Don’t Be Afraid to Soar in 2014!

Happy New Year! Everyone says that.

Does it ever drive you nuts?

Sometimes the new year doesn’t seem so happy. It prompts me towards so much introspection I dread it. Whenever the new year is upon us, it makes us look at our goals, and wonder, “did I meet them? Am I where I want to be?”

There is often not a time that I want to give up as much as when the new year hits.

And so today I’m here to tell you: don’t look at your goals. It’s okay to re-evaluate. And it’s okay to start fresh. You don’t need to feel like a failure if 2013 didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to.

I put in 12 years of hard work before my ministry really took off. I second guessed myself so many times. I thought about throwing in the towel, but never really felt God releasing me. And then two years ago it was as if everything clicked, and my writing, my blogging, and my speaking has been soaring.

But if you had talked to me on any New Year in 2004, or 2006, or 2008, I would not have been so happy. I would have expressed a lot of doubt. Is this where I’m supposed to be?

One thing I really appreciated about Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success, is how he said success is usually not due to chance. It’s due to practice. And it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert, a proficient, a “natural”. It definitely took that for me, and it will likely take that for you, too. We look at the Beth Moores and the Lysa Terkheursts and the “big names” in Christian speaking and writing and forget that they likely toiled for years before anyone knew their names.

If God has given you a passion, and if God has called you to something, then don’t quit just because it’s taking a while to arrive there. Yes, wrestle with your calling. Yes, ask for it to be confirmed by a friend, or by mentors, or by pastors. Yes, ask for people to pray with you. But unless you feel a “releasing”, keep going.

Personally, I haven’t updated this blog very much recently because I’ve been so busy with my main blog, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, and with my writing and speaking. I have two (yes, TWO!) books due by June 30. And I have a big blog to keep going. But I do want to stay helpful to those of you who are just starting out. I would have LOVED to have had some help when I was starting.

One of my gifts at Christmas was a camera that takes great video, and I’m hoping to start some “vlogs” where I talk into the camera and help you all. If I have time, I hope to get to that soon.

But I’m also wondering what you want me to talk about. One idea I had was to talk more upfront about money. Any of you wonder how much you can make at this, or what to expect? I find that we often are embarrassed to talk money (although it’s never bothered me), but then if you’re starting in a field you have no idea what to expect. If anyone wants anything more practical, let me know.

Or do you want more spiritual, like how do you wrestle through your calling?

Let me know in the comments, and I’ll try to find time to write and encourage you!

Happy New Year!

When Do I Quit My Day-Job and Start Speaking Full-Time?

When can you start speaking full time?I received an email recently which asked,

I feel the call of God to speak so strongly! I have a great message and I so want to share it. But I can’t do all the training and planning and practicing that I want to do while I’m still working full-time at 10 hour days. I feel like I should be willing to step out in faith and quit my job, but is that wise, especially when our family needs my income?

Excellent question, and one that I know many people struggle with! So let’s break this down and look at how to make this decision.

1. How Often Can I Reasonably Handle Speaking?

Before you quit, we have to count the cost and plan ahead. In Luke 14:28-32, Jesus tells us that we need to count the cost before we do something drastic and commit to something big.

So let’s take a look and ask: what income can I reasonably expect to make from speaking?

Well, that depends on how much you can charge and how often you speak. Let’s say that you’re able to set your fee at $500 for an engagement. To make $40,000 a year, you’d have to speak 80 times. That’s 1 1/2 times a week, every week, including all through the summer and around Christmas.

Now, if your fee were $1500 per weekend retreat, you’d have to do about 27 retreats to make $40,000, or roughly every second weekend.

Just a few thoughts about that: Speaking that often is extremely draining and extremely tiring. I’ve done the 8 weekends in a row thing in the springtime, when churches have lots of retreats, and it isn’t fun. If you have children at home, you can’t be gone every weekend, or even most weekends, assuming they’re in school. You’ll never see them!

If you speak that often, too, it’s likely that you’re traveling a great deal. There just won’t be that many speaking engagements close to where you live. So speaking will mean driving or flying, usually for several hours, and sometimes for up to a whole day.

So you have to ask yourself: assuming that I didn’t have a job, how often would I honestly like to speak? How much can I be away from my family?

2. How Likely Is It That I Can Fill My Calendar with Speaking Engagements?

You have a number in mind: I want to speak this number of times in a year. But can you get those engagements?

Remember, speaking requests tend to grow from word of mouth, not just from doing a ton of marketing. So your calendar will likely fill up only because you have already done some speaking. It grows exponentially from there.

A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself: how many speaking requests have I had in the last year? You may have had some you weren’t able to do because of time commitment problems, but include them. Now, if you went full-time, you can likely expect that amount to double if you spend some time cold calling local churches and networking. But it’s unlikely to triple or quadruple right off the bat.

Having engagements lined up, I believe, is one way that God confirms to us that this is our calling. If you have difficulty getting any engagements at all, then perhaps it’s better to spend some time honing your speaking skills before you take that leap. It may be that God wants you to share your story in a different way, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all.

3. Do I Have Products to Sell?

One way to boost your income when you speak is to have a book table. I tend to make more from selling products than I actually make from my speaking fees, which is a huge bonus. Thus, if you decided that you needed to do 27 retreats to make the $40,000, you may only have to do 15 or 20 if you have product to sell that can make you that extra income.

Having at least three things that you sell boosts your income quite substantially. My download on Creating Products to Sell When You Speak can help you brainstorm different products to sell–from traditional books to things you likely never even thought of!

4. Decision Time: When Do I Quit and Speak Full-Time?

My rule of thumb, then, would be this:

Do not quit your day-time job until you have:

  1. 2 items to sell on a product table, with at least one other idea that you could create quickly once you have time. These items must already sell well when you speak.
  2. Booking requests equal to at least one half of what you would need to support yourself for a year.

Even then, it’s still very risky. Another option is to stop working full-time but go to part-time work so that you can supplement your income, but still have more time to develop your speaking ministry.

Many of us have a passion to speak, but I believe that God wants us to be wise with what He has given us, including the family that we may have to help support. It certainly is easier to build a speaking ministry when you don’t have full-time job commitments, but before we make that leap, I think we should confirm with God that this is where He wants us to be, by looking at where we are now and asking if God has prepared us for this yet.

For most of us, that will take a few years–sometimes even up to a decade! That waiting can be hard. But if He is building this in you, then He knows the timing, and He will release you from your job when you are ready.

Let me know: what are your considerations for taking the leap and going full-time? Have you quit a job so that you have more time to speak? What advice would you give to others in the same situation?

How to Practice Before Giving a Talk

How to Practice Your Talk Before You Give It--advice for speakers

You’re going to be standing at that podium for 45 minutes, looking into the faces of all those people who have paid to come out to this event and hear you speak. You have to fill that time. You have to sound professional. And most of all, you want to be effective for God.

But how do you practice so that the talk goes well? Yesterday we were talking about how to PREPARE–how to get the talk written and get yourself in the right frame of mind to deliver it. But now let’s talk about the actual practicing of it.

Identify the “Tricky Bits” in Your Talk

I think of practicing a talk a lot like practicing piano. When my girls were studying piano, they learned quickly that the way to master a piece is not to play through the whole piece, over and over. It was to identify the tricky bits and go over them, over and over, and only then put the whole thing together.

So what are those tricky bits?

There tend to be four areas you simply must have down cold:

  • Your introduction
  • Your conclusion
  • Your anecdotes
  • Your transitions

Practice the Introduction

To a certain extent you can’t have this completely written before you get there, because in the first minute or so that you’re speaking, I firmly recommend bonding with the audience by commenting on something that has just happened–how pretty the decorations are, how amazing Judy was at that skit, whatever. If you can tie in something about your own biography with something that they’ve all just been laughing about, that’s a bonus.

But the main introduction–the way that you segueway into your topic–is so important, because that’s where you capture people’s attention.

2. Practice Your Conclusion

There have been times when I’ve given my whole talk, and it’s gone marvelously well, and I’ve had people laughing and crying, and then I realize: I don’t know how to end this powerfully. I probably should have stopped 2 minutes ago. I’m making worse by just going on and on!

But the more you think that, the more you tend to go on and on and dig a bigger hole for yourself.

So know how you’re going to wrap up. Wrap up quickly, right after you’ve really hammered a powerful point home. And know exactly what you’re going to say in this section, because this is what they’ll hear right before you invite them to pray or to respond. Here’s where you’ll issue your challenge: what do you want people to do now? So make sure you can say it succinctly and powerfully.

If you’re having trouble figuring out how to conclude well, and how to end on a high note, my audio download Crafting a Signature Talk will help you plan your talk so that it’s natural–and powerful.

3. Recite Anecdotes

I’m a firm believer that telling stories helps people “own” the message, because they enter into it with you. And everybody loves a good story! Even if it’s only a minute and a half, putting in an anecdote here and there makes your talk more real. And all kinds of things can become fodder for anecdotes! I use the plotline of both Anne of Green Gables and Finding Nemo quite frequently. I use something silly my youngest daughter said to me when she was 4. I use stories from nature. But they help perk up people’s ears.

When you’re delivering an anecdote, you don’t want to be looking down at your notes. People are engaged at this point; they’re looking you in the eyes. Don’t lose that eye contact! It’s a story–your story–and you can tell it without having to read it, if you practice it. These are often the most powerful moments in a talk, so make sure that you know HOW you’re going to deliver it.

When will you pause for dramatic effect? What gestures will you use? When you’re telling a story and you won’t be reading from notes, a good tactic to use is to step away from the podium. That automatically relaxes people–”oh, this will be interesting because she isn’t using notes”–and you can use more body language.

So practice these stories, inside and out.

4. Smooth Out Your Transitions

The part of the talk where I often trip over myself is the transitions. If you’re moving between points, or you’re moving from teaching to application, do you know how to do it smoothly?

A transition links the last thought to the next thought so that it’s seamless. It shows people, “there’s a train of thought here that runs through the whole talk, leading naturally to this next bit.” In many talks, that’s what’s missing. You hear someone give three points, but they don’t seem to go together.

You should be able to sum up your whole talk in 1-2 sentences. That’s your train of thought. And everything should flow into that. If you can work on your transitions, then you will sound so much more polished, and people will be able to follow where you’re trying to take them.

How Do You Actually Practice the Whole Talk?

Once you’ve got your anecdotes down, your intro and conclusion, and your transitions, it’s time to put it all together! A lot of people don’t do this–they figure, as long as I’ve got it written out, I’m fine. But you’re not. You have to say it out loud or you won’t realize where little things don’t actually fit into your overall plan. You’ll realize what sticks out like a sore thumb.

And when you say it out loud, you’ll realize where you have to pause, and where you have to pray, and where you have to give people time to respond. You’ll realize the natural “flow” of the talk which won’t come until you hear it. A talk, after all, is meant to be heard.

So practice it, word for word. I have to admit (and sorry if this is TMI), but I often do this in the bathtub. I take my notes and a timer, and I say the whole thing. People don’t bug me when I’m in the bathroom, and I’m not as self-conscious talking to myself in there as I would be pacing in my bedroom.

The timer is important to make sure that you actually do fit the time given you.

So I practice the anecdotes in front of a mirror, but the whole talk it’s okay to do somewhere else–as long as you say the whole thing through.

Practice as You Drive

Then, as you’re on your way, go over your talk out loud. You won’t have your notes (you’ll be driving!), but you can say your intro again, you can recite an anecdote, you can try to figure out the words you’ll use for the prayer.

Once you’ve given the talk multiple times, you won’t have to do this kind of practice anymore. It will be second nature. But the first time through, don’t skimp on the practice! It will make all the difference to your confidence, your delivery, and your effectiveness.

I’ll be doing a seminar soon on how to become more polished up on stage. Sign up for my speakers’ newsletter to make sure you hear when we’re ready to go!

How to Prepare Well Before You Give a Talk

Preparing for a Christian Speaking EngagementI asked recently on the Facebook Page:

Speaking well is a combination of giftings, preparation, and practice. Which one is hardest for you to feel confident about?

And the overwhelming response was preparation! So I thought it was time I wrote a post on how to prepare to speak.

What’s the difference between preparation and practice, though? Practice is actually taking the talk that you’ve prepared and saying it out loud, going over it, and figuring out exactly how you’re going to emphasize certain words or anecdotes, and perfect your delivery. It’s best done in front of the mirror (or in the bathtub with the door locked and a timer! And some chocolate).

Preparation is a different matter entirely. Preparation has several elements:

  • Listening to God
  • Finding stories/anecdotes
  • Writing the talk
  • Familiarizing yourself with the audience
  • Knowing the details of the night
  • Pray

The object of preparation is so that when you arrive to give your talk, you’re calm, you’re ready, and you’re not worried about other details. You’re at peace about what you’re going to share–you’re even excited by it! And you’re ready to get up on that stage and go.

1. Listen to God–6 months-1 month before talk

Here’s an important step–even if you’ve already written your talk, or you’re going to reuse another talk. Listen to God. Just listen to Him. I often find when I’m speaking that I insert stories or sentences that I never even meant to say. They just pop into my head when I’m speaking and out they come, and I know they are of God, meant for someone special there.

But those things can only “pop” into our heads if we’re spending time with God beforehand so He has a chance to talk to us about something.

So listen to Him. That matters so much more than just practice. Get right with Him. Take walks with Him. Read Scripture and think about it.

And I also find reading books helps, too. I read a lot of nonfiction Christian books–C.S. Lewis, Mark Buchanan, Philip Yancey. Just things that can spur my thinking. When we take time to meditate on God and to expand our own understanding, that will translate into our talks.

2. Find Stories/Anecdotes–6 months-1 month before talk

As you’re listening to God, if something pops into your head that would make a good story to illustrate a point, jot it down. Make an audio note on your phone. Send a text to yourself to remind you of a story when it pops to mind. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but do it consistently so that it’s easy for you to find them all later.

We usually get our best ideas not when we’re sitting at a computer, but when we’re out driving or doing errands and have time to think. So pray that something will come, and when it does–write it down immediately!

If you have trouble coming up with anecdotes or stories to use when you speak, I have some ideas here.

3. Familiarize Yourself with the Audience – 1 Month ahead of time

Just before you sit down and write your talk, email whoever is running the event and ask as much as you can about who will be attending. Are they mostly of a certain age group? A certain social class? How long have most people been Christians (or are they Christians yet?) What percentage will be saved/unsaved? Will most be married?

This is important to know, because if there are a large proportion of unsaved people, you want to make sure that your talk is accessible to all without using a lot of God-language. On the other hand, if most there are ministry leaders, you want to make sure you give them a lot of “meat” to chew on and spur them on towards more good works.

I have gone to speak before with my regular talk prepared only to find that the majority of the audience is over 65. Many of my anecdotes that I use have to do with raising children. Had I known that the audience would be older, I would have incorporated other anecdotes. So I have now learned to ask for a run-down on the audience before I speak!

It’s important not to ask too, too early, though, because often the person organizing doesn’t really know who will be coming until closer to the time. So don’t think that just because when you booked the engagement she told you the audience would mostly be younger women, with a lot of seekers, that this is necessarily the case. Often that’s what an organizer wants, but that may not be what actually happens. So check in earlier so that you’re not surprised!

4. Writing the Talk – 1 month before talk

You know your audience,  you’ve spent some time listening to God and refining your message, and you’ve thought of some good stories, so it’s time to sit down and write your talk.

It’s often easier to do this with few distractions. So turn off your phone, your social media, and anything with noise. Grab your Bible and a notebook (or your laptop), and sit down and write it.

If you have absolutely no idea where to start, my audio download, Crafting a Signature Talk, can help, because it comes with a “skeleton” that’s kind of like a fill-in-the-blanks for a talk. It tells you when to include Scripture, when to include stories (and what kind of stories), when to use a statistic, etc. etc. And it will tell you how to share your own story, too!

Even if you have already written your talk, and you’re going to be reusing a talk, a month ahead of time is a good time to get out that talk and read it through. I always end up making changes, because God is always speaking to you about slightly different things. Reading it beforehand helps it percolate so that you’re prepared.

5. Check the Details – 1 Week Before

Preparation is so much a matter of your own peace of mind. We’ll be more at peace if our talk is well structured and well written, we know who the audience will be, and we know how the night will go so that there are no surprises.

One week before the engagement, send a quick email to the organizer verifying all the details: the time of arrival; what time the event begins; what time you will be speaking; how long you will be speaking for; whether you’re the last thing in the program or you’re in the middle (if you’re at the end, you will likely end on a more serious note than if you’re in the middle); even the directions for where you’ll be going!

I showed up at an event once with my regular Christmas talk prepared only to find that they had advertised me as a “Christian comedienne”. Someone had heard me speak, and had thought I was funny, so they decided to put that on the posters.

Yes, I’m funny, but my talk was not a comedy routine.

I sat through dinner a nervous wreck trying to figure out more jokes to add to my talk. I managed to do it, and it went off well, but it was very stressful!

So before you go, check out the website and see exactly what they’ve told other people you’ll be delivering. All too often it’s not quite what we’re expecting! If you know what other people think they’ll hear, then it’s easier to give it to them.

6. Pray–constantly

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Finally, bathe everything in prayer. Pray when you first get the engagement. Pray whenever God brings it to mind. As you’re driving, pray over conversations you will have with people. Pray that God will bring something new to mind to say that is just what someone needs to hear. Pray that baby-sitters will show up and that all that God wants to be there will be able to come. Pray that distractions will be minimized. Pray that the Holy Spirit will speak through you.

Ultimately it is God’s event, not yours. You can prepare to your utmost, but He will be the one who makes the event successful or not. So step out in faith, and be obedient, and be responsible with the task God has given you.

And in the words of Paul to Archippus in Colossians 4, See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.

Next I’ll talk about how to practice! Stay tuned. And remember that you can sign up for speaking newsletter here, which will give you special emails on different topics of a speaking ministry.

Are We Losing the Ability To Think?

I write a Christian marriage blog that mostly focuses on marriage and family, and I ran across this older post recently which asked, “Are we losing the ability to think?” I thought it would be of interest to those of you who speak as a ministry, and I’d love to know your take on this trend! Here you go:

Last week I took four teenagers (two were my own) down to New York for a Bible quizzing tournament. That means twelve hours, in total, in a car with these girls over the course of the weekend. And we got into some really interesting conversations.

One of the girls is a senior in high school who is very bright and very motivated. She finds it really difficult to process the fact that so many of her fellow students just can’t write. She reads their papers, and thinks, “But you’ve been speaking English your entire life. You can speak a sentence. Why can’t you write one?” She once got into a conversation with her English teacher about this, and her teacher said that there is a school of thought that in 100 years, tenses will disappear from our language. We’re getting so lazy in the way we talk and write that difficult grammatical usages will slowly disappear.

We have more technology than ever, but people don’t seem to know as much.

Around the same time as this conversation, I received an email from a university friend with a link to a Grade 8 final exam from 1931. It’s got Geography, Civics, History, Literature, even Penmanship. Check it out. It’s HARD! Way harder than we teach kids today.

I often get rather depressed at the lack of education kids get nowadays. I know that makes me sound like a fuddy duddy, but I think, with all of the problems we have to solve in the world, how can we do it when people can’t handle more than a soundbite? When they don’t know history to put things in perspective (ie. they don’t know that Jerusalem actually has always had Jews living in it, for instance, and was the capital of the Jewish homeland basically forever). Or how can we attempt to even think about how to handle dictators today when most people do not know about Chamberlain’s “peace in our time” speech?

But it’s easy to attack the school system.

My bigger issue, though, is that the church is doing very little to combat this.

You would think that church would be a place which would emphasize learning; traditionally we have. Indeed, many denominations were born to be more “intellectual” compared with the “common people”. Higher learning was originally all theology; everything flowed from that. It was assumed that to be a Christian meant that you were slightly more educated because you read the Bible and thought about it. And since Christianity encompassed all that you could know about God’s creation, then higher learning all flowed from that theology.

But today in church we don’t really require thought. We focus more on emotion. I find it difficult as a speaker to get past this; I do a much better job at weekend retreats when I can get more in depth into a subject than I do at the one-time events. But it is a challenge because people don’t always WANT to think. And yet at the same time, our generation thinks that we are smarter than previous generations (despite that Grade 8 Geography Test).

One of my daughters’ main complaints about Christian education, whether it be at church or at camp or at retreats, is that it always focuses on the same stories: David & Goliath, Noah’s ark, Joshua, Joseph, Jonah. Rarely do you require kids to actually think. And the Bible stories are NEVER put in context. I read a study done recently of the incoming class at Moody Theological Seminary, I believe it was, and less than half could put these four events in chronological order: Moses, the exile of Judah, David, John the Baptist.

People just don’t know the basics–even people who have been Christians their whole life.

And if we don’t teach context, whether it be with the Bible or with history, then we aren’t raising children to be really educated or to really be able to think.

You’d think the church would be spearheading this, focusing on Bible memory and real Bible understanding, but instead we focus, too, on shallow things and entertainment. And then we wonder why twenty-somethings lose their faith.

I wish I knew the solution, but I don’t. I think we were far smarter before there was TV and when families read together at night.

My only solution is for my own family: we don’t have a TV, we homeschool, and we make our kids memorize. But that won’t help the society at large. So what do we do? I really don’t know. I’m at a loss. Anyone have any ideas?

Let me know–have you seen this trend? How does it affect your ministry? What can we as speakers do to encourage Bible knowledge and context? Let’s talk in the comments!

7 Ways to Be Productive with Your Online Time

7 Ways Christian Speakers Can be Productive OnlineFacebook. Pinterest. Twitter. LinkedIn. Blogging.

There are so many ways to spend your time online, but how do you get the most bang for your buck? Where should you be concentrating your time?

Here are some thoughts to help you focus:

1. Decide Your Aim For Being Online

I’m a big believer that every speaker needs to have an online presence for one simple reason: When an event organizer is going to hire a speaker, the first thing they do is Google her name. They want to see what she has already done. You want to make sure that you have a website, blog, or something so that when you’re Googled, a page introducing you will come up–rather than a page from your old High School listing you as being on the reunion committee.

So being online is essential.

Spending all your time there is not–and, indeed, you shouldn’t spend all your time online! You have other things to do–reach out to churches, practice talks, write new ones. Even just spend some quiet time with God. And if you’re not careful, social media can start to take up all your time, making you feel productive without actually leading to more speaking engagements or helping you to carry out your mission.

So why are you online? Here are several reasons:

1. To develop a presence so that conference organizers can learn who I am

2. To uncover new speaking opportunities as people get to know me and ask me to speak

3. To branch out and start to speak online through webinars, etc.

4. To create a business that is also online–through earning advertising income with blogging, selling products, and other things.

All of those options are valid, but you need to know what you’re working towards. Currently I actually do make a decent income from blogging–my blog To Love, Honor and Vacuum gets about half a million hits a month, and I do sell products and advertise. And I reach a ton of people! But that was only after working at it extremely hard for several years. It isn’t easy.

Number two is also difficult, because the blessing of the internet–that it’s global and there are no borders–is also one of its drawbacks. If you’re spending a ton of time interacting with people on Facebook and Twitter, but none of those people live anywhere near you, getting asked to speak is unlikely. Once you get well enough known that churches are comfortable paying for airfare, it’s wonderful, but when you’re just starting out, that isn’t likely to happen.

Now #3 is quite possible, but just like #4 it requires having a very large reach and a very large audience in order to get people to pay for webinars, and thus will require an awful lot of work and time before you see fruit.

That’s why I really recommend that, until you’re able to earn a large fee that includes air travel, #1 is really your main aim.

So let’s look at how to do that effectively:

2. Focus on Creating Content

It’s wonderful to have tons of friends on Facebook. It’s great to have a Facebook Page that is liked by thousands. It’s a big ego rush to have 1000 followers on Twitter.

But none of that does you any good if your primary aim is to have event organizers learn more about you and be impressed with you and want to hire you. For that you need content.

That means that the majority of the time you spend online should be spent writing new blog posts or articles. These can then also be used in your newsletters that you send out to people who have already heard you speak (You are sending out newsletters, right? That’s the primary way to get bookings! Read more here).

3. Share that Content as Widely as Possible

Set up your blog or your newsletter so that it automatically shares on Twitter and Facebook. Create wonderful graphics that can be pinned easily onto Pinterest.

My favourite way to find free graphics? It allows you to search flickr’s Creative Commons for royalty-free images, and then provides you with an image with the credit already embedded. If you’re not yet ready to spend money on a graphics subscription, this is a great option!

4. Keep Your Interactions to Specific Times of Day

If someone comments on your Facebook Page, you do not have to answer immediately. If someone tweets you, you do not have to respond right now.

I know we feel like it’s urgent, but it’s better to save three specific times of day when you interact with people than to respond to everything all the time. If you respond instantaneously, it’s also harder for you to get your real work done, because you’re switching back and forth between writing and Facebook. And then when you have writer’s block, it’s easier to just browse social media, thinking, “at least I’m still working.” No, you’re really not doing anything that will help you in the long run.

Instead, check after breakfast, at lunch, and before bed or before dinner, or whatever times work for you.

5. Set Quotas

I’ve used two methods to help contain my social media outreach, and I’ll share one as tip 5 and one as tip 6, but these are really either/or. Currently I do the quota thing: I tell myself that each time I check social media, I will respond to any outstanding comments, but I will also instigate 5 new comments. That way I’m reaching out to other people.

And if you tell yourself you’ll do 5, you’re usually quite fast at it, and then you know when you’re done and it’s time to get off. Think about it: if you interacted with 5 new people a day, that’s over 1500 a year. That’s a lot. So it may not sound like much, but do it regularly, and it adds up.

6. Set Time Limits

Get a stopwatch, or search for a timer online, and tell yourself, “I will spend 15 minutes on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest now”, and then only spend that amount of time. When it’s done, it’s done.

7. Be Proactive with Influencers

And here’s an extra one: if you want to be most efficient online, keep your eye out for “influencers”–people who run women’s ministry programs; Christian radio personalities; other speakers. Make lists on Facebook and Twitter that are just of these influencers. These are the people you want to interact with most, because these are the people who are most likely to result in new speaking engagements.

So when you do have time to interact, make sure to include some influencers in your time.

There you go–7 ways to be more productive and efficient with your online activity, instead of letting social media suck all your time!

Let me know: what have you found that works? And is there anything I’ve said that you want more information on? I’m looking for new ideas for posts, and I’d be glad to elaborate!

Wondering how to start a blog? Get a Twitter following? Organize your Facebook followers? My e-course on Building Your Online Community is 50% off–only $37.50 right now!

My Speaking/Blogging/Scheduling Toolkit

MP900382971Last week I wrote a post going over my speaking/blogging/writing schedule. A number of you said you found it helpful, but then someone asked on Facebook, “Can you write a post just listing all the extra apps and web things you use to make this easier?” And so here you go!



I use a hosted WordPress site, which you can get for $18.00 a year. WordPress allows you to have a blog, but it’s also the easiest way to organize your website when you don’t know very much HTML.

HostGator for hosting

A number of sites offer really inexpensive hosting for your web domains (that means that if you want a domain in your name, like, you have to buy it and host it somewhere. That’s where you’ll put your WordPress blog). Hostgator can talk you through this.

Editorial Calendar Plugin

Wonderful for helping you plan your blog posts!

Speaking Scheduling

Google Calendar

Great for scheduling speaking engagements. You can also upload files there. I find the easiest way to keep track of my contracts/talks, etc., is to upload them to my calendar. That way I just need to open a particular speaking engagement and all the contracts and my script are right there. You can also share your calendar with an assistant who does your booking, so that he/she can have access to all the files, too, or you can share your calendar with family members so that you can see what dates you have free and what dates you have family commitments.

Google lets you save your events in different colours, so I colour code everything. If it’s just tentative, it’s green. If it’s confirmed, it’s blue. If it’s family related, it’s purple.


I don’t know why I’m putting this under “speaking scheduling”, because I use Evernote for EVERYTHING. I can put notes in there. I can send emails to myself there so that I save all my invoices for tax purposes and can find them at the end of the year. I store everything for each speaking engagement in there. Evernote makes it so easy to search, so instead of saving things in Word document after Word document, I use Evernote. Then I can search for a particular speaking engagement, and everything I’ve ever written is there.

I also keep copies of all of my talks in there, in case I’m ever away without my computer and can’t access them. Evernote is an online program that syncs with all of your devices, so that it’s always up to date.

Social Media


Allows you to schedule Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, and posts to your Facebook Page in advance, so that you can upload all your posts for a week at a time (or a day at a time, or whatever works best). It’s free for up to 5 social media accounts, I believe.


Allows you to set times that tweets will appear. I use 10 different times throughout the day. Then when I want to tweet something, I post it to buffer so that my tweets are spread out, instead of coming all at one time. This way I don’t have to enter in the time over and over again.


If you’re a speaker, you need a newsletter! Collect email addresses everywhere you go and send out a newsletter on a monthly basis to keep people updated. Don’t make it just about you; feature other articles as well.

And the best newsletter program I have found is:


Design gorgeous newsletters, keep track of all your subscribers, and keep amazing statistics on who opens, who clicks, and who are  your biggest fans!

One of the best features for speakers: You can send out a newsletter JUST to people who live in a certain area. So if you’re wanting to plan a speaking tour in Ohio, for instance, you can tell it to send out a newsletter to everyone who lives in Ohio, announcing that you’re coming to the area, and asking them to pass your information along to their church (or to send you the email of the contact person).

Once your tour is booked, you can then send an email to people who live in a specific city, saying, “I’m speaking next week! Come on by…” or whatever it may be.

Best of all, MailChimp is free if you have 2000 subscribers or less. It’s so easy to get started!

Photo Storage


Flickr now lets you have a terabyte of free storage! Upload all of your speaking photos to flickr so that people can find you. If you upload them in the original quality it will take a while, but you’ll never lose them. Then if you ever need to send a high quality photo to someone for a poster, you can just send them a link to the photo and they can download it themselves. It’s really easy!


I use Dropbox to store photos and videos, too. Let’s say that I’m at a speaking engagement and someone is taking tons of pictures. How am I going to get those pictures? I simply ask them to send them to me via Dropbox. It lets you share large quantities of files without having to email them. And it’s free–for a while. But the free space lasts a long time! You’d have to fill it with lots of photos before you have to start paying.

I also store my speaking talks and my PowerPoint on Dropbox (I store the notes on Evernote, too, but I like to put them in a variety of places in case something goes wrong).

Then, about a week before I speak, I simply “invite” the church to my folder with my PowerPoint in it, so their tech guy can upload the PowerPoint, make sure the video and audio is working, and have it all ready to go before I even get there. I find this reduces the stress on everyone.

It’s very easy to use–just like another folder on your hard drive. The only difference is that once you save files there, it syncs them up online so that you can always access them anywhere. Join Dropbox! It’s awesome.

Speaking Tools

You need two things when you speak: something to record your voice, and something to keep you from going on too long.

Kitchen Timer

It can be your best friend! Get a magnetic one and it will stick to the music stand when you’re speaking. You can either count backwards or count up. Some people try to rely on the clock on the back wall, or on a watch, but I’ve never found that works well. If you rely on a clock, you have to remember to actually look at it and remember what time it was when you started speaking. If you don’t do that, how will you know when 45 minutes are up? It’s easier to just have a timer that you can see easily!

Digital Voice Recorder and Microphone

Don’t ever forget to record yourself speaking! You can turn those recordings into video clips, audio promos, and even CDs you can sell.

The best quality one that I’ve found is the Olympus recorder, that also connects to your computer via a USB port, so you can easily transfer the files and edit them. You’ll need to also buy a separate microphone that hooks onto your lapel, but this is such a great tool. Ipods and iPhones will also record now, but the sound isn’t as good quality. I wish they’d come out with better microphones!

I hope that list helps! If you have any other questions about what I use for something, ask away, and I’ll keep updating this so it’s a great resource post.

Growing your speaking ministry means investing in great tools and great training. See Sheila’s download Treating Speaking as a Business to learn how applying professionalism to your speaking will actually give you great spiritual rewards for the kingdom.


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