical needs are working properly prior to beginning your talk. Ask someone familiar with the equipment to be responsible for running the equipment during your talk. Fumbling with an unfamiliar remote while speaking will be a distraction for you and your audience.

8. Take a breath – One deep breath before taking the platform will calm your beating heart and focus your mind on the real “star” of your message – Jesus.

9Energy and enthusiasm – If you’re not energetic and enthusiastic about your topic, your audience won’t be either. Varying your voice, inflection, range, volume and speed are valuable when highlighting important points and to animate your anecdotes.

10Be available– Before and after your talk if possible. This connection will boost your message’s effectiveness and will help cement your audience connection.

One word of encouragement here. Do your best to focus on each individual speaking to you. The swirl of activity around you can be distracting, but you want each individual to feel valued and respected.

11.  Sign up– If you have an e-newsletter; invite your audience to sign up for that. This is another way of continuing your connection.

This is by no means an exhaustive list; perhaps you can share some of your best tips with everyone.


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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

First Things First

When I first started speaking, this is what my process looked like:

  • Pray and ask God what to speak about
  • After hearing a topic, write a message
  • Add supporting scripture
  • Deliver

My heart was completely in the right place.  It was my greatest desire to deliver a message that brought glory to God, and I pray that He used those early talks.

It wasn’t until I moved to the Raleigh, NC area and started Bible Study Fellowship that I realized that I had been doing things backwards.  I had been recording my own words before really getting a grasp on God’s Word.

Now my process looks like this:

  • Pray about where to study in scripture
  • Study, study, study
  • Write the message based on what I’ve learned.
  • Deliver

One of the tools that has been the most useful for me in working to understand God’s Word is one that I learned at an Anne Graham Lotz revival years ago.  There are 3 simple-to-remember questions to answer.  Here is the format with some notes on how to fill in each column.

What does it say?

What does it mean? How do I apply this?
  • Write down facts.  This includes answers to the “w”s (who, what, when, where)
  • Write each fact in a brief summary sentence.  Remember, this is your short-hand, so use abbreviations, symbols or anything that you’ll remember later.
  • Put the number of the verse beside each fact.
  • Do not paraphrase.  Use significant words straight from scripture.
 S—Is there a sinto confess?P—Is there a promise to keep?

A—Is there an action to take?

C—Is there a command that I

need to heed?

E—Is there an example to

follow or not to follow?

What are the spiritual truths or principles in this verse?

  • How will I act on this lesson?
  • Write open ended questions—ones that can’t be answered with “yes” or “no”
  • Take time to pray and listen.  Write a response to each question.





To learn much more about using this Bible study method, watch this video of Anne Lotz teaching through it.

You may have a Bible study method that you already love (share!  share!), and it doesn’t matter what method you use.  I want to urge you, though, to start with the study of God’s Word before you write your own.  It’s made all the difference in my messages.  I’d love to hear how it works for you.


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