Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Speaking to the Room

Have you ever attended an event with a speaker that you thought, “She gets me.  I’m pretty sure we could have coffee and hit it off.”?  How about the converse?  You sat through a whole message and just knew that the speaker had no idea what your life is like.  She was polished and professional and may have even given a good message, but you left feeling deflated, lonely and discouraged.

As speakers, one of our main goals should be to connect with every person in the room.  That’s a high bar to set.  It’s a struggle to connect with all the ages and stages of life that may be represented, but it’s not impossible.

Several pastors from the Sermon Rocket webinar addressed the difficulty of connecting with so many different people and gave suggestions for tackling the problem.  There were 2 solutions that struck me as things I want to try.

  1. Develop your own creative team.  These are people who are willing to listen to your message ideas and help you develop them.  Perry Noble explained how his team helps him out of his box.  Left to his own devices, Noble said that most of his illustrations would come from football.  Knowing that his entire congregation won’t follow (0r be interested in) those illustrations, he gets other ideas from his team.  When he was preaching about the wreckage of sexual sin, he gathered a group of women to ask them about their experiences.  Even though I’m sure that wasn’t completely comfortable for anyone in the room (!), Noble said that it was one of his most impactful messages ever because of including the women’s perspective and stories.  I’m not on a church staff, so I don’t have a ready-made team.  I started brain-storming, though, and I definitely have people  around me who can be helpful–my husband and boys with the male perspective, my best friends who are creative types, my friends who have had other life experiences.  These are people we can seek out for help as we develop our messages.
  2. Run it by your “ghost friends”.  Jud Wilhite, a pastor from Las Vegas, said that he imagines a variety of people sitting around his desk as he writes his messages.  Although they are not there in person, they are real people in his life.  He asks himself, “What do I need to include for Tim, my friend going through the nasty divorce?  What about for Tina, my single friend who longs for children?  What do I need to say to address Sheila’s needs as she cares for her mom in her last days?”  He goes around the room of his “ghost friends” and thinks about what he needs to include to biblically encourage each in their situation.

Both of these approaches are helpful.  The main thing that we need to keep in mind is that we want to reach out beyond ourselves and our experiences to connect with the whole room.  We need to compel people to step into our messages instead of listening dispassionately from the outside.  Stepping in, engaging and identifying is the only way our listeners will be moved toward transformation.  And transformation is the goal.






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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Setting Up a Message Notebook

As a novice speaker, I was meticulous about my notes. I didn’t just type out a rough outline. Nope. No Roman numerals for me. I typed out nearly each and every word I would say! Then, I ran it off on my old dinosaur computer, tucked the pages in a school pocket folder and was off to my engagement.

As the years progressed, I learned—through the few near disasters that occurred—some ways to streamline my note making. Try these:

  •  DO NOT use notes that are loose pages. They may get out of order. Even if they are cleverly numbered, they still might tumble off the podium leaving you scrambling to reorder them while your audience waits. (Been there. Dropped that.)
  • Use a three-ring binder and clear plastic pages protectors. You know, like the ones used in scrap booking? This way your notes are in order and if you do happen to drop your folder, the pages will stay in the proper order.
  • Use a combo of outline and actual written-out words. If you come to a point where you will tell a story that you are very familiar with, you will just need to put a bullet point (or Roman numeral, if you wish) that states “Tell the story of the family reunion”). However, if there is a certain way you want to word a very important teaching point, you might want to type it out word-for-word.
  • Color-code your notes. It makes it easier on the eyes and helps you to quickly find your place when you are through doing a portion of your talk from memory and then return to your notes. Perhaps stories are in red; main points in blue; outside quotes, lyrics, etc.. are in green.
  • Or, color code for time length. Often a group that has booked you for a 45-minute talk will suddenly say they are running behind due to the craft project or other portion that went long. Now they wonder, “Can you do the talk in 30 minutes?” To avoid having to edit on the fly, I color code my message folders this way. If I have an hour, I cover all the material in my notes (black, red & blue font colors). If I only have 45 minutes, I skip the red. If I only have a half-hour, I skip the blue too, covering only what is in black. This has saved me MANY on-the-fly edit jobs.
  • In the front of the binder, tuck a note that tells what all you will need to successfully give that message. Do you have a visual? Read an excerpt from a book? Need to show an illustration that requires some household items? By listing it there you will save time racking your brain trying to remember what you need to bring with you when you deliver that particular message.

With a little advanced planning, your notes can help you deliver your best message with very little headaches!


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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

She Speaks Registration is Open!

Woooohoooo!  The day that we’ve been waiting for is here!!!!!  She Speaks registration is open.

I think most of our readers are familiar with Proverbs 31 Ministries’ summer conference for speakers and writers, but if you’re new, I want to give you the scoop.  Why?  Because I love She Speaks more than my birthday.  To some of you that might not be a big deal, but I’m narcissistic about my birthday verging on the need for repentance.

Here are my Top 10 Favorite Things about She Speaks:

10.  It’s held at the Embassy Suites which is loveliness balm for a tired woman’s soul.

9.  The place is filled with girlfriends…

8.  Which means that you must go buy one pair of completely irresistible shoes.  You don’t need a whole new wardrobe (more on that in the future), but I give you permission to buy one pair of shoes.  :)

7.  The atmosphere with all those Jesus-loving, single-focused women with like-callings is palpably powerful.

6.  I get oodles of invaluable information from experts in their field.

5.  God pours one huge heart-shift into me every year.

4.  You get a chance to share your book proposal with Christian publishers.  I can’t wait to read your book!

3.  Praise and worship times are filled with God’s Presence.

2.  Other women’s God-stories told in their Speaker Evaluation group builds faith.

1.  He speaks at She Speaks.

Did I miss anything in your Top 10, past attendees?


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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Can You Be Rewarded for Breaking the Rules?

In my last year of teaching in a public schools, I remember having mixed feelings about my principal’s review of a classroom observation she had done.  Her over-arching comment was, “You have excellent classroom discipline.  It’s  your strength.”

Hmmm….on one hand that’s good, because you can’t teach a classroom of unruly children.  On the other hand I wasn’t sure that I wanted orderly children to be the hallmark of my teaching career.  I loved the teaching piece much more than the discipline, and I wanted to be known as a passionate, creative teacher.

As I moved into women’s ministry I often joked that as a former teacher, my motto was “Rule breakers should be punished.”  I most often quoted that about the droves of women who were dying to sign up for our event AFTER the deadline.  Ha!  (Ever been there, women’s ministry leaders?  It’s a wonder you have a hair left in your head!!)

As part of our message development service, I often teach through my message development process and share the pieces of an effective message as presented by Andy Stanley in Communicating for a Change.  Formulas are great for learning and implementing new ideas.

The problem with formulas or a list of rules is that everything starts to look the same.  One of my adored clients said at the end of our time, “Amy, I hate your message development process.”  That made me laugh, because I warned her ahead of time that she might!  Unlike me, she’s a highly creative soul, so the structure that helps me hindered her.

Although I’m a woman who works best with structure, I want to take a page from my creative client.  I need to be willing to suspend my usual way of doing things to take a fresh, new look at a topic or often-used scripture.  Now I tell my clients to be sensitive to what parts of my development process work for them and what parts don’t.  In the end, the goal is to have a tool belt full of tools from which we can pull when we write a new message.

I think the new motto for speaking should be ammended to “Ruler breakers are rewarded.”  I’m not advocating getting crazy with scripture interpretation, after all there’s nothing new under the sun.  God’s Word is constant, but I do think we can ask God to give us a new angle from which to look at His timeless truths so that we can share them in captivating ways to our audiences.

Think about Beth Moore as an example.  She is clearly a woman committed to conveying God’s Word accurately, but she mines more information from scripture that make it come alive than any other Bible study teacher I know.  Just this morning she made me think of James, Jesus’ brother, in a whole new light.  Another example is the way one of my clients wrote her message.  She took the feeding of the five thousand and talked about the faithful mother who had packed her son’s lunch of fish and bread that day.  New.  Fresh.  Still faithful to scripture.

I’m challenged to mix up my tool belt a little and pray for creativity!


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