Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Organizing Your Research

 Karen and I are so pleased to have our friend Glynnis Whitwer guest blogging today.  She’s our go-to-girl for all things organizational, so when one of our readers asked a question about organizing her speaking materials, we knew that Glynnis would be the one to help us all.  Please welcome her!

Years ago I walked into my pastor’s office a bit in awe.  The woodsy smell of books spoke of his love of all things associated with words and the Word.  He conveyed a scholarly attitude as we discussed the theological question that brought me to his office that day.

After sharing Scripture and some thoughts on my questions, he rose and took a few steps to a tall filing cabinet adjacent to his desk.  Opening the second drawer, he reached in and pulled out a manila file packed with papers.  Before he could close the door, my nosey self had glimpsed into the inner sanctum of how a pastor organized his research. 

The drawer was filled with files just like the one he pulled out.  Each was labeled with a different topic and sorted alphabetically.  There must have been hundred of files!  Our attention then turned to the file in his hands and he opened it to reveal magazine clippings, hand written notes, jokes and stories all pertaining to the topic at hand.   

His effortless ability to access his collection of information impressed me then and now.  And the visual image of organizing information is one that inspires me to do the same.  Especially since my capacity to forget things astounds me.  Ideas that seem so brilliant I will NEVER forget them somehow vaporize the next day.  Websites I’m sure I’ll remember are lost in cyberspace, never to be found again. 

As a writer and speaker, the ability to organize and access my research is critical – especially when I’m working on a project like a book or a retreat.  I never know when I might want to refer to a resource. And if my writing needs footnotes, I can waste a lot of time backtracking.  

Now that I’ve written a few books, here are some tips that helped me keep things in order. 

1)     As I start researching the topic, I pull books from my bookshelf and keep them together.  That way I remember which books I’m using.

2)     Then, I set up folders in Word for each chapter.  For those who prefer to manage paper, this can also be done by setting up actual folders or an accordion file.

3)     As I discover things I want to remember, I create documents within the folders.  Usually I start with a simple Word document into which I type ideas, quotes, facts, stories, etc.  I also copy and paste websites into this document.   

For example, in my last book I had a chapter on time management.  Months before I wrote the chapter, I started compiling ideas into the folder.  So when I got to that chapter, all my research was in one place.

4)  For quotes in a book that need a footnote, write your footnote as you copy your quote.  It will save you hours.   

5)     Use folders to organize websites.  Get to know how your Internet browser organizes links.   Learn to use folders to save important websites.

6)     For those who are more comfortable using digital programs, consider organizing all your ideas with online note taking software like Evernote, Springpad, OneNote or Simplenote.   

The key to effectively organizing information is to have it all in one place – whether that’s a 3-ring binder and paper, Word folders or a digital software.  The ideas are what matter, not how you manage them.

 Glynnis Whitwer is a wife, mother, author and speaker.  Her newest book, I Used to Be So Organized, has help ranging from our thoughts to our homes  for the organizationally-challenged .  Glynnis is the editor of P31 Woman Magazine and leads the writers for Proverbs 31Ministries.  She loves office products, Starbucks and singing to Jesus.  You can read more of her down-to-earth wisdom at www.glynniswhitwer.com. 

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Group Services Have Arrived!

It’s finally here!  Karen and I would like to announce the beginning of our Group Services.  On Thursday, June 21 at 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time, Karen Ehman will lead our first conference call on how to identify your specific ministry calling.  Here’s the call description:

 Finding Your Niche

Have you felt the general call of God to speak to women but are a bit iffy on the specifics?  Need to hone in on what makes you uniquely “you” including your speaking messages, social media focus and online presence?  Listen and learn as Karen equips you to:

  • Find your areas of expertise by taking inventory of your strengths, weaknesses, loves and loathes.
  • Blend your life experiences, talents and spiritual gifts together to obtain your ministry niche.
  • Unearth your hidden passions and turn them into powerful messages.
  • Make it “match”–your online persona and your personal life.
  • Discover your unique place in God’s plan that will change lives–yours and your listeners!

Each call for our Group Services is $25.  We will be allowing purchase one at a time so that you can pick and choose the calls that are best for you.  After registering on our Group Services page, you will receive call-in information and a handout to compliment the content of the call.  During the call, you’ll not only get a chance to glean from Karen’s 20+ years of experience, there will also be a Q & A time at the end when you will have the opportunity to ask your specific question.  For complete details about our upcoming Group Services or to register for the call, please follow the link to visit the page on our site.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Power of Simple

Walking through the woods in NC where I live is an adventure.  We’ve got a bevy of venemous snakes to keep your eyes peeled for in addition to that lovely three-leafed plant, poison ivy.  When you get home, you may also have to rid your clothes of a nuisance that we call “hitch-hikers”.  Do you know what I’m talking about?  They’re the seed of some plant that sticks like glue to your clothes.  Ridding your clothes of these seeds after a walk in the woods is a chore!

A few months ago, a reader asked me what I meant by “sticky messages”.  I wanted to give you the visual of our woodsy “hitch-hikers” to let you into my brain.  I want my messages to be just like those little seeds–so “sticky” that they’re hitch-hikers that don’t simply fall off as my audience walks out the door.  I want my message to ride home and seriously mess with the lives of my hearers.

There’s one very simple way to make sure our messages are sticky.  Keep them simple.  The old-school 3 points and a poem may be wonderful to listen to but often hard to remember.  Andy Stanley, in his message-transforming book Communicating for a Change, is a huge proponent of the one point message.  Here are a few tips to keep a one point message meaty and full of rich content:

  • The point should not be a dumbed-down sound bite.  It should be a proverb.  In Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, they explain that these points should be short, concise statements with long experience.  Think of the golden rule as an example of a very sticky statement.
  • Creating a “sticky statement” based on a truth or principle from scripture gives you a core that a whole message can be written around.
  • Make the statement so relevant that people will bump into it in their every day lives within 24 hours.  This is a principle that Lysa TerKeurst taught me.  In her She Speaks keynote last year, her sticky statement was “Let God chisel.”  It’s the rich truth that God uses the hard circumstances of our lives to make us more beautifully into His image.  Just consider the myriad of applications that each woman in the room could make.  It’s a relevant truth that will be applicable immediately.

Creating a core, sticky statement is just one way to make your messages sticky or memorable.  What ways have you used to make your messages memorable?



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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How to Connect with Humor Even If You’re Not Funny

I love to laugh.  But I’m not funny.  Sad but true.

I know that one of the quickest routes to connection with our audience is to make them laugh, but too often I’ve been left standing with crickets chirping after telling what I thought was a funny.  I’ve learned a few methods over the years (through the school of hard knocks) that have helped me get my funny on, and I’ve tried to learn from others.  I’m not shooting to be Chanda Pierce, but I do long to allow people to laugh and connect.

If you’re humor-challenged too, here are a few tips for adding some humor to your speaking:

  • Collect funny stories from outside sources– There are so many funny stories being written or told that I’d be remiss not to recommend sometimes using other people’s funny.  Be careful, though.  It should be a story that’s fresh, not a forward that half the world has read.  I’ve got a hilarious story  I read on the internet that I use in one of my talks, but I’ve never heard it anywhere else.  Also, make sure to give an outside source credit rather than acting like it’s your own.
  • Take cues from your own life–I have an aunt and uncle who have countless hours of funny stories from their own life.  Although it does seem that more funny/wacko things happen to them than anyone I know, it’s really just their perspective.  Even disasters are hysterical, because they see them as funny.  Pay attention to your own daily life, and you’ll have material until the end of time!  Jeff Foxworthy recommends keeping blank notecards with you so that you can write down observations from real life.  You’ll have a file of hilarious stories and thoughts in no time.  Also, I’ve learned that self-deprecation is my best form of humor.  Making fun of my own goofiness is the best way to get people to laugh with me.
  • Practice–Give your stories a trial run in front of family members or friends in conversation.  Do they laugh?  Their reaction is an indicator of how an audience will probably react.  Their laughter will be a confidence builder for the day that you tell it in front of a group.
  • Let yourself go a little–One of the things that I’ve had to fight from within is the tendency to shut down emotionally when I get on stage.  It’s purely a selfish self-protection mode, but it is a negative when trying to connect with my audience.  I’ve found that praying to be focused on the audience rather than myself allows my natural expressiveness and animation to come out.  Those things enhance funny stories.  I gave the qualification “let yourself go a little“, because too much is just too much.  When listening to the recordings of my speaking, I’ve noticed that I laugh at myself.  Out loud.  Too loudly.  There’s nothing like awkward laughter to make an audience clam up.  I’ve been working on making a face or dead-panning rather than laughing my goofy laugh.

Occassionally I still hear crickets after I’m pretty sure I’ve been hilarious, but it’s less often now.  Have you had to find your funny?  What’s working for you?


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